“It was to be a time when I would witness duty and deceit, courage and cowardice, and, ultimately, strategic frustration,” Mattis writes in his new book.
While he refrained from hitting Trump he went after Obama early and often ripping his “catastrophic decisions” in Iraq and Syria because Obama would not listen and thought he knew best and worse played politics.
“Iraq slipped back into escalating violence. It was like watching a car wreck in slow motion,” Mattis says. “All of this was predicted — and preventable.”
“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,” Mattis wrote of Obama and Bush.
“CENTCOM had kept a keen eye on Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons, and we were picking up indications that he was preparing to use them against his own people,” Mattis writes. To stop this from happening, in August 2012, he says, “President Obama issued a firm warning. ‘That’s a red line for us,’ he said. ‘There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.’”
“A short time later, Assad did employ chemical weapons, killing hundreds of civilians,” Mattis continues. “At CENTCOM, I assumed we would be the ones to provide the President’s ‘enormous consequence.’ We prepared options to hold Assad harshly accountable, with NATO and Arab allies in support, from single strikes to more extensive operations, depending on the President’s judgment.”
But Obama blinked and did nothing. “This was a shot not heard around the world,” Mattis writes. And the effects were felt far beyond Syria and even the Middle East.
“Old friends in NATO and in the Pacific registered dismay and incredulity that America’s reputation had been seriously weakened as a credible security partner,” Mattis writes. “Within thirty-six hours, I received a phone call from a friendly Pacific-nation diplomat. ‘Well, Jim,’ he said, ‘I guess we’re on our own with China.’”
“Over the next several years, Syria totally disintegrated into hell on earth. The consequences included an accelerated refugee flow that changed the political culture of Europe, punctuated by repeated terrorist attacks. And America today lives with the consequences of emboldened adversaries and shaken allies.”
“In December 2012, I received an unauthorized phone call telling me that in an hour, the Pentagon would be announcing my relief,” 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,” he writes.