Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared in an article in Foreign Affairs on Monday that the “America First” foreign policy had damaged national security, and called on Joe Biden to “eliminate ‘America first'” from U.S. strategy.
Mattis resigned in December 2018, citing policy disagreements with the president, who had just ordered a troop drawdown in Syria. In his resignation letter, Mattis said that the U.S. needed to do more to show “respect” to American allies.
In his new article, however, Mattis says the opposite, calling for the “end of America First”:
The United States today is undermining the foundations of an international order manifestly advantageous to U.S. interests, reflecting a basic ignorance of the extent to which both robust alliances and international institutions provide vital strategic depth. In practice, “America first” has meant “America alone.” That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose.
In January, when President Joe Biden and his national security team begin to reevaluate U.S. 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. The best strategy for ensuring safety and prosperity is to buttress American military strength with enhanced civilian tools and a restored network of solid alliances—both necessary to achieving defense in depth. The pandemic should serve as a reminder of what grief ensues when we wait for problems to come to us.
Mattis also says that while the greatest threat America faces today comes from China, the U.S. should seek greater peace, not confrontation. He calls for cooperation with China “in areas of overlapping interests, such as pandemic response, climate change, and nuclear security.”