Welcome to the preliminaries of the Trump administration – confirming his cabinet. Among those facing congressional hearings is none other than James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
Unfortunately, we know that although it is against the law to lie to congress, many have and will continue to do so. In that case, the best way to get an understanding of Mattis is to look at his past, understand who he is, what world he comes from, and how he will mix with other members of Team Trump.
First off, James Mattis is a very intelligent man. He is known among the military upper ranks as a bit of an intellectual, boasting a personal library containing thousands of books, one of which, Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, he carried throughout deployment. Aside from his time spent with the U.S. Marine Corp, Mattis earned a Bachelor’s degree in history from Central Washington University.
Mattis started his military career by enlisting with the Marines when he was 18 years old in 1969. Upon reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Mattis led the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in the Persian Gulf War.
During the Afghanistan War, Mattis continued to ascend the ranks. Yet even after becoming Colonel, Mattis continued to live as “one of the guys”. A young marine is quoted as saying “No one would have questioned Mattis if he’d slept eight hours each night in a private room, to be woken each morning by an aide who ironed his uniforms and heated his MREs. But there he was, in the middle of a freezing night, out on the lines with his Marines.”
Mattis has a aura about him that leads people to think he’s the “real deal”, so to speak. Some of his famous lines include, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet”, and “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f* with me, I’ll kill you all.”
While many in America seem concerned about Donald Trump’s foreign policy, Mattis’ nomination should give people some reassurance. Mattis disagrees with Trump on Putin and Russia, and has spoken out against cutting foreign aide to allies, something Trump has been adamant about.
The experience of James Mattis, and the fact that he offers a view that will differ with President Trump is a good sign that he’ll offer sound guidance and leadership in foreign policy. For those seeking more or less the status quo of the last century’s policies, Mattis should bring comfort.