Being SecDef Could Ruin Mattis' Legacy

Leadership
Marines pose with General James Mattis, Commanding General, CENTCOM, at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, May 8, 2011. S.K. Vemmer/Dep
Department of State

“I love Mattis, but I don’t love him as SecDef,” writes Erin Simpson, senior editor of the foreign policy publication War on the Rocks. “You can’t run the Pentagon like the First Marine Division.”


On Dec. 1, President-elect Donald Trump nominated the legendary Marine Corps general, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, to head up the Department of Defense.

Mattis faces one obstacle already in that he would need Congress to pass a bill exempting him from the requisite seven-year, cooling-off period between active military service and assuming the role of Defense secretary. But it’s not only a question of whether he can, but if he should.

Here’s What Mattis Actually Needs In Order To Be SecDef »

“The point is not that Mattis is unqualified. Rather, the point is that he hates this shit,” Simpson writes. “Budgets, white papers, and service rivalries, not to mention the interagency meetings and White House meddling — these tasks are not what you go to Jim Mattis for. Not only does the role of secretary of defense not play to Mattis’ strengths, but success in that role would compromise much that we admire most in him: his bluntness, clarity, and single-minded focus on warfighting.”

She’s not the only one who feels this way.

Army veteran Phillip Carter and former Pentagon and National Security Council official Loren DeJonge Schulman, who both work at the Center for a New American Security, have concerns about Mattis filling this role, too, but for different reasons.

“But we should be wary about an overreliance on military figures. Great generals don’t always make great Cabinet officials. And if appointed in significant numbers, they could undermine another strong American tradition: civilian control of an apolitical military,” the pair writes in The Washington Post.

The greater problem with Trump’s apparent quest to surround himself with military leaders is that “relying on the brass, however individually talented, to run so much of the government could also jeopardize civil-military relations,” according to Carter and Schulman.

While a heavy concentration of military leadership in the cabinet poses a dilemma for the civilian government, it shouldn’t be viewed simply as a matter of quantity. It’s the qualities of the veterans who fill those posts that we should be most concerned with. In the selection process, Trump would do well to consider that some veterans can parlay their military careers into successful political ones, while others cannot.

Mattis, whose reputation precedes him, built his career on candor, clarity, and pure dedication to his missions and his Marines. That is his legacy. But it’s worth wondering if he will sacrifice the legacy that made him a legend to do the job of secretary of Defense the compliant, boring, political way that it needs to get done.

(Update: This article has been updated to reflect that Mattis has been nominated to serve as secretary of defense. Dec. 1, 2016; 4:50 PM)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vaughan Dill/Released)

The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.

Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.

Read More Show Less

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."

"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."

"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.

We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.

Read More Show Less
Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

Read More Show Less