Mattis is the right pick for US Secretary of Defense

As SecDef, Mattis can draw on his extensive military experience and knowledge to help better defend our nation.

Recently, president-elect Donald Trump has been busy filing cabinet positions for when he takes office in 2017. As part of that process, he nominated retired Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, creating some controversy in the process. Though retired from the Marines since 2013, his retirement has not been long enough to fulfill the seven-year requirement needed to classify him as a civilian qualified to take office as Secretary of Defence. While Mattis could still easily receive a congressionally-approved waiver to take the job, some members of Congress like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stated that they would not vote for such a waiver. However, I would argue that Mattis is such a good candidate for the job that Congress would be foolish not to confirm him as soon as they are able.

The main advantage Mattis has over other candidates is the very reason many people don’t want him confirmed: his extensive military experience. Mattis spent 44 years in the Marine Corps, enlisting as a private during the Vietnam era before working his way up the ranks and serving in prestigious positions such as Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) and Supreme NATO Commander. His extensive experience both working with foreign leaders such as the commanders of all NATO members’ militaries, as well as having years of combat experience means that he is one of the most knowledgeable military minds on the planet. This combined with the knowledge of the seven thousand volumes kept in his personal library, such as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, means that this warrior monk is incredibly prepared for the position. 

General Mattis is one of our military’s foremost strategic thinkers and combat leaders.”

— Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

His military experience also grants him something most other Sec Def candidates would not have: unparalleled respect from troops. While troops obviously respect the Secretary of Defence as their leader no matter who it is, the lovingly-nicknamed “Mad Dog” Mattis’ status as “the most revered Marine of a generation” (as called by the Military Times) means he will be viewed as legendary. Mattis’ blunt words, tactical genius, and fighting spirit earned him criticism from some, but love from all who served under him, a large advantage in a chaotic bureaucracy full of disagreeing generals who will be motivated to follow someone who understands what they are dealing with and has a reputation for being a brilliant strategist and problem solver.

But even though he is widely loved and respected as a great leader and brilliant military mind, Mattis is also incredibly humble. He constantly attributes his success to his junior officers and enlisted troops, rarely taking credit for his successes and always quick to praise his subordinates. Despite being a high ranking general, Mattis never saw himself above any of his Marines, electing to stand post on Christmas so that a young officer could be home with his family, and even spending nights in foxholes with young Marines in Iraq instead of sleeping in his own bed, as was detailed in One Bullet Away by Nate Fick.

In a world where presidential campaigns are defined by tweets and TV statements, Mattis presents a different projection: that of a genuine leader. Few men of such caliber come along in a generation, and we as citizens of the United States would be lucky to have such a man fighting to protect our people. While some are worried about this tough warrior’s ability to lead the pentagon, hopefully, this mad dog can foster the same love from the American people as he does from his Marines.