Tag Archives: James Mattis

Retirement liberates GOP senator

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is a free man these days.

The Tennessee Republican has announced his impending retirement from the Senate — and is now free to speak his mind.

Take, for example, his statement this week about three of Donald Trump’s key advisers and how they manage to save the United States from the “chaos” created by the president.

He spoke of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly. These men, said Corker, are managing to maintain some semblance of order.

Corker speaks out

Corker didn’t wait to announce his retirement before speaking candidly about Trump. After the president’s hideous reaction to the Charlottesville riot — including the “many sides are responsible” comment — Corker said the president “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence he needs to lead the nation.

Now this latest critique in which he said, “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

Oh, and of course we now have Tillerson reportedly firing off an enraged comment in a meeting that he believes the president is a “moron.” It’s also been reported that Tillerson attached a descriptive and profane adjective in front of “moron.” He has not denied saying it.

There you have it. A president with no prior government or public service experience of any kind is now leading the world’s greatest nation. Except that he’s incapable of exhibiting the temperament he needs to avoid the “chaos” that he invites whenever and wherever possible.

Trump’s fans applaud him for “telling it like it is.” Now such much-needed candor and honesty are coming from the mouths of the president’s “allies.”

Retirement can be a liberating experience … don’t you think?

‘Threat’ would bring a huge U.S. response?

Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis needs to define “threat” in the context of North Korea.

The defense boss is sounding a bit more bellicose lately, saying that any North Korea “threat” against the United States or our allies could result in a “massive military response” that would annihilate the communist nation.

Is the defense secretary talking now about a first strike? Are we considering hitting the North Koreans before they strike the first blow?

I am uncertain why “threats” by themselves would constitute a reason to launch a bloody war against a nation with more than 1 million men in arms, a massive amount of artillery and armor — and, yes, a small but growing cache of nuclear bombs.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un issues threat almost daily. He keeps saying he’s going to do this and/or that to South Korea. He reportedly has threatened to attack Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean.

According to The Hill “Any threat to the United States or its territories including Guam or our allies will be met with a massive military response,” Mattis said in a statement outside of the White House after meeting with President Trump. 

“Kim Jong Un should take heed the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses. And they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely, North Korea,” he continued. 

OK. We all get it. The United States is the most lethal military power on the planet. We know it. Kim knows it. The Russians and Chinese know it.

I keep wondering if this constant goading of Kim by itself is deterring him from committing a profoundly foolish act. We’ve established to the world that we mean business.

Now, let’s get back to seeking some sort of diplomatic solution.

Shall we? Hmmm?

‘Mad Dog’ sounding reasonable, rational

I am continually amazed that a senior federal government official with the nickname of “Mad Dog” sounds so reasonable, calm and rational in the face of potentially grave danger.

So it is with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who today sought to assure the world that war with North Korea is not imminent in the wake of that country’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“Mad Dog” Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, said that the United States is “not closer to war” with North Korea. Meanwhile, other officials — including the president of the United States — keep rattling their proverbial swords while talking of possible retaliation if the North Koreans were to launch a missile at us or one of our allies.

Maybe it’s Mattis’s experience as a combat officer that builds in a certain calmness. He’s been to war, has led Americans in combat and he knows better than, say, the president himself about the high costs associated with armed conflict.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is traveling in Europe and he warned of “severe consequences” as a result of North Korea’s “dangerous” behavior.

I am not minimizing the potential for grave danger here. I just prefer to have cooler heads dominate the conversation in the White House Situation Room.

As of now, the calmest voice in the room appears to belong to “Mad Dog.” Ironic, yes?

Thanks be to Mad Dog for sounding rational

That did it.

It’s official. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is my favorite member of Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet.

The secretary of defense has spoken in direct contradiction to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the president of the United States by declaring — be sure you’re sitting down — that climate change is real and it presents a threat to our national security.

Who would have thought that a retired Marine general with the nickname of “Mad Dog” would emerge as the premier grownup in the new president’s Cabinet.

Here’s part of what Mattis said, according to the Huffington Post: “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

Trump has said climate change is a hoax perpetrated by “the Chinese.” The EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA more than a dozen times and has called for its elimination. He has expressed openly his belief that climate change is not real, joining a paltry list of climate change deniers.

Now we have a defense secretary making sense. He calls climate change a national threat. His remarks well might reveal fissures within the Trump administration. As the Huffington Post reports: “These remarks and others in the replies to senators could be a fresh indication of divisions or uncertainty within President Donald Trump’s administration over how to balance the president’s desire to keep campaign pledges to kill Obama-era climate policies with the need to engage constructively with allies for whom climate has become a vital security issue.”

Semper fi, Gen. Mattis.

‘Mad Dog’ emerges as reasonable, sane adviser

Let me see a show of hands. Who among you ever thought that a man with a nickname “Mad Dog” would emerge as a reasoned, thoughtful and nuanced secretary of defense?

Well, me neither.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis has emerged as just that person. I want to sing the praises of the defense secretary, who over the weekend had the courage to speak reasonably — and in direct contradiction — to a reckless declaration that the president of the United States had made.

Mattis made a quick trip to Iraq and proclaimed that the United States will not seize Iraqi oil. Donald J. Trump famously said he intended to do that very thing if he were elected president. The idea, Trump said, was to deprive the Islamic State of the revenue it gleans from oil to fund its terrorist activities.

Gen. Mattis said, um, no … we aren’t going to do that.

Mattis is becoming arguably my favorite Cabinet official in the Trump administration. Heaven knows that there aren’t many of them for which I would express such admiration.

It is reasonable to wonder if Mattis is going to last for the duration of Trump’s term. Trump is known to be an impulsive, not terribly thoughtful individual. He says things that pop into his noggin without ever considering the consequences of what he says.

Seizing the Iraqi oil fields was one of those ill-considered statements. Ain’t no way we can do that cleanly and without shedding a lot of American blood.

Mattis, career military man that he is, understands a lot more about such matters than the commander in chief. I am delighted, too, that he is expressing himself with the confidence that those general’s stars have given him.

Thank you for your service, Gen. Mad Dog. Keep up the good work … if the president will allow it.

‘Smart Person’ defers to ‘Mad Dog’ on torture

Donald “Smart Person” Trump is becoming the master of mixed signals as he settles into his new job as president of the United States.

He said in one breath that he intends to bring back waterboarding as a form of “enhanced interrogation” — which is a euphemism for “torture.”

In the next breath he said he’ll defer to Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis on the matter. Mad Dog says waterboarding is torture and he won’t allow it.

So, which is it? Torture or no torture of enemy combatants who are captured on the battlefield in our nation’s ongoing war against international terrorism.

I’m thinking “Mad Dog’s” notion is more in line with American values. We don’t torture enemy combatants to extract information from them. Why? Such tactics don’t work.

None other than U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — who knows a thing or two about torture owing to his years as a Vietnam prisoner of war — calls waterboarding a form of torture. It doesn’t work. Those who are being subjected to such tactics will say anything to get their captors to stop the practice, McCain says.

Trump has told us that the bad guys are “cutting people’s heads off” and that it’s time we responded with our own torture tactics. What utter manure. We are better than our enemies and we stand firm behind the principle that we shall not resort to torture tactics.

Are there other forms of “enhanced interrogation” that do not rely on torture? Surely, yes. Let’s use them and avoid the tactic that Mad Dog Mattis said he won’t allow as long as he is calling the shots at the Pentagon.

Trump fills two key national security posts … next?

Donald J. Trump took the oath of office today and the U.S. Senate managed to do its job by confirming two critical appointments to the new president’s national security team.

Senators confirmed James Mattis as secretary of defense and John Kelly as secretary of homeland security.

Two elements intrigue me about both of these men.

One, they are retired general-grade officers, both Marines, both of them with four stars each on their epaulets. You’ll recall that the president said he knows “more than the generals about ISIS, believe me.”

But … does he? I don’t think so. I am convinced as well that the president didn’t think so either when he blustered that statement while campaigning for the office. It was an applause/laugh line.

The second element that is most interesting to me is that Gens. Mattis and Kelly both contradict some talking points that Trump declared, also while campaigning for the presidency.

Mattis in particular has declared Russia to be a primary threat to our national security, something that Trump has dismissed virtually out of hand as the controversy over Russian hacking has escalated. Kelly, too, has shown to be his own man while discussing ways to protect the nation.

Kelly takes the point now as Trump’s guy in the fight to control illegal immigration. Mattis now gets to assess additional international threats to the nation — and he is seriously concerned about Russia. Perhaps he can persuade the commander in chief that he, too, needs to worry about Vladimir Putin’s intent.

I’m also fascinated that the notion of a retired Marine general with the nickname of “Mad Dog” is seen as the reasonable alternative to the man who nominated him in the first place.

These two men will assume critical roles in the new administration. One word of warning, though, is in order: Donald Trump now needs to concentrate aggressively on filling many of the staff-level national security jobs that are vacant.

He did vow at his inaugural that he would eliminate radical Islamic terrorists from the face of the planet. You must get busy, Mr. President.

New defense boss breaks with commander in chief-to-be

Imagine that … the man picked to lead the Defense Department thinks Russia is our No. 1 worldwide adversary and he’s sounding a good bit more anti-Kremlin than the man who nominated him, Donald J. Trump.

What’s going on here? Sanity is breaking out within the budding Trump administration.

Trump’s CIA director-designate, Mike Pompeo, calls waterboarding a form of “torture” and says he would refuse to obey a direct order to invoke “enhanced interrogation” techniques on enemy captives. Trump campaigned on a pledge to restore waterboarding.

Now we hear from Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis, who tells us that Russia is our top adversary and that the United States should honor the nuclear arms-production agreement it struck with Iran. Let’s see: Trump is buddies with Vladimir Putin and he says he’ll tear up the Iran nuke treaty when he takes office.

Mattis isn’t too keen on either matter, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/senate-set-to-question-trumps-pentagon-pick-veteran-marine-gen-james-mattis/2017/01/11/b3c6946a-d816-11e6-9a36-1d296534b31e_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.2af606a6369a

Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general with plenty of combat experience. The man is a plain-spoken, in-your-face general-grade officer.

He said this about the Iran nuclear deal: “I think it is in an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty. But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

I’m beginning to believe Trump might be surrounding himself with at least a couple of reasonable minds on his national security team.

He will need their wise counsel. I hope the hothead/know-it-all/commander in chief chooses to heed it.

Get rid of Flynn as national security adviser

flynn

President George W. Bush was quite adamant when we went to war in 2001 against radical Islamic terrorists that we were not going to war against Islam.

President Barack Obama has echoed that mantra ever since.

So, who does the president-elect bring in as national security adviser, the guy who’ll advise him on how to fight groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State? A retired Army three-star general who calls Islam a “cancer” and says Americans’ fear of Islam is “rational.”

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, moreover, apparently has ties with multiple foreign governments.

Flynn is now the target of groups asking Donald J. Trump to rescind Flynn’s appointment as national security adviser. They cite concerns over Flynn’s statements about Islam, Iran and whether his views would jeopardize a hoped-for peaceful settlement of the ongoing dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/michael-flynn-trump-appointment-advocacy-groups-232208

I don’t expect the president-elect to heed their call.

Indeed, Flynn is a noted hothead. He’s a brilliant military tactician. He also has the kind of personality that would clash immediately and often with the likes of retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who is Trump’s pick to be the secretary of defense; I will add that Gen. Mattis is a well-chronicled hothead himself, someone known to speak his mind freely.

The issue, though, is Flynn and whether he’s a good fit to become national security adviser.

The advocacy groups asking Trump to rethink his appointment believe he is a terrible fit.

I happen to agree.

The national security adviser is a staff position and, thus, is not subject to Senate confirmation. Gen. Flynn’s status rests solely with the president he would serve.

Get rid of him, Mr. President-elect.

Mattis at Pentagon? Not as bad as some others

mattis

James Mattis is Donald J. Trump’s pick to be defense secretary.

OK, from my perch here in the middle of the country, the retired Marine Corps four-star general looks to be not as bad as some of the other selections the president-elect has made to fill out his Cabinet.

He is just four years on from hanging up his greens, which means Congress will have to enact a law that gives him a waiver from existing law; current statute requires a seven-year interim between military and civilian service. Congress waived the requirement when General of the Army George C. Marshall was picked by President Eisenhower to be secretary of state.

Gen. Mattis has gotten some high marks. According to the Washington Post: “The president-elect is smart to think about putting someone as respected as Jim Mattis in this role,” said a former senior Pentagon official. “He’s a warrior, scholar and straight shooter — literally and figuratively. He speaks truth to everyone and would certainly speak truth to this new commander in chief.”

The new president will need some truth-tellers in his inner circle. I would hope that Mattis provides that role.

Mattis is a former head of the Central Command and has extensive experience plotting military strategy in the Middle East. He’s a tough dude.

He’s also a blunt talker who’s spoken ill of the nuclear deal hammered out by the Obama administration that seeks to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-has-chosen-retired-marine-gen-james-mattis-for-secretary-of-defense/ar-AAl18p1?li=BBnb7Kz

Still, I kind of like this selection as defense boss. Mattis is far superior for this post than Betsy DeVos is for education secretary, Jeff Sessions is for attorney general and — oh, perish the thought — Sarah Palin could be if Trump picks her to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It is rather fascinating, though, that an individual who said he knows “more about ISIS than the generals, believe me,” would pick one of those generals to lead the nation’s military establishment and, thus, carry the fight to the Islamic State.

My strong hunch is that Trump doesn’t know more about ISIS than Gen. James Mattis.