How Mattis tried to contain Trump

President Donald Trump’s and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ vocal disagreement on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria was just the latest clash between the president and his Pentagon chief.

For two years, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis slow-walked and stymied President Donald Trump’s most dramatic impulses on military policy.

That strategy came to a swift end when it came to Syria.

Trump’s and Mattis’ vocal disagreement on withdrawing U.S. troops from the war-ravaged country was just the latest clash between the president and his Pentagon chief on their approach to deploying the military and projecting American power.

The retired four-star general took advantage of Trump’s early high regard by expanding the defense budget and pushing more authority down to military commanders in the field. He even leveraged Trump’s sometimes-hawkish rhetoric into troop increases in some of the same regions the president is now itching to leave.

But in the end, their differences proved too stark to overcome. These were some of their most significant points of disagreement:

Troops on the border

Mattis’ approach was on full display twice this year when Trump ordered the deployment of military forces to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the approach of migrant caravans from Central America.

In April, after Trump initially demanded a military deployment, the Pentagon responded by sending 2,100 unarmed National Guardsmen — a move little different from the approaches of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

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