James Mattis Hopes Joe Biden Will Eliminate ‘America First’ from U.S. Foreign Policy

Written by Martin Walsh

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


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Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared in an article in Foreign Affairs on Monday that the “America First” foreign policy had damaged national security, and called on President-elect Joe Biden to “eliminate ‘America first’” from U.S. strategy.

Mattis penned the op-ed, titled “Defense in Depth,” for Foreign Affairs with Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Jim Ellis, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and former commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and Joe Felter, a fellow at the Hoover Institution.

“In January, when President Joe Biden and his national security team begin to reevaluate U.S. foreign policy, we hope they will quickly revise the national security strategy to eliminate ‘America first’ from its contents, restoring in its place the commitment to cooperative security that has served the United States so well for decades,” they wrote. “The best strategy for ensuring safety and prosperity is to buttress American military strength with enhanced civilian tools and a restored network of solid alliances – both necessary to achieving defense in depth.”

The four authors also that the U.S. currently is “undermining the foundations of an international order manifestly advantageous to U.S. interests, reflecting a basic ignorance of the extent to which both robust alliances and international institutions provide vital strategic depth.”

“In practice, ‘America first’ has meant ‘America alone,’” they wrote. “That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose.”

They wrote that advocates of the Trump administration’s approach “seem to believe that other countries will have no choice but to accede to the United States’ wishes and cooperate on its terms.”

“This is delusion,” they wrote. “Sovereign countries always have choices: to compromise with aggressors, take actions opposed to U.S. interests, opt-out of assistance when the United States needs it, or cooperate with one another on activities from which the United States is excluded.”

Mattis resigned in December 2018, citing policy disagreements with the president, who had just ordered a troop drawdown in Syria.

Back in June, Mattis told The Atlantic that he disagreed with Trump’s threat to use the Insurrection Act to deploy military troops to help with riots across the country.

The riots and protests are in response to George Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote in a post. “The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind.”

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” Mattis wrote.

Trump responded to Mattis on Twitter, calling him “the world’s most overrated general” and saying he was proud to have fired him.

“Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General,” Trump tweeted. “I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed to ‘Mad Dog.’”

He added: “His primary strength was not military, but rather personal public relations. I gave him a new life, things to do, and battles to win, but he seldom ‘brought home the bacon’. I didn’t like his ‘leadership’ style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!”

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