When President-Elect Trump announced his intention to nominate retired four-star general, James “Mad Dog” Mattis to become the new Secretary of Defense, cheers resounded around the world among our men and women in uniform.
Those who voted for Donald Trump can take heart that his proposed appointment points to a much needed course correction in Washington’s approach to national defense and the military.
Mattis is no paper soldier. He commanded the 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War and is widely considered to be a throwback to legendary generals like Marshall and Patton. He has little in common with the academics and politicians who have led the Pentagon over the past several decades and his leadership will mark a significant cultural shift at the highest levels of the military.
Even those who oppose his appointment concede that Mattis is perhaps the most gifted warfighter of this generation. Having led troops in every major U.S. military campaign conducted since the new millennium began he has since held the most senior positions in the Marine Corps and headed two joint commands before retiring in 2013 while leading the U.S. Central Command, the regional command that oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East.
A Road Block in His Way
Both Democrats and Republicans recognize Mattis as that unusual combination of military intellectual and battle-hardened warfighter that makes him an ideal Secretary of Defense. As one top Democrat noted, “There has been no one like him to lead the defense department since General George C. Marshall served 65 years ago.”
Though unlikely, however, there may be one bump in the road to Mattis’ speedy appointment. In 1947 Congress passed legislation barring anyone from serving as Secretary of Defense until they had been absent from active duty for seven years. It only took three years for Congress to waive its own rule when General George Marshall assumed that position.
Both houses of Congress will have to vote to exempt Mattis from that statutory ban and present legislation to President Trump for his signature. As things look now, there is little doubt that such will happen.
Misguided and Suspect Opposition
In spite of an impeccable resume, General Mattis does have his detractors. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.), a Marine Corps veteran has pledged to oppose the needed congressional waiver.
“As a veteran,” said Gallego, “I believe strongly in the principle of civilian leadership of the military … I do not believe this long-standing check should be cast aside, and I will oppose a waiver of this rule, even for someone as exceptionally qualified as General Mattis.”
Retired Marine Colonel Bill Sahno disagrees, as do most in the military and Congress. Sahno said, “Rep. Gallego would do well to reconsider his stance in light of what is best for our country … There may well have been good reasons for establishing this law however, that does not mean to say that there are bona fide exceptions which must be considered.”
Brandon Coleman, a Marine Corps veteran suggests that Gallego is putting politics over the well-being of the country. He told reporters, “I find it sad Representative Gallego chooses this issue to take a stand on more for political show, when there are so many other issues with our military members and veterans he should be focusing on …This is a move being taken by the congressman that he will lose easily and as a former Marine he knows better than to not back one of our own who has the utmost respect of every Marine who ever served under him. Waiver or no waiver.”
The Right Man for the Times
The U.S. military has been at war since 9-11, though having to follow the leadership of a political class that oversees it while detached from the realities of combat. President Obama has injected political correctness into the oversight of warfighters in spite of the fact that gets in the way of their main objective – winning. Donald Trump ran on a platform of returning the military to its rightful place of honor and Secretary of Defense Mattis will restore clarity of purpose to the Pentagon’s mission.
General Mattis understands who the enemy is and what it takes to bring it to its knees. Trump understand that the “Mad Dog” is the right man for the times.