Breaking with both law and more than fifty years of tradition, Trump has asked a near-clone to be Secretary of Defense—retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
I say near-clone, except that General Mattis served in the military and Trump managed to avoid military service with a series of deferments which finally included him being listed as 4-F.
On the other hand, like Trump, Mattis seems to speak without thinking. For example, in 2005 he said, “Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling.”He added, “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."
It’s a reflection of an old apothegm: “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”
After 9-11, Mattis commanded Marines who entered Afghanistan in Bush’s diversion, to attack the Taliban. Once the amphibious assault had established a foothold, Mattis declared, “…we own a piece of Afghanistan.” Fine words from a military commander; not so much from a Secretary of Defense who must consider diplomatic solutions and not only military solutions.
To paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” To add a personal touch to those words, “War is an option only when diplomacy has failed.”
No, I’m not a “peacenik.” I spent twenty years in the Air Force. First as a Minuteman Missile Combat Crew Member and Commander. Then as a controller in a wing command post. I pulled shifts in the Strategic Air Command underground and in the National Military Command Center. My last assignment was Chief of the Data Control Section, Nuclear Warfare Status Branch of J-3 in the Pentagon. I was responsible for knowing the location and status of every nuclear weapon in the US arsenal, and for maintaining the Strategic Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) data base. I never questioned my job or the need for it.
I’m not a peacenik, but I am intelligent, and I do not see the intelligence in General Mattis’s seeming position or in Trump’s selection of General Mattis as SecDef.
Trump’s selection of a man who appears to be a rabid (i.e., “Mad Dog”) militarist is especially puzzling given at least some of Trump’s past statements. With regard to the Vietnam War (from which he managed to exempt himself), he said, “I thought it was ridiculous…a war we shouldn’t have been in.”
And let us not forget his anti-war sentiments which I think led him to suggest that Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam, was not a hero because Trump “[likes] people who weren’t captured.” Not quite as offensive was Trump’s denigration of the Vietnam war [on a Harold Stern radio program] by saying “that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating ‘is my personal Vietnam.’”
Trump’s choice is more puzzling given his statement that he “hated the concept of the [Vietnam] war “…but I was never at the protest level, either, because I had other things to do.”
What could have been more important than expressing his hatred in some concrete way?
And let’s not overlook that Trump’s draft status was eventually changed to 4-F. That was considered disgrace by many during both World War II and the Vietnam War.
Like Trump, Mattis is alleged to have been involved in some shady, if not illegal, business deals. You can read about those in the Associated Press reference, below.
Mattis’s nickname is “Mad Dog” is perhaps as apt for him as is “Loose Cannon” for Trump.
Fear for your children.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.