In an extensive resignation letter, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis wrote that Donald Trump had the right to have a Defence Secretary “whose views are better aligned with yours”, thus leaving many puzzled over the reason behind his sudden decision to leave the White House.
While he never mentioned directly that his departure was linked to Trump’s decision to pull US forces out of Syria, many started speculating that 45’s announcement was the last straw.
Matt is is upset he couldn’t keep US troops in Syria forever.— Marcus Ockham (@HouTwit) 20 December 2018
The fact that Mattis is resigning because we are pulling out 2000 troops from Syria shows how the global war machine does not want to leave any place.— Joseph Noel (@ItsJoeNotJoel) 21 December 2018
Mattis:— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) 20 December 2018
— Tells Trump not to pull out of Iran Deal. He does.
— Tells Trump to counter Russia. He doesn’t.
— Tells Trump North Korea is still a threat. Trump claims victory.
— Tells Trump to value our allies and partners. Trump does the opposite.
— Syria is the last straw.
I would agree after reading that letter twice and trying to see it from the General's perspective.— NotMrJackDoolittle (@DoolittleNot) 21 December 2018
Syria was the last straw for Mattis.
The resignation of Mattis (the last adult in the white house) is due to the incompetence and ignorance of @realDonaldTrump. The Syria decision is the result of the 'secret' trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki. Last straw for Mattis. We are in real danger due to this.— Matthew Newberry (@MattyIce42586) 21 December 2018
Bill Kristol, a neoconservative political analyst, tweeted that Mattis’s decision was a complete U-turn, and was inextricably linked to Trump’s willingness to stop the war:
Until a few days ago Mattis was telling friends he felt an obligation to stay and do his best. His resignation suggests not merely that he thinks Syria was a bad decision, but that he now thinks Trump can’t be talked out of further bad decisions—on Afghanistan, and others too.— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) 21 December 2018
Some have pointed to the fact that Trump’s move was “smart” because it is illegal for the United States to maintain a military presence in Syria – without either a UN mandate, or authorisation of the country’s authorities.
Trump wants out of Syria, Mattis Doesn’t. Y’all act like Mattis hates Trump. He doesn’t. It’s illegal for the USA to be there in Syria. Trump was smart. We love Mattis though.— Dayten O’Donnell (@ODayten) 20 December 2018
Who cares if Mattis quits what he wants the war in Syria and Afghanistan to last forever how much more money are we supposed to spend from our taxpayers if he wants the war so bad he can fight it with his sons and bring our sons home— sammy (@oozzee) 21 December 2018
The Mad Dog’s resignation sent some shockwaves through Washington and beyond, with US politicians taking to Twitter to express their frustration – and somewhat fuel the speculation that his decision was triggered by the envisaged pull-out:
Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter. It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation,damage our alliances & empower our adversaries. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/ztc0Yihccn— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) 20 December 2018
I have a lot of respect for General Mattis and after what happened yesterday the resignation is sadly understandable: Jim Mattis Resigns, Rebuking Trump’s Worldview https://t.co/Jkh9wpnp8C— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) 20 December 2018
This is scary. Secretary Mattis has been an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration. As we’ve seen with the President’s haphazard approach to Syria, our national defense is too important to be subjected to the President’s erratic whims. https://t.co/9qPluSGLUc— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) 20 December 2018
Rep. Pelosi: "Yes, I am shaken by the resignation of Gen. Mattis, for what it means to our country, for the message it sends to our troops and for the indication of what his view is of the commander-in-chief." https://t.co/dXgJhGjpZb pic.twitter.com/J1Wk3dDmPA— ABC News (@ABC) 21 December 2018
James Mattis was the last adult left in the room. He was maybe the last person who could tell this President “No.”— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) 20 December 2018
His departure is a dire omen for the future of our alliances and the security of our country.
Old Marines never die, but they do resign after the President ignores their advice, betrays our allies, rewards our enemies, and puts the nation’s security at risk. Turn out the lights when Mattis leaves; we will not see his like again while Trump remains in office. https://t.co/fKUTe5nPIR— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) 20 December 2018
Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late senator John McCain, is seemingly among those who drew parallels between the troops’ withdrawal and Mattis’ resignation:
Pulling out of Syria and now Mattis leaving…. pic.twitter.com/a9slUiShuU— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) 20 December 2018
The aftershocks were also recorded abroad, with Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag Norbert Röttgen tweeting that the “last voice of reason” leaves the administration with Mattis:
What sets the #US apart from other powers is its tight net of alliances and the loyalty of its friends. General Mattis understood this — #Trump does not, as the troop withdrawal from #Syria once again demonstrates. With #Mattis the last voice of reason leaves the administration.— Norbert Röttgen (@n_roettgen) 21 December 2018
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator, tweeted that Mattis’s resignation “makes it look like [Vladimir] Putin’s plan is being delivered on” – although he didn’t specify what kind of “plan” that might be.
Mattis checked President Trump's worst instincts & was a strong supporter of NATO & multilateralism. His departure is bad news & makes it look like Putin’s plan is being delivered on. Europe stands unprepared & needs to speed up the establishment of a European Defense Community. https://t.co/dHFnhA5tXK— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) 21 December 2018
Carl Bildt, Co-Chair European Council on Foreign Relations, described the news as a “morning of alarm in Europe”:
A morning of alarm in Europe. SecDef Mattis is the remaining strong bond across the Atlantic in the Trump administration. All the others are fragile at best or broken at worst.— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) 21 December 2018
Reacting to Mattis’s letter, US mainstream media suggested that the Pentagon chief should team up with other former national security officials in order to testify in open hearings in the House and express their concerns about Trump’s fitness and national security threats.
On top of that, the mainstream media, which apparently have a thing for conspiracy theories wrote that it was essential to subpoena the interpreter’s notes from Helsinki summit between President Trump and Vladimir Putin in order to determine “what, if any, pledges” POTUS made to his Russian counterpart.
The exact reason behind Mattis’s resignation, set for 28 February 2019, remains unknown, but shortly before the announcement Senator Lindsey Graham made it clear that the Defence Secretary’s strategy on Syria didn’t converge with Trump’s views.