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Ethics Observations On The Mattis Resignation
Jack Marshall -- ProEthics, Ltd. Jack Marshall -- ProEthics, Ltd.
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Alexandria , VA
Friday, December 21, 2018


President Trump announced that he was ending the U.S. mission in Syria, and drawing down the troop level in Afghanistan. His Secretary of Defense,General Mattis, resigned in protest, and copied his letter of resignation to the world.

The news media, social media, and full time anti-Trump hysterics, among others, went bonkers.

  • What’s going on here? A President who has long held that U.S. domestic priorities are more important than “being the world’s policeman” followed through on his promise. As is his wont, he sprung the actual news without laying a foundation to cushion the blow. Nobody knows whether the decisions will work out or not, but the assumption is that because this President is the one making the decisions, they must be stupid, evil, or both. This, despite the fact that Barack Obama essentially did the same thing regarding Iraq, except that Iraq gave much more promise of stabilizing with continued U.S. presence. Syria is still in chaos, and nobody can confidently say when and if it will not be. As for Afghanistan, the U.S. has been expending lives and treasure there for a mind-blowing 17 years. What is the mission? Funny—I thought the original mission was to punish the country for sponsoring the 9/11 attacks. We could have declared the point made long, long ago. Is the President wrong to say “Enough is enough”?

I have no idea—and neither do you.

  • Having no idea, not having seen the data, not having been advised, and not being President of the United  States, I have little basis to challenge or deride the decision. But what’s really going on here is what has been going on since January, 2017. Any decision or action by this President is immediately assumed to be wrong. The analysis attached to it afterwards is superfluous. The position is that President Trump did it, it’s wrong because he’s a Nazi/idiot/ grifter /fool, and that’s all we need to know.

This, of course, makes it impossible, literally impossible, to get honest, trustworthy analysis about anything.

  • Anyone who criticizes Trump in public, even certifiable slime like Steve Bannon, James Comey, and Omarosa, suddenly is embraced by “the resistance ” and the news media using the formula that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This rewards unethical conduct, and “Mad Dog” appears to have fallen into the trap, to his eventual shame. As a lawyer, I know it is unethical to drop a client, my employer, and make any pubic statements whatsoever impugning his or her judgment or conduct. It is also unethical to do this in any professional relationship. Professionals know this: I presume at one time Mattis knew this. But having paid attention to how routine betrayals of this President have been cheered and praised, he apparently couldn’t resist temptation.

Now, as a lawyer, my duties are codified. That doesn’t mean that professionals who don’t have the same duties codified aren’t obligated to follow them.

  • Astoundingly—in fact, this is a microcosm of the entire 2016 Post Election Train Wreck, and the false narratives it has spawned—the fact that Mattis behaved atrociously, disloyally and destructively by writing and circulating his resignation letter is being blamed on Trump, as if Mattis is the first Secretary of Defense to resign over policy disagreements with the President. Of course he isn’t—he’s just the first to be so unprofessional about it. This is the “Trump violates norms” narrative, the “Trump made everyone else violate norms” chapter.

Michael Beschloss, the once respectable Presidential historian who has found it profitable (or something) to re-brand himself as an anti-Trump partisan hack—he was the one who on election night launched the myth that poor Hillary was bound to lose because Americans almost never elect the same party to the White House in three straight years—except for 1988, 1948, 1944, 1940, 1928, 1924, 1908…you know, virtually never—took to the airwaves to point out that Mattis’s  public resignation was also virtually unique (Cyrus Vance quit Carter in protest, but wasn’t nasty about it, and apparently doesn’t count).

Well, why do you think they call him “Mad Dog”?

  • I especially love the pundits and social media trolls who are writing that Mattis was “the only adult in the room,” the room being the Trump Presidency. Not only is this pure ad hominem, does it occur to these sudden fans of perpetual warfare that the only adult in the room just threw a tantrum?
ProEthics, Ltd.
Alexandria, VA