Could U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s Resignation Spawn A Crisis?

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump stands with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis following their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Peter Feaver, Business Insider/Foreign Policy: Mattis’ resignation isn’t a crisis yet — but it could easily become one

* Mattis’ resignation could become a crisis if the administration mishandles the next several weeks.
* In normal circumstances, senior military leaders are obliged by the norms of civil-military relations to give their personal professional opinion to their civilian bosses, Trump and Congress, and should not resign.
* Mattis resigned in protest following Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, and he was able to do so without immediately sparking a crisis because he is a political appointee — not a military one.
* But, the departure of the most respected administration voice on national security—and the reckless moves that led to his departure—will mean policymaking will get harder, not easier.
* The civilian side of the national security house was already pretty weak in the Trump administration. Mattis’s departure makes it even weaker.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s resignation in protest has triggered the most serious civil-military challenge the Trump administration has yet faced.

It is not a full-blown crisis but could easily turn into one if the administration mishandles the next several weeks or if adversaries take advantage of the policy chaos and make focused attacks on U.S. interests at home and abroad.


WNU editor: I have been covering Washington politics and its impact on the Pentagon for years. People come and go …. and this is nothing new. Conflicts on war and defense issues are also something that is not new. Many in Washington have a vested interest in America’s ongoing wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and they do not support President Trump’s desire to disengage from the region. This is a repeat on what happened when President Obama was elected. President Obama was elected on a platform to disengage from Iraq, and did so with much grief and objections from the Pentagon and intel community. He resolved the situation by installing his own people who supported his policies, and retiring his critics. The criticisms of President Obama’s decision to withdraw quickly faded after that …. until ISIS came storming from the desert resulting in a war that last over 3 years. Flash forward to today …. President Trump is doing the same thing. But ISIS is a shell of its former self, and it is not going to come back as we know it. And like President Obama …. after two years in Washington President Trump now has a very clear idea on who he wants in the Department of Defense. When U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was appointed, he was the right man at the right time. But that time has now passed, and President Trump wants a fresh face with fresh ideas. Especially on how to handle the Afghan war, which from my vantage point is now becoming something far worse than the disaster that it has been for the past 17 years.

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