Former Defense Secretary James Mattis takes dead aim at Trump in a must-read essay

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis takes dead aim at Trump in a must-read essay
U.S. Secretary of Defense / Flickr

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis didn't last too long in the Trump Administration. Last December, he resigned after disagreeing with President Trump over his decision to withdraw from Syria.

In his resignation letter he wrote that his "concrete solutions and strategic advice, especially keeping faith with our allies, no longer resonated" and that the president has "the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned" with his own.

Since his resignation, Mattis has been relatively silent about his brief stint in the Administration, but now he's come forward with an eloquently-written essay published in The Wall Street Journal that offers level-headed criticism of Trump.

The essay is from his new book "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead," due September 3.

Mattis' most damning critique is calling Trump a "polemicist" — a person who attacks someone else with written or spoken words — rather than a serious leader. He says that Trump's lack of "strategic acumen" has left the U.S. in a dangerous position on the world's stage.

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"A polemicist's role is not sufficient for a leader," Mattis wrote. "A leader must display strategic acumen that incorporates respect for those nations that have stood with us when trouble loomed."

"Returning to a strategic stance that includes the interests of as many nations as we can make common cause with, we can better deal with this imperfect world we occupy together," Mattis continued. "Absent this, we will occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world."

U.S. Secretary of Defense / Flickr

In the essay, Mattis admits that he held on to his position "as long as he could."

"Using every skill I had learned during my decades as a Marine, I did as well as I could for as long as I could," Mattis wrote. "When my concrete solutions and strategic advice, especially keeping faith with our allies, no longer resonated, it was time to resign, despite the limitless joy I felt serving alongside our troops in defense of our Constitution."

Mattis also lamented the current state of American politics that has been ushered in by Trump.

"What concerns me most as a military man is not our external adversaries," he wrote. "It is our internal divisiveness. We are dividing into hostile tribes cheering against each other, fueled by emotion and a mutual disdain that jeopardizes our future, instead of rediscovering our common ground and finding solutions.

"On each of our coins is inscribed America's de facto motto, 'E Pluribus Unum' — from many, one," he said later. "For our experiment in democracy to survive, we must live that motto."

It's worth noting that the essay says nothing positive about the president.

One wonders if Mattis' words will have any effect on Trump's popularity within his own party. When Mattis left his position, he had a 51% approval rating among Republicans and a 75% approval rating with members of the U.S. military.

While Trump has been criticized by many for being unfit for office, can there be a more dire warning that when the same criticism comes from a man who was trusted to defend the nation?

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