Posting by Major General Donald McGregor, USAF, Retired (University of MN 1981)
Here's my take on Mattis resigning. First, he is a great American and one of the finest commanders the U.S. military has produced. I met him as brigadier general going through groom school. He was the CENTCOM commander at the time and full of piss and vinegar. We locked the doors and he gave our new class of one-star generals an excellent fire and brimstone speech about the middle east and our accomplishments...Motivating to say the least. I too was excited to see him as the SecDef. But also drew caution to his non-political view of the world and Trump's "America First" mantra.
Former Generals should not write public policy. Trump fired Mattis (he didn't resign...you can bet he was told to get on board or else). Mattis is a product of the Cold War and Middle East conflicts. He is a career military person and we are seeing quite plainly why presidents should caution hiring generals into politically sensitive positions. It is foreign to them coming from an orderly (no pun) organization that believes in honor, selfless action and defending the nation...at all cost. To a general, politics is a weak man's sport and have little time for it. Unfortunately, it is real and much a part of the painful process in DC. You either get it and become the compromising person it requires or be exploited (LTG Flynn), unfit (LTG McMasters) or be frustrated (General Kelly and Mattis). In short, the reason Mattis believes in maintaining our positions in Syria, Afghanistan or our security alliances (NATO, etc.) is that he grew up in an environment based on non-strategic threats used to justify large military force structures (size)..non-strategic threat meaning not a threat to our survival.
I personally was a part of DoD's strategic planning process to identify U.S threats and subsequently justify the forces it needed to defeat or deny these threats. Much of our current security philosophy started after WII when the U.S. decided to create a Cold War out of ideological differences with the Soviet Union. Probably somewhat justified since communism's expansive nature was a legitimate threat. But after the wall fell, the Pentagon or military complex was in a pickle since the justification for forces was in jeopardy...i.e. we lost our main strategic threat and no longer needed the large forces it required? However, along came the Gulf War to the rescue which continues today for questionable reasons. It is these reasons that are important because it is the world Mattis grew up in and strongly influences his beliefs. In short, a belief that middle east security and alliances are essential for the U.S. to protect its global interests.
Btw, we are the only nation on earth that feels compelled to build a security budget and force structure to accommodate a global security reach. So, what does one do in order to maintain its size, we make s%#t up!! Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and for that matter Korea were never a strategic threat to the U.S. What I mean by strategic threat, is a threat so large that it challenges the survival of the U.S. Today, we only have one! Russia and its thousands of nuclear warheads pointed our way. This is the only strategic threat to the U.S. and the Pentagon woefully under budgets for its defense (I can tell you horror stories about the mismanagement of missile and airspace defense of the U.S.). As a matter of fact, we do not have a maritime or land defense plan for the U.S.!! Doesn't exist!! But we have several defense plans to defend our interests overseas! Hello? I fought these dysfunctional battles inside the Pentagon trying to get people to understand that defending our U.S. borders was our number one job! It was not our job to create threats that were really someone else's problem.
ISIS, Al Queda, Syria, Korea, Afghanistan, or North Africa are NOT strategic threats to the U.S. and as we have painfully realized, not worth the blood and treasure we have spent trying to make them in our image. IT WON'T HAPPEN...because they don't want it! What Mattis may not realize is that this president actually understands this and promised the American people he would get us out of policing the world. He has stated this view repeatedly over the last 30 years...there should be no surprises!
Trump is fighting a generation of generals, politicians, and analysts as well as a military complex who have seen only the world of large military budgets and foreign wars. Yes, we want a force capable of projecting anywhere in the world since we do not want to fight any war on our own property. But, the threats need to be strategic in nature, we need to force size to it, and then build an environment (partnerships or alliances) that can project it (bases, agreements, etc.)..and finally, train to it. Unfortunately, we have been caught up in unwarranted conflicts in areas where progress stopped 500 years ago, tribal customs dominate and democracy is misaligned with theological based customs and traditions. In other words, we won't change them because they can't even spell it!! Mattis is part of an old entrenched military complex that truly believes that terrorists and civil wars in godforsaken areas are a part of our strategic security direction.
Well, guess what? There's a new sheriff in town who believes in America first, protect our borders, let others fight their own battles, and let those who want to work with us, pay for it!