A Secretary Whose Views are Aligned with America’s Constitution

January 8, 2019

In case you missed it, be sure to read Congressman Warren Davidson's Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed on Mattis's departure as Secretary of Defense. Congressman Davidson draws on his twelve-year-background in uniform and contrasts the differences between public service and duty to country.


He writes that Mattis "professionally and respectfully resigned" rather than stay in place and undermine the President.


Click here to read Congressman Davidson's op-ed. 



A Secretary Whose Views are Aligned with America’s Constitution

By Congressman Warren Davidson, January 8, 2019


The resignation of widely-respected Secretary of Defense James Mattis touched a combination of public nerves. Opponents of the President wanted him to remain in place and “protect the democracy from the President,” but Secretary Mattis should be further respected for rejecting the faux leadership advanced by others, like James Comey, James Clapper, and John Brennan. Thankfully, we have a republic, if we can keep it.


Some wonder why the Mattis resignation took so long. Others suggest that this resignation is evidence that the problem lies with our President. Yet something far simpler is at work: Secretary Mattis just did not support many Trump policies. Rather than stay in place and undermine our President and our Constitutional order, Secretary Mattis professionally and respectfully resigned.


Aside from Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen, differences between Secretary Mattis and the President were evident on a host of issues including, Space Force; transgendered surgeries at taxpayer expense; and American border security as an aspect of national security. As a General, or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, such differences would not have been an issue, provided the policies were dutifully implemented once the decision had been made. Our military deserves the leaders best suited to fight and win our nation’s wars, regardless of policy positions.


However, as a civilian and political appointee charged with shaping policy, as much as professionally implementing it, personal alignment with the mission is a significant qualification. President Trump recognized it, Secretary Mattis expressed in writing, and it’s true: President Trump needs a Secretary whose views are more in line with his own. From his success in uniform, General Mattis will always be remembered as a national hero, an incredible leader, and a brilliant man. As Secretary of Defense, however, he never successfully made the transition.


America has not established a unifying grand strategy since the Cold War—at least one that could be publicly shared. This has profound consequences with bearing on the matter at hand. Lack of Congressional authorization for combat is without question, one of the most urgent symptoms of our fractured republic.


Americans love, admire, and respect our military. Yet, Americans do not embrace this costly, unconstitutional status quo of American-funded and American-operated perpetual combat around the world. Jim Mattis is central to this paradox. The idea that it’s wrong to secure our own borders, but right to fight for someone else’s sovereignty strikes them as perverse. Secretary Mattis is correct; President Donald Trump and the American people deserve a Secretary whose views are more in line with their own.


Donald Trump campaigned transparently on a marked departure from the neocon status quo that has sustained our nation in near perpetual war since the end of Cold War. This willful neocon policy has not been shared candidly with the public, and deployments have been intentionally managed to ensure the public never grew too anxious about—or even aware of—the true cost of war. Secretary Mattis clearly embraced and shaped that status quo.


With respect to Syria, and Yemen for that matter, I personally spoke with Secretary Mattis seeking to help the Administration obtain proper Congressional authorization for American combat operations. He and his staff repeatedly insisted that they had all of the legal authority they needed. They are mistaken.


The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) gave authority to defeat Al Qaeda and their affiliates. ISIS is not actually an affiliate of Al Qaeda. In Syria, Bashar Al Assad certainty isn't an affiliate. The Iranian proxies there clearly are not affiliates. In Yemen the U.S. is working to help Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who is ACTUALLY an affiliate of Al Qaeda, to defeat Houthi rebels (an Iranian proxy group). Constitutionally, Congress declares wars. Federalist 69 drew that as the chief distinction between a President and an elected king.


I have concerns about lots of things, but not Secretary Mattis’s resignation. He is a great man, but he was wrong for this role. Despite enormous credibility and rapport with everyone he led, once he expressed his refusal to obtain Constitutional authorization to wage war—even if some of the combat actions and policies have merit and should be sustained—he had failed. America should remain engaged, but only if we can do it Constitutionally and more equitably. Our failures in this respect have harmed our nation.


Congressman Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a June 2016 special election. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, The Old Guard, and the 101st Airborne Division.