Newsweek

Does Jim Mattis Have a Duty to Criticize Donald Trump?

The former defense secretary should learn from George Marshall about weighing silence against warning of a clear and present danger.
Duty of silence In recent interviews, Jim Mattis said he would abide by the “military tradition” of not commenting on political issues.
PER_Mattis&Marshall_01_Banner Source: Photo Illustration by Gluekit; Photos by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty; Brandon Robbins/Getty

As four-star general and former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis embarks on his book tour, his vow to refrain from criticizing President Donald Trump raises important ethical questions. Should a retired general or admiral ever criticize a sitting president? If so, under what circumstances? Is there a duty to warn the American people if their president is a clear and present danger to national security?

In addressing these questions, it is instructive to consider the standard set by George Marshall, the only other former flag officer who also served as secretary of defense. Before and after Marshall stepped down as President Harry Truman's defense secretary in 1951, he consistently and flatly refused several lucrative offers from publishers to write his memoirs or to otherwise

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