Donald Trump embarked on a victory tour this week, surprising a Cincinnati audience Thursday by announcing that he had decided to appoint “Mad Dog Mattis” as his Secretary of Defense. “He’s the closest thing to General George Patton that we have,” said Trump. “It’s about time.”
The announcement was a surprise, and the President-elect jokingly told his audience not to let the news “out of this room.”
“I want to save the suspense for next week,” said Trump.
As required by federal law, military personnel must be out of uniform for seven years before taking any position in the Department of Defense.
As I wrote in a previous article, 66-year-old Mattis must obtain a waiver from Congress before he can accept the position. According to Fox News, senior members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are already drawing up the paperwork.
Mattis enjoys strong Congressional support, especially from Arizona Republican John McCain. Mattis is “without a doubt one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” said McCain. “America will be fortunate to have General Mattis in its service once again.”
Mattis participated in the first US war with Iraq (1991) as a lieutenant colonel and led the First Marine Division during the invasion to unseat Saddam Hussein in 2003. He held the position of US Central Command head from 2010 to 2013 – meaning he was effectively in charge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mattis has distinguished himself as a senior commander and a ferocious fighter during his 44 years of service, but the former marine has little experience in the realm of diplomacy.
“He knows the Middle East, South Asia, NATO, and other areas and has evinced both a nuanced approach to the wars we’re in and an appreciation for the importance of allies,” said Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security.
Mattis’ tour in Iran was cut short by the Obama administration, and he continues to insist that Iran is the biggest roadblock preventing peace in the Middle East. Mattis has also been highly critical of Obama’s efforts to combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, which made him an attractive choice for Trump’s cabinet.
Like Trump, his biggest weakness seems to be poor word choice, and the retired general has come under fire for his colorful comments about killing. Unlike Trump, he doesn’t endorse the use of torture and he doesn’t think we should tear up the JCPOA. Mattis has also cautioned Trump in regards to his friendly attitude towards Russia.
If he receives clearance from Congress, Mattis will be the first former ranking general to accept the position of Defense Secretary since George Marshall in 1950.
In the meantime, Trump plans to continue his post-election tour with stops in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina.
“That he wants to do this, to take time out of his schedule to fly out here and personally thank the people…shows what kind of man he is,” said Josh Kanowitz, 43.