Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated in his letter of resignation that he would leave his post on February 28, 2019. Soon after, the President made it clear that General Mattis, who had a most distinguished military career, would vacate his office on January 1, 2019. Clearly, POTUS (the President of the United States) was not happy with General Mattis.
Much of the President’s ire was probably due to the apparent timing of Secretary Mattis’ resignation letter after the President’s announcement that he was withdrawing 2,000 American troops from Syria after the defeat of ISIS. The President has received criticism for his Syrian withdrawal from both the Left and the Right. I will attempt to defend the President.
For starters, I trust National Security Advisor John Bolton. If the criticism of POTUS was even remotely valid, John Bolton would have resigned. He did not. There is no greater friend of the Kurds than John Bolton. He would never have agreed to a Syrian withdrawal if one Kurd might be hurt in the process. John Bolton is as much for a state for the Kurds as anyone. The President is also pushing hard for a Kurdish state. I will discuss the James Mattis matter later.
The Left will seize every opportunity to bash the President. The Left has not had one kind word for President Trump from Day One. Even his recent prison reform bill and his tax cut bill, both of which received bipartisan support, only got, at best, lukewarm praise from the Democrats. These two bills alone should have received many more accolades from the media. During eight years of the Obama presidency, not one major bill was passed in a bipartisan manner. I remember when politics was not so polarized. Bipartisan bills were the rule rather than the exception. America does much better when bipartisan action is taken. So far, President Trump has made this possible. He will indeed eventually get significant immigration reform, which has escaped his predecessors. He will also inevitably get his “Separation Fence.” He is a man of action. The White House has not had such a force for a very long time. America is realizing all of this, but the media has been AWOL in giving credit where credit is due. For the sake of truth and for the sake of America, I suggest that the media become much more responsible in its reporting and its editorials.
The James Mattis controversy is a case in point. The Secretary of Defense had intimated that he would be leaving his post at least a year before his letter of resignation. The main sticking point was not as the media portrayed it. It was not the withdrawal of American troops from Syria. It is partly James Mattis’ fault for this narrative, and it is why I believe the President moved up his resignation date to January 1. The main reason James Mattis was leaving was his opposition to the President’s brave and courageous invalidation of the Iran Nuclear Deal and “snap back” of sanctions. General Mattis wanted the President to continue in the deal that General Mattis was never happy with. There is more to the story. Suffice it to say that the President and General Mattis were no longer seeing eye-to-eye. The President should be given kudos for having followed through on one of his campaign promises to tear up the agreement and put Iran on notice.
The President’s actions have actually strengthened alliances in the Middle East. General Mattis’ criticism of the President on this point was completely unwarranted. The Middle East does much better when the President of the United States is clear and straightforward in his positions, instead of acting like Foggy Bottom.
As I wrote previously, POTUS has made it absolutely clear to Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he better not attack the Kurds. Erdogan has been untrustworthy. However, the President has significant leverage over him and has made it perfectly clear that one wrong move will cost him dearly. NSA John Bolton will be visiting Turkey soon to make sure Erdogan complies. The President should be given credit for controlling one of the worst actors in the Middle East. The President has not forsaken the Kurds and will do everything possible to grant them a well-deserved and long-overdue state. Ultimately, the President is the Commander in Chief. He deserves much more support for his foreign policy than he has been given.
Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.