Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Biden should toss all of Trump's 'America First' policies

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Biden should toss all of Trump's 'America First' policies
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens as U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room on October 23, 2018 in Washington, DC.Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis denounced President Donald Trump's "America First" policy in a Foreign Affairs article he coauthored with three other people.
  • The authors said the Trump administration was undermining an international order that is to America's advantage by devaluing the role allies and international institutions play in securing American interests.
  • They wrote that they hoped that Biden's team "will quickly revise the national security strategy to eliminate 'America first' from its contents."

Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Monday that the incoming administration should "eliminate" all of President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda, which Mattis and others said "has damaged the country's ability to address problems before they reach US territory."

"In January, when President Joe Biden and his national security team begin to reevaluate US foreign policy, we hope they will quickly revise the national security strategy to eliminate 'America First' from its contents, restoring in its place the commitment to cooperative security that has served the United States so well for decades," Mattis wrote in Foreign Affairs.

The Foreign Affairs article was coauthored by Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute; retired Adm. Jim Ellis, a former Strategic Command commander and Hoover Institution fellow; and Joe Felter, a Hoover fellow.

The four authors said that because the world was becoming less safe for the US and American interests, the country needed a "defense in depth" strategy. Such a strategy requires alliances, international partners who can help the US identify and deal "with global problems where they occur rather than waiting for threats to reach American shores," they wrote.

They wrote that strengthening the US military, which Trump often touts as an achievement of his administration, was not enough. "Not even the United States is strong enough to protect itself on its own," they said.


"Enhancing national security must start with the fundamental truth that the United States cannot protect itself or its interests without the help of others," Mattis and the other authors wrote.

"As capable as the US military is, the United States' principal adversaries are more constrained by its network of alliances than by its military might," they said.

The authors said "America First" was essentially "America alone" and a threat to US interests. They added that the US was "undermining the foundations of an international order manifestly advantageous to US interests, reflecting a basic ignorance of the extent to which both robust alliances and international institutions provide vital strategic depth."

Mattis and the other writers said maintaining these critical relationships required the presence of diplomats and military forces overseas, among other investments.

The four authors wrote that the "principal external threat the United States faces today is an aggressive and revisionist China," which they said was "the only challenger that could potentially undermine the American way of life."


To secure US interests, they wrote, the US will need a credible forward military strategy, as well as a robust network of strong alliances.

During his presidency, Trump has repeatedly bullied allies, from NATO partners in Europe to South Korea and Japan in the Pacific, while abandoning others.

Mattis resigned from his position as secretary of defense in December 2018 over disagreements with Trump, and his resignation letter, which stressed the importance of alliances and recognizing who US adversaries are, was seen as a clear rebuke of the president's "America First" policies.