This is a context in which the general’s letter of resignation is, to our ear, all too arch. The general writes that he has “strongly held” views on “treating allies with respect” and “being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors.” He also writes that we must “advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values.”
Well, Jim Mattis Dandy, but what exactly is he suggesting? Is it that Mr. Trump is not “clear-eyed” about, say, the Iranians? Mr. Trump is the only one who rejects appeasement. Is he saying that it’s Mr. Trump’s fault that the North Atlantic Treaty is under strain? We’ve been paying our part. It’s the Europeans who have lagged, and only Mr. Trump who’s looking out for American taxpayers.
As for “treating allies with respect,” moreover, Mr. Trump’s precipitous announcement of his plan to withdraw from Syria was supposedly made after a phone conversation with, in Recep Erdogan, the president of a country that, in Turkey, is our formal treaty ally. If it was Mr. Erdogan who talked Mr. Trump into pulling out of Syria, maybe it’s a reminder that alliances have their albatrosses as well as their eagles.