The United States needs to adopt a foreign policy and quit playing defense in the various conflicts around the world, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said Wednesday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
The famously direct commander, one of three retired military leaders who testified before the committee to address mandatory spending caps known as sequestration, told the lawmakers that the U.S. needs to "come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values," The Washington Free Beacon
Joining Mattis, the former head of U.S. Central Command, were retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and retired Navy Adm. William Fallon.
Mattis criticized the "strategy-free zone" in Iraq and said he didn’t know what "our policy is in Syria," according to the Free Beacon.
And alerting the enemy in advance of troop withdrawal dates is counter-intuitive.
"Setting withdrawal dates and telling the enemy in advance when we’re leaving probably contributes to the endless wars that we get into," Mattis told the senators.
America should learn from what happened in Iraq, he cautioned, where pulling troops out too soon helped the Islamic State (ISIS) to expand. Taking all the troops out of Afghanistan would have a similar result.
The United States' wavering foreign policy emboldens the enemy and confuses our allies, including the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, according to Mattis.
"We’ve disappointed a lot of friends out there, from Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, from Tel Aviv to Cairo," he said, according to U.S. News & World Report
Regarding sequestration, he said that if automatic spending cuts are allowed to continue, they will present a threat greater than any enemy. Without a reliable budget, Mattis said, a strategy cannot be devised.
On Monday, the White House and Defense Department will soon be releasing proposed annual budgets that will include a spending cap imposed by sequestration, military newspaper Stars and Stripes
"No nation in history has maintained its military power but failed to keep its fiscal house in order," Mattis said.
Now is not the time to be cutting the military budget, according to Keane, especially when "our influence (in the Middle East) is at its lowest point in four decades, we see a region erupting in crises."
In a statement submitted by Sen. John McCain, the committee chair, Keane said that President Barack Obama and his administration have "adopted a cheap fatalism" by claiming there are no military solutions to the unrest taking places around the globe, Stars and Stripes reported.
McCain was in Saudi Arabia and could not chair the hearing.
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