Last night Donald Trump announced that he is appointing General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis (seriously), a retired Marine Corps General, as his Secretary of Defense.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our Secretary of Defence,” he told a Cincinnati audience while on a ‘thank-you tour’ around the key battleground states that led to his win. Yes, he refers to him as Mad Dog rather than his full name. No, a ‘thank-you’ rally is not really a thing the President-elect is supposed to do. And yes, he announced it before he did so in an official capacity.
He added: “But we’re not announcing it until Monday, so don’t tell anybody They say he’s the closest thing to [World War II] Gen George Patton that we have – and it’s about time.”
Mattis oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the helm of US Central Command from 2010-2013 (incidentally, over the time the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East, changing the political landscape while America did nothing for better or worse), and is known both for his gruff talk and strategic acumen. He’s also known to quote Shakespeare and carry a book containing quotes from Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher into battle. You couldn’t make this up.
The retired general will face a legal barrier before taking the job in January. He retired four years ago, but federal law prohibits service members from entering civilian positions for seven years.
Congress will need to pass legislation for Mad Dog to serve as defence secretary – something that has not been done since 1950. But, Trump.
Trump’s cabinet is starting to look like some B-movie post-apocalyptic level stuff. And as you’d expect, the guy known as Mad Dog who will be head of the Pentagon is a bit of a controversial character.
Here is everything you need to know about his views:
“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” (Source)
He isn’t all that into waterboarding. In response to Trumps call to bring back the illegal method, he said: “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I do better with that than I do with torture.” (Source)
On how to carry yourself:
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” (Source)
On handling people:
“If you f-ck with me, I’ll kill you all.” (Source)
On what he’s learned:
"If I were to sum up what I've learned in 35 years of service, it's improvise, improvise, improvise."
He served under Obama’s administration as head of U.S Central Command, but clashed over Iran and was abruptly removed from the position in 2013: “The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.” He added, “Among all the issues facing us in the Middle East, I think Iran is actually foremost. And yet at the same time, it appears here in Washington that we’ve forgotten how to keep certain issues foremost.” (Source)
He has since been highly critical of the USA’s recent relationship with Iran, stating that they pose four key threats to America, apart from its nuclear program: its ongoing development of advanced ballistic missiles capable of one day hitting Israel and Europe; its stated threats to block vital international waterways like the Strait of Hormuz; its increasing cyber-attack capabilities; and its support for armed proxies ranging from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria to the Houthis who now control Yemen. (Source)
He said the Iran nuclear agreement was only a temporary delay to Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon, not the foundation for friendlier relations, as some of the deal's proponents argue. (Source)
On Russia and NATO:
He is in disagreement with Trump who appears to be sympathetic to Putin and critical of NATO. In a speech last May he urged that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued meddling in eastern Ukraine was a “severe” and “serious” threat that was being underestimated by the Obama administration. Putin was trying to “break NATO apart.” (Source)
He says the Obama Administration’ war on ISIS has been “unguided by a sustained policy or sound strategy [and is] replete with half-measures.” (Source)
He wants to create a new strategy for America’s place in international politics. He said the U.S. government has “lived too long now in a strategy-free mode.” He insisted that the U.S. needs a new strategy and that the immediate reaction to events can’t be isolation. (Source)
While he holds strong views, he is what you would expect from a man who has served in the American military for 44 years; blindly patriotic and desensitised to violence. Not that that isn’t dangerous.
But he’s probably not radically different to those who have held the position before him, and surely not the worst in Trump’s cabinet (looking at you, Pence).
And he has support from some Democrats too:
"I have not met General Mattis," Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, said. "But by his reputation he is seasoned and capable military officer. Obviously he deserves a full and fair hearing."
"Given the range of people who have been suggested, I think he will be a good choice," Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen told Bloomberg.
Trump has threatened to fire any generals who disagree with him, but his awe of Mad Dog is entertaining the idea that the general could possibly calm the Donald’s barely considered opinions on foreign policy and the military. Here’s hoping.