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U.S. Foreign Policy Survey: Mattis Out, Syria Troops Ordered Out, Afghanistan In Flux

An Iraqi soldier watches smoke rising after an airstrike by U.S.-led international coalition warplanes against ISIS, on the border between Syria and Iraq in Qaim, Anbar province, Iraq, Nov. 13, 2018. (Hadi Mizban/AP)
An Iraqi soldier watches smoke rising after an airstrike by U.S.-led international coalition warplanes against ISIS, on the border between Syria and Iraq in Qaim, Anbar province, Iraq, Nov. 13, 2018. (Hadi Mizban/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The state of U.S. foreign policy now, after Trump orders troops out of Syria, readies to cut forces in Afghanistan and his defense secretary calls it quits.


Leo Shane III, deputy editor for the Military Times, where he covers veterans affairs, Congress and the White House. (@LeoShane)

Derek Chollet, executive vice president and senior adviser for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He has served as assistant secretary of defense and on the National Security Council. Author of “The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World.” (@derekchollet)

Adm. James A. Winnefeld, former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the nation’s No. 2 ranking military officer. Senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center (@BelferCenter) and distinguished professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. Former fighter pilot and instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School.

From The Reading List

Time: “My Friend Jim Mattis Is Gone From the Pentagon, and the U.S. Is One Step Closer to Chaos” — “His call sign was never ‘Mad Dog.’ That was but one of the many, many things President Donald Trump got wrong about retired four-star Marine general and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

“His actual call sign is, believe it or not, ‘CHAOS’ – an appropriate sobriquet for all that is unfolding in the White House and Washington these days. ‘CHAOS’ is actually an acronym meaning ‘Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution,’ an affectionate reference to his mastery of the battlefield from his days as a senior colonel.

“Mattis, whom I’ve known for decades, certainly took his share of hills from America’s enemies, in the Persian Gulf War and in Afghanistan and Iraq. But even he eventually hit a hill even he couldn’t take – his mercurial Commander-in-Chief.

“It was not just President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, a foolish choice probably launched to change the daily media cycle. This was only the latest in a cascade of questionable events that had the Secretary of Defense doing little but playing defense in the domestic realm, trying to explain his capricious Commander-in-Chief’s uninformed comments and bad decisions.”

Wall Street Journal: “Trump’s Foreign-Policy Upheaval Puts U.S. Allies on Edge” — “Abrupt plans for U.S. troop pullouts from Syria and Afghanistan and the departure of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis are raising fresh concerns among U.S. allies and adversaries alike about a new phase of volatility in Washington’s military posture and foreign policy.

“Mr. Mattis, a four-star Marine general who has been one of President Trump’s most prominent cabinet members since his inauguration nearly two years ago, was regarded by many U.S. allies as a steadying influence, offering a sense of continuity even as Mr. Trump broke with longtime allies on issues as diverse as tariffs and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“Governments across Asia offered muted response to the developments while Europeans were more outspoken regarding both Mr. Mattis and Mr. Trump’s troop plans. Senior French and German officials rejected Mr. Trump’s assertion earlier in the week that Islamic State had been defeated and Israeli officials expressed anxiety about regional stability.

“Even Russia, which many observers see as benefiting from Mr. Trump’s moves, reacted cautiously.”

Washington Post: “Opinion: Trump is now forging foreign policy on his own. Where will he take us?” — “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation confirms that President Trump is now forging foreign policy essentially on his own. Stemming on its face from Trump’s decision, announced on Twitter, to remove U.S. military forces from Syria, in fact Trump has signaled displeasure with Mattis and the bipartisan foreign policy consensus that he championed. In the months ahead, conservatives will increasingly be torn between loyalty to Trump and their longtime support for that consensus.

“Trump’s mistrust of American global engagement has long been hiding in plain view. He questioned U.S. defense agreements with allies as early as the 1980s, and he did nothing to hide his doubt about those arrangements on the campaign trail. It now appears he is ready to act upon these deeply held instincts.

“While certainly breaking with modern conservatism, Trump’s beliefs hark back to pre-World War II Republicanism. Back then, the GOP favored immigration restriction, tariffs and keeping the United States out of foreign conflicts. Trump’s three most important deviations with current GOP orthodoxy, then, are actually a return to the old orthodoxy.”

Stefano Kotsonis produced this show for broadcast.

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