April 23, 2018

How Jim Mattis Became Trump’s “Last Man Standing”

Featuring Julianne Smith

Source: The New Yorker

Journalist Susan B. Glasser

Last Tuesday, after waking up to tweet about the previous day’s F.B.I. raid on his lawyer’s office (“a total witch hunt!!!”), President Trump called one of his outside Republican advisers to ask what to do about Syria, and its latest chemical-weapons attack on civilians. “We should bomb the shit out of them, Mr. President,” came the answer, which was exactly the one Trump seemed to be looking for. Over the weekend, the President, outraged by the photographs of dead children in the Syrian enclave of Douma he had apparently seen on TV, had tweeted vows of retaliation against “Animal Assad,” and the Syrian leader’s backers in Russia and Iran. Trump’s hawkish new national-security adviser, John Bolton, who had started work that Monday, was also pressing for punishing strikes. On the phone call, Trump listened approvingly to the hit-’em-hard advice: that, politically, “the minimum should be bigger than it was last year,” when Trump had launched a single-day strike on a Syrian airfield, designed—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—to deter future chemical-weapons use.

By Friday evening, when the American cruise missiles actually started flying, the vaunted attack had been reduced to a single predawn volley against three Syrian government chemical-weapons facilities, carefully chosen to avoid hitting known Russian or Iranian bases and thus escalating a war from which Trump himself had recently demanded an exit. The strike was bigger than last year’s, but hardly the sustained response with “all instruments of our national power” that the President promised in his televised address announcing the attack.

Read the full article at The New Yorker


  • Julianne Smith

    Former Adjunct Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Julianne (“Julie”) Smith is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy, where she coedits “Shadow Government.” She is also a senior advisor at WestExec Advisors, an adjunct senio...