General James Mattis
Credit: U.S. Marine Corps/Wikimedia Commons

What was I saying about Donald Trump going too hard after the State Department? Oh, yes, that’s right, I was saying that it was going to split the Republicans and would create a big bipartisan opposition in the Senate.

How’s that work, though?

Well here’s how it works:

More than 120 retired generals and admirals signed a letter Monday pushing back on the White House’s proposal to make major cuts to diplomacy and development.

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, a former CIA director, and retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former NATO supreme allied commander, are among the former three- and four-star generals who wrote that State Department funding is “critical to keeping America safe.” They sent the letter to congressional leaders, two Cabinet officials and the White House national security adviser.

And what prompted these 120 three- and four-star generals and admirals to rebuke the Trump administration?

President Donald Trump wants the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to cut their budgets by at least 37 percent, a source familiar with the issue confirmed Tuesday.

The proposal would likely require dramatic restructuring and staffing cuts at the two institutions most responsible for U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid, and it immediately faced bipartisan resistance in Congress.

I’m not saying that State Department can’t stand to get a haircut, but Trump’s proposal is extreme and dangerous. Even his Defense Secretary understood this, at least when he wasn’t serving under Trump.

They went on to quote a 2013 remark by Defense Secretary James Mattis while commander of US Central Command: “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Of course, Trump wants to spend about much extra on the Defense Department as Russia spends in total. So, he’s all in on buying more ammunition.

But he doesn’t have the clout to get this done.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at