The Last Word From James Mattis

We begin with a word on yesterday's events in Washington. We encourage you to read this resignation letter from US Defense Secretary James Mattis.


It appears intended, at least in part, as a response to President Trump's surprise announcement this week that ISIS has been defeated and that US forces will soon be withdrawn from Syria. (Late last evening came news the president is also considering a plan that would withdraw thousands of US troops from Afghanistan.)

Any informed debate on the continued presence of US troops in Syria will include wise arguments on both sides. Those who believe the troops should remain insist the US has interests and allies to protect in the Middle East and unfinished business with thousands of ISIS fighters still operating in both Syria and Iraq.

Those who say troops should be withdrawn argue that Russia and Iran are already the dominant influences in Syria and that the American public doesn't support an open-ended US commitment of troops and taxpayer dollars to help keep the peace in eternally unstable Middle Eastern countries.

But this much-needed debate isn't happening, because President Trump appears to have made this decision without full consultation with US allies or even with the Pentagon. That's the argument we see in General Mattis' letter.

Mattis will be replaced, and his replacement might well be a remarkably capable person. Hysteria and hyperbole over the resignation are unwarranted. But as we enter what's sure to be a year of bitter political infighting in Washington, it appears President Trump is taking foreign-policy counsel mainly from himself and acting without listening to those he should trust.

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WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Syria ISIS attack A suicide bombing in Syria claimed by ISIS killed 14 people including four Americans this week. Two questions we'll be watching: Will this attack impact the pace of President Trump's ordered withdrawal of US troops from Syria, and is the bombing part of a broader ISIS strategy to launch a wave of new attacks as US troops depart?

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