Mattis' Former Colleague Warns Against Rush to War With North Korea

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks with a group of service members during his visit to Train Advise Assist Command East, September 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks with a group of service members during his visit to Train Advise Assist Command East, September 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

A defense analyst who previously worked closely with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned against a rush to war with North Korea.

Trump administration officials are "blithely dismissing enormous damage" that would come from a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, Kori Schake, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, wrote in an article for Defense One.

Schake, who edited a book with Mattis at Hoover, likened the atmosphere in the Trump White House to that of the administration of former President George W. Bush in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"Officials make similar arguments about the necessity of acting against a gathering storm" and "proudly claim understanding of the adversary's motivations," said Schake, who worked in the Bush White House.

They "believe the sand is running out in the hourglass before military attacks are required," and "they admit no alternative interpretation of the facts," she said.

"They seem innocent of understanding the disastrous and isolating consequences for America's role in the world to choose preventive war rather than the moral heights of restraint in the face of threats," said Schake, a former director of Defense Strategy on the National Security Council in the George W. Bush White House.

When he retired from the military as commander of U.S. Central Command, Mattis became the Davies Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

While there, he co-edited with Schake the essay collection "Warriors and Citizens," which examined the divide between the American public and the so-called "one percent" who join the military.

Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford have repeatedly said that military options are available to deal with North Korea, but they also have repeatedly said that their first option is diplomacy led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mattis is usually counted among the so-called "adults in the room" at the Trump 'White House, but Schake wondered whether the "adults" could be a brake on an unpredictable president.

"The administration's statements strongly prejudice policy toward military action" against North Korea, she said.

Administration officials "have not only drawn a red line, they've attached a countdown clock to it. President Trump will either fight a preventive war to disarm North Korea, or will be forced in humiliation fashion to dismantle a scaffold of his own construction, calling into question American security guarantees," Schake said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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