Critics of Donald Trump always hoped that “the adults in the room” would prevent him from acting on his worst instincts. One of these supposed adults was General James Mattis who acted as Secretary of Defense. Mattis, however, announced his resignation late in 2018.
While he was in office, though, Mattis might have been doing exactly what opponents of Trump hoped he would do. According to the New Yorker, Mattis often ignored Trump’s orders in order to prevent tensions with other nations.
A former Senior National Security official said, “The president thinks out loud. Do you treat it like an order? Or do you treat it as part of a longer conversation? We treated it as part of a longer conversation. We prevented a lot of bad things from happening.”
The ignored orders mainly concerned the countries of Syria and North Korea. For example, “following a series of North Korean ballistic missile tests, Trump ordered the Pentagon to begin removing the spouses and children of military personnel from South Korea, where the U.S. military has a base.” This order was ignored by Mattis.
In another incident, Mattis was asked, by then National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, to draw up military plans against North Korea. Mattis reportedly ignored the request from McMaster.
The former Secretary of Defense’s resignation came shortly after Trump decided to withdraw troops from Syria. Mattis then questioned the president’s world view in his resignation letter,
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being cleareyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held. Because you have the right to have 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.”