Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis has called on Democrat Joe Biden, the presumptive president-elect, to eliminate “America first” from the nation’s foreign policy.
He announced he would exit the Trump administration in December 2018 after the president withdrew American troops from Syria, The Washington Post reported, and he has since become an ardent critic of the president.
Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, “Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours … I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”
That was the last time Mattis showed any respect for the president.
In his latest rebuke of Trump’s leadership, the retired general seemed to signal a longing for the return of policies that led to endless foreign wars, for which the country has paid dearly in lives and dollars.
In fact, Mattis called for a complete end to “America first” amid the still-contested presidential election.
In an article published Monday in Foreign Affairs, Mattis and three co-authors warned of perceived “eroding U.S. military advantages” that they claimed had coincided with Trump’s disrupting of an “international order.”
“The United States today is undermining the foundations of an international order manifestly advantageous to U.S. interests, reflecting a basic ignorance of the extent to which both robust alliances and international institutions provide vital strategic depth,” Mattis wrote, along with Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, retired Adm. Jim Ellis and Joe Felter of the Hoover Institution.
“In practice, ‘America first’ has meant ‘America alone.’ That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose,” they wrote.
The authors then called on Biden to pull the plug on policies that prioritize the interests of the American people, even suggesting Trump is to blame for the global coronavirus pandemic.
“In January, when President Joe Biden and his national security team begin to reevaluate U.S. foreign policy, we hope they will quickly revise the national security strategy to eliminate ‘America first’ from its contents, restoring in its place the commitment to cooperative security that has served the United States so well for decades,” Mattis and his co-authors wrote.
“The best strategy for ensuring safety and prosperity is to buttress American military strength with enhanced civilian tools and a restored network of solid alliances — both necessary to achieving defense in depth,” they argued.
Mattis and the others concluded that the “pandemic should serve as a reminder of what grief ensues when we wait for problems to come to us.”
They said the United States should work to build a relationship with China, the country’s chief geopolitical foe, “in areas of overlapping interests, such as pandemic response, climate change, and nuclear security.”
Mattis, known as “Mad Dog,” was once a revered leader who was viewed as an everyman. He was a soldier’s general.
In many ways, he now sounds like just another hawkish D.C. politician.
Trump responded to Mattis’ article Tuesday.
“That says it all about Mattis. Obama fired him. I should have fired him sooner. Did best work after he was gone. World’s most overrated general!” the president tweeted.
That says it all about Mattis. Obama fired him. I should have fired him sooner. Did best work after he was gone. World’s most overrated general! https://t.co/2i4jPWAAPA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2020
The swamp runs deep, as Trump again had to jump to his own defense from yet another angle — an angle that once would have seemed unlikely.
Mattis has endeared himself to many in the Democratic Party who have, in their opposition to all things Trump, embraced foreign conflicts and body counts in far-away deserts.
The president has put Americans first for the last four years by adding his own spin to former President Ronald Reagan’s “Peace Through Strength” mantra.
Whether Mattis is aware or not, “America first” means many things of consequence to Trump’s vast base of voters.
It has signaled that the country would ask its allies to do their part internationally and would avoid the kinds of knee-jerk “boots on the ground” situations that saw first the Soviets and then American servicemen and women spend a combined three decades roaming around the Afghan mountains.
As Trump said in Florida last month, “You know, in many ways, our allies treat us worse than the enemy. [With] the enemy, at least we have our guard up. Our allies, what they have done to us in terms of military protection and trade is disgraceful.”
“[Biden] wants you to surrender our country to China, to all of these over countries that have taken total advantage of us. … And when they come out and they say they like Barack Hussein Obama much more than they like Trump, that means I’m doing my job,” he said.
But the establishment is eager to get its foreign policy back.
“America first” means their wars have been avoided while more Americans have prospered at home.
Mattis initially appeared to support that perspective. But the president apparently always had few allies in his attempts to establish a new order, to banish the old guard of establishment politicians and leaders into retirement from asking young men to rappel down Chinook helicopters and stay at their drop zones for years to nation-build.
The American war machine is best kept purring but arguably is better used only as needed, and as a grand deterrent.
Too many establishment politicians don’t share that perspective, so Trump has been undercut and stabbed in the back at nearly every turn by those he appointed to serve the American people.
Never forget that in June, Mattis stood with the rioters who attempted to turn the country’s monuments to rubble while accusing the president of dividing a nation that was already divided by years of establishment media antagonism and Democrat race-baiting.
Mattis apparently was always ideologically aligned with the establishment, which became increasingly apparent when he resorted to lying about Trump’s using American troops to end the riots (he didn’t) in a letter describing the president as a threat to the Constitution, according to NBC News.
It’s likely Trump never could have conceived the depth of the swamp when he agreed to give up the luxuries of Fifth Avenue for the roaming snakes in the grass at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Biden, if certified as the election’s winner, could be a rubber stamp for those seeking to profit from endless international engagements in which the U.S. will again be relegated to a blank check for NATO and the interests of a few in Washington, and Mattis seems to understand that.
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