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Mattis rebukes Trump’s leadership in not-so-subtle op-ed

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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 writes, “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.”

Read more: Mattis once said there was only one reason he would ever resign in protest, and it looks like he just found it

In the piece, the former secretary of defense criticizes 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.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens as U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room on October 23, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

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.

Read more: Trump is snubbing a close ally because it won’t let him buy Greenland while supporting rival Russia before his Europe trip

“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 continued, “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.

In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis waits outside the Pentagon.
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 issue,” he wrote in his resignation letter, explaining that 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.”

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