From members of Congress of both parties to leaders of allied nations around the world, worry is reaching a fever pitch about the frantic, unnerving and unpredictable actions of scandal-ridden American president Donald Trump.
The resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after Trump blindsided him with the shocking announced, by tweet, that American soldiers will leave Syria within 30 days left both the opposition — and Trump’s shrinking base of support — shaking their heads and wondering what will happen next.
Trump doubled down on his Syria withdrawal by directing the Pentagon Thursday to withdraw halt of the 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan — another move decried by senior advisers and military officials.
The move made it clear that the steadfast approaches of Mattis are gone.
“Having Mattis there gave all of us a great deal more comfort than we have now,” said retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). “He was the steadiest hand in the Cabinet, and we’ve all slept better and felt better that he was there.”
Even steadfast Trump yes-man, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), appeared to echo Mattis’s critical assessment of Trump’s lack of leadership and publicly urged the President to find a new defense secretary who matches Mattis with an “equally clear understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter.”
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was “shaken” when she heard Mattis resigned. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va) called the news “scary.”
Russia’s presidential dictator Vladimir Putin heartily endorsed Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria after claiming a “complete defeat” of ISIS — a fantasy that few others believe.
In his blunt letter of resignation, Mattis questioned Trump’s erratic, impetuous and dangering approach to foreign policy that does not provide needed protection America faces.
Mattis felt he could no longer work with Trump, so he becomes the latest addition to an unprecedented departure of Cabinet and senior aides.
“Secretary Mattis was giving advice the president needs to hear,” said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. “This is a sad day.”
Sasse also called Trump’s isolationist foreign policy approach “a weak strategy that hurts America and our allies.
Former State Department senior official Eliot Cohen, who served under the presidency of George W. Bush, said Mattis put service to the country above a president.
“He was an example of someone who could retain his character while serving an entirely unqualified and despicable human being,” Cohen said. “The overall caliber and character of those who are still willing to serve will be abysmal.”
European Council on Foreign Relations co-chair Carl Bildt, who is also a former prime minister of Sweden, called Mattis “the remaining strong bond across the Atlantic in the Trump administration. All the others are fragile at best or broken at worst.”
Bildt adds that Mattis’s resignation sparked “a morning of alarm in Europe.”
Jürgen Hardt, senior foreign policy aide to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, predicts Trump will pull forces next from Western allies and says Praise for Trump’s actions by Russian president Putin “should give all of us concern.”
Norbert Röttgen, chair of the foreign affairs committee in the German Parliament said of Mattis: “The last voice of reason leaves the administration.”
Mattis, he said, understood that “what sets the US apart from other powers is its right net of alliances and the loyalty of its friends. Trump does not.”
“Believe me, America’s allies are already reviewing all options,” says Francois Heisbourg, president of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former diplomatic adviser in France. “This is big bad.”
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