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How badly does Trump misunderstand military conflict? Read Mattis’ resignation letter to find out

How badly does Trump misunderstand military conflict? Read Mattis’ resignation letter to find out
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

To the editor: I’m an antiwar liberal, so there’s a lot about which I disagree with outgoing Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, especially the idea that his resignation letter evokes the “common sense, wisdom and competence” found in U.S. foreign policy.

However, the letter showed two important qualities that are lacking in President Trump: The ability to distinguish friends from foes, and the full understanding of the complexity of a withdrawal maneuver that our president simply does not comprehend. This understanding appeared clearly when Mattis explained why he wanted to wait until February to leave.

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Lastly, the fact that Mattis’ letter did not thank or criticize Trump but thoroughly expressed his deep concern for the nation and for the nearly 2 million military personnel under his command simply showed this retired general as a wise “monk” whose flawed wisdom made him commit a two-year-long error.

Do Huu Chi, Garden Grove

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To the editor: Mattis has finally faced up to the reality of Donald Trump.

While he and others may have felt they were there to protect America, I am disappointed that he agreed in the first place to support and give credibility to our unethical president. There has been too much acquiescence to a man whose character flaws are terribly obvious to anyone with good sense.

If those influential and experienced generals and politicians had been more honest about the threat and had refused, openly and with stark candor, to support Trump, we might not find ourselves in this dilemma. However, almost every rational Republican, including Mattis, looked the other way while the country suffered.

I’m glad Mattis finally found the courage of his convictions. It may be too little, too late.

T. Michael Murray, Thousand Oaks

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To the editor: Mattis has been a stanchion in the Cabinet, a pillar to hold on to when presidential bluster augured to obscure national security common sense.

But even this seasoned patriot, as others before him in the executive branch, felt that the slings and arrows of Trump’s errant tongue and chaotic decision-making had diminished his influence. Not only was the secretary’s moderate voice muffled amid a rising chorus of more hawkish advisors, but he was gratuitously demeaned by the president when the commander in chief designated a new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff without consulting him.

Ditto when the president decided that troop drawdowns in Syria and Afghanistan did not require an opinion from the erstwhile Marine Corps four-star general. We are all diminished when experience, competence and reason leave the government.

Paul Bloustein, Cincinnati

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