National Security

Gen. Mattis Has Sharp Words for Obama Foreign Policy

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis had less than rosy words for the state of U.S. foreign policy Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

[We need to] come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values," Mattis said.

Mattis, testifying alongside retired Gen. Jack Keane and retired Navy Adm. William Fallon, said he didn't know what "our policy is on Syria," for instance. Also, he told Sen. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) that the U.S. had been in a "strategy-free" zone regarding Iraq, dating before Obama took office and extending throughout his administration, and bemoaned that in the Middle East, where "our influence is at its lowest point in four decades, we see a region erupting in crises."

Mattis also hit the administration's much-derided timelines for troop removals that allow enemies to simply wait out a conflict, saying "Setting withdrawal dates and telling the enemy in advance when we're leaving probably contributes to the endless wars that we get into."

Mattis feared that just as a premature removal of troops from Iraq allowed the Islamic State to flourish, American goals in Afghanistan would also be undone if Obama stuck to his timeline there.

"In Afghanistan, we need to consider if we're asking for the same outcome there as we saw last summer in Iraq, should we pull out all our troops on the administration's proposed timeline," he said. "The gains achieved at great cost against our enemy in Afghanistan are reversible."

In short, Mattis said at one point, a lot of U.S. allies are unhappy with Obama's aimless foreign policy stances.

"We've disappointed a lot of friends out there, from Tel Aviv to Riyadh to Abu Dhabi to Cairo," he said.

Mattis headed the U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013 and led the First Marine Division into Iraq in 2003.