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Foreign Policy

Mattis: Obama and Biden Empowered ISIS

The former defense secretary says Obama let his ideology overrule his military advisers' expertise.

Thomas Gallatin · Sep. 4, 2019

President Donald Trump’s former defense secretary, James Mattis, just released his book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, and it’s not what many within the Leftmedia were hoping for — a rebuke of Trump’s leadership. In fact, if anything Mattis does the opposite by offering stinging criticism of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Mattis, who abruptly left the Pentagon last year following a disagreement with Trump over his decision to withdraw troops from Syria, explained his rationale for refusing to offer any criticism of Trump: “There’ll come a time when I speak out on strategic issues, policy issues, that I do not have a question about. But I need to give some period of time to those who have to carry out the responsibility to protect this country in a very, very difficult age.”

Meanwhile, since both Obama and Biden are no longer in office (though Biden wants Trump’s job), Mattis freely offers his critique of their leadership (or lack thereof), specifically regarding U.S. involvement in the Long War and their inept handling of Iran. For example, Mattis noted that both Obama and Biden summarily dismissed his objections to pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, as Mattis warned that Iraq would slip back into violence. As we’ve noted, Obama practically did create ISIS. Mattis pinpoints the reason for Obama’s rejection of his warnings, writing, “At the top, then as now, there was an aura of omniscience. The assessments of the intelligence community, our diplomats, and our military had been excluded from the decision-making circle.”

Following Obama’s dismissal of Mattis, he writes, “I was leaving a region aflame and in disarray. The lack of an integrated regional strategy had left us adrift, and our friends confused. We were offering no leadership or direction. I left my post deeply disturbed that we had shaken our friends’ confidence and created vacuums that our adversaries would exploit.”

Mattis’s criticism of Biden, while not biting, leaves one with little confidence that Biden would really listen to advice. “I found him an admirable and amiable man,” Mattis says. “But he was past the point where he was willing to entertain a ‘good idea.’ He didn’t want to hear more; he wanted our forces out of Iraq. Whatever path led there fastest, he favored. He exuded the confidence of a man whose mind was made up, perhaps even indifferent to considering the consequences were he judging the situation incorrectly.”

Effectively, Mattis may be offering one more warning to Trump: Don’t follow the same failed path taken by your predecessor. Furthermore, it serves as a warning to the American people against electing Biden, who just recently boasted, “If I have any expertise, it’s American foreign policy.”

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