Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
- Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wrote a not-so-subtle rebuke of President Donald Trump's leadership in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
- In the piece, he condemned overly forceful leadership, particularly leaders who publicly mock and berate their critics.
- He also defended the need to work together with allies, arguing that the US is on track to "occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world."
- The retired Marine Corps general also called out divisive politics threatening our democracy.
- Mattis resigned in December, saying that his worldview was not aligned with the president's.
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Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has written what appears to be a not-so-subtle rebuke of President Donald Trump's leadership, not just at home but on the world stage.
"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, who resigned in December, wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The piece is adapted from his upcoming book, "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead," out September 3.
Revealing why he left the Department of Defense, he 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."
In the piece, the former secretary of defense criticized unnecessarily forceful leadership, calling attention to an unnamed admiral he worked with many years ago who would tear people down and publicly mock critics, creating fear in a harsh and aggressive manner.
"You're going the wrong way. You cannot allow your passion for excellence to destroy your compassion for them as human beings," Mattis told the admiral. "Change your leadership style. Coach and encourage; don't berate, least of all in public."
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Among the many people Trump has publicly attacked are many American allies — from South Korea and Japan to NATO allies and partners — and he has done this while embracing authoritarian leaders in China, Russia, and North Korea.
"Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither," Mattis, a former Marine Corps general, wrote. "At this time, we can see storm clouds gathering."
He added, "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. Absent this, we will occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world."
Mattis made his decision to resign just as Trump, despite the advice of top advisers suggesting that the timing was not right, decided to withdraw US forces from Syria while also signaling that he intended to pull US forces out of Afghanistan, a move that would have abandoned regional partners had the president followed through.
Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
"My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed over four decades of immersion in these issues," he wrote in his resignation letter, adding Trump should select a secretary of defense "whose views are better aligned" with his own.
In Wednesday's op-ed, Mattis also warned against partisan politics and division threatening American democracy.
"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," he wrote.
"All Americans need to recognize that our democracy is an experiment — and one that can be reversed. We all know that we're better than our current politics. Tribalism must not be allowed to destroy our experiment."
- Read more:
- Defense Secretary James Mattis quits, says his views aren't 'aligned' with Trump as the president upends major US policies
- 'Our department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult': Mattis encourages Pentagon employees to 'keep the faith' in farewell letter on his last day as defense secretary
- Mattis' resignation letter is a sharp rebuke of Trump's 'America First' philosophy