Mad Dog Day Afternoon

Here’s the NextDraft 2018 Year in Review: WTF? … And that was before the past forty-eight hours during which a chaotic Trump presidency went from scary but almost funny, to scary and sort of horrifying. Between the declaration that the US will pull out of Syria and the departure of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Donald Trump has managed, against all odds, to unify Republicans, Democrats, and American allies: We’re all freaking out. US foreign policy is in shambles. Allies have lost all faith in America. Matters of war and peace are being handled via Fox News pundit-fueled Twitter whims. Experts are being ignored. Dictators are being exalted. Markets are collapsing. The government is teetering. This is not a drill. America is in crisis. The Trump we all worried about is here. If history marks this as the week when things went from bad to worse, then the Mattis resignation letter will be the document that marked the pivot. For politicians, citizens, and allies alike, the Defense Secretary’s departure is the lump of coal none of us wanted to find in our Christmas stockings (and it’s not even clean coal). A few outtakes: “While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies … Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours … My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues … Because you have the right to a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.” A document for the ages (and because of its audience, written at a level that can be understood by children of all ages): James Mattis’s Letter of Resignation.

+ Think I’m exaggerating about the ignoring of experts and the exalting of dictators? I present this lede from AP: “Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies … Trump stunned his Cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world with the move by rejecting the advice of his top aides and agreeing to a withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

+ Santa is making a list, checking it twice, and finding out who’s been naughty or nice. Only this year, the naughty ones on the list are getting all the presents. NYT: Glee in Russia Over Trump’s Foreign Policy Largess.

+ The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins: James Mattis Is Out; What Comes Next?

+ And a partial answer from The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “James Mattis knew who Trump was, and joined him anyway, because he is a patriot. And because he is a patriot, he would have remained with Trump if he thought he could influence Trump’s policies. But whatever influence he had, he lost. And now the dangerous part begins.”

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