Mattis Publicly Denigrates Trump

The Truman Doctrine was issued by President Harry Truman in 1947. In it the president indicated that the US should be prepared to fight and prevent the spread of communism. Over the years the doctrine was expanded to include other types of conflicts where “free people are subjugated by conquest.”

This longstanding policy of the US may be in jeopardy as President Trump decreases the presence of US forces in certain hotspots around the world. In recent days he said he would immediately bring back 2,000 troops from Syria and soon will decrease the US presence in Afghanistan by 50 percent.

The proposed actions, along with several other offending comments by the president, caused a great divide between Trump and the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. The latter indicated he would resign in February to give the president time to name a replacement. After a careful reading of Mattis’ resignation letter, the president dismissed Mattis immediately. This is the second time a president has dismissed Mattis. Obama fired him after he refused to comply with his Iran policies.

Many have lauded the general for having the courage to stand up to his commander-in-chief. Yet I ‘m disturbed by Mattis’ overly political manifesto that has gone viral. By suggesting Trump is not concerned with ignoble intentions of Russia and China and the importance of our close allies, he disparaged his commander in a manner that weakens the reputation of our country even further.

The general certainly should be guided by his conscience and experience and resign if he disagrees with the president’s strategy in Syria or any other issue. But to criticize the president as he’s walking out the door was not an act of heroism, humility or class in my opinion. Rather he should have exited quietly, with dignity and respect, like so many great generals have done throughout history, think back to General Collin Powell retirement, regardless of his personal feelings towards Trump.

The liberal press, Democratic opponents and even some Republicans were overjoyed to see the president taken down a few notches. This dissatisfaction with Trump is totally understandable, but exposing our dirty laundry to the rest of the world will make it more difficult for the president to address pressing issues beyond the minutia investigated by Robert Mueller. Keep in mind Trump is going to be in the White House for two more years unless he resigns under pressure or is impeached as recommended yesterday by Tom Friedman, a NY Times columnist.

I think the specific decision by Trump to exit Syria is appropriate and reasonable. The blowback from hawkish politicians has been resounding. They say US aversion towards conflict where people are being repressed is bad policy. The naysayers believe that a strong response and continued support in regional conflicts like Syria are critical to American leadership.

But is it really? Trump sees no upside in subjecting our troops to unnecessary peril in Syria. The country is occupied by Russian and Iranian troops. A fledgling resistance supported by Syrian Kurds has fought courageously against the Syrian army led by the tyrant Bashar al Assad. But it’s a hopeless cause.

Assad mercilessly attacks the resistance and innocent bystanders with the assistance of his allies. This assault has resulted in thousands of deaths and millions of refugees. Certainly the quest for freedom by the Syrian people meets the qualifications laid out in the Truman Doctrine. But the US must know when it is wiser to walk away.

Until now the US has kept the remote possibility of ousting Assad alive. But it is a fruitless endeavor unless the US goes all in. That would mean more US troops will be deployed, and direct confrontation with Russia and Iran will be inevitable.

What would the end game be for continued American involvement in Syria? Ideally it would be the downfall of the Assad regime. Even if the Russians and Iranians allowed this to happen, what group would assume control? It could possibly result in even more violence.

Trump has made the right move in Syria. Middle East countries and their citizens eschew American occupation, even while our soldiers risk their lives to protect the people. There is no upside for American diplomacy in this conflict.

Trump may, in fact, be a threat to the Truman Doctrine as he considers American alternatives overseas. But he should not be judged harshly for walking away from Syria. If Iran uses Syria as a platform to spread violence, the US can always reconsider aggressive military action.

 

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