The unprecedented nature of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation letter to President Trump raises a host of disturbing questions. The most significant of them arise from Secretary Mattis' suggested differences with his Commander-in-Chief regarding the value of allies — and the dangers of strategic, authoritarian competitors.
Read Mattis' words closely and they serve to both define and narrow the range of his possible successors to those who better embrace President Trump's world view. The President will be looking for an individual who will share in his suspicion of allies (who he believes don't carry sufficient defense burden while enjoying unfair trade benefits), and who will be more willing to work with adversaries, particularly Russia.
"My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues," wrote Secretary Mattis. "Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other issues, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position."
So who that might that individual be?
Until recently, Senator Lindsay Graham was considered a front-runner, but this past week he criticized the President's move on Syria, and called for Congressional hearings on both that withdrawal and the potential troop drawdown in Afghanistan. He has been leading the charge against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, again out of step with President Trump.