Two years ago, The Washington Post reported that hundreds of retired United States military members have earned significant money working as “consultants” for foreign nations. The majority of these veterans are retired Generals and Admirals, and the federal government’s legal battle allowed The Washington Post to expose this additional income for America’s most trusted leaders. The revelation raised concerns about the retired generals and admirals’ loyalty to the United States versus the substantial payments they receive from foreign governments while testifying before Congress on various foreign policy issues. It questions whether their approved side hustles make them proxy lobbyists at best and foreign agents at worst for their “consulting” checks.
The most concerning revelation from The Washington Post was the “consulting” activity of beloved Marine Corps General and former Secretary of Defense, General “Mad Dog” Mattis, who worked as an “advisor” for the United Arab Emirates. General Mattis applied for the UAE’s advisory role, involving the Yemen campaign, followed by immediate approval of his application despite typical lengthier waiting periods for other applicants. His involvement was concealed during his public confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense, and concerns were raised about his claims of not receiving compensation despite writing in his applications that he would be compensated.
The news that General Mattis is one of many retired Generals and Admirals making money for “advising” foreign governments creates a conflict of interest for influential military leaders and defense industry in D.C. It could also be connected to the escalating conflict in the Red Sea, where President Joe Biden recently approved counter-strikes against Iranian targets in retaliation for a drone strike in Jordan. This retaliation came after over 150 attacks on U.S. assets in the region since October, some attributed to the Houthi group in Yemen. General Mattis’ connection to the UAE, which has been funding politically motivated assassinations in Yemen since 2015, could have significant implications on the conflict in the region.
The main issue with this side hustle for retired U.S. military leaders is not whether they were paid, but the potential manipulation and conflict of interest it creates. Allowing these retired leaders to work as “consultants” and “advisors” for foreign nations opens them up to manipulation by adversaries and impacts United States foreign policy. Their testimonies to Congress influence funding for military aid, humanitarian assistance, and defense spending, while the defense contractors they serve on benefit from their “consulting” work. The question arises whether these “patriots” are truly loyal to the United States.