General James Mattis
Even the left’s favorite military reporter, Tom Ricks, has problems with the Caliban Administration removing colorful Marine General “Mad Dog” Mattis from command of Central Command.
Word on the national security street is that General James Mattis is being given the bum’s rush out of his job as commander of Central Command, and is being told to vacate his office several months earlier than planned.
Why the hurry? Pentagon insiders say that he rubbed civilian officials the wrong way—not because he went all “mad dog,” which is his public image, and the view at the White House, but rather because he pushed the civilians so hard on considering the second- and third-order consequences of military action against Iran. Some of those questions apparently were uncomfortable. Like, what do you do with Iran once the nuclear issue is resolved and it remains a foe? What do you do if Iran then develops conventional capabilities that could make it hazardous for U.S. Navy ships to operate in the Persian Gulf? He kept saying, “And then what?”
Inquiry along these lines apparently was not welcomed—at least in the CENTCOM view. The White House view, apparently, is that Mattis was too hawkish, which is not something I believe, having seen him in the field over the years. I’d call him a tough-minded realist, someone who’d rather have tea with you than shoot you, but is happy to end the conversation either way.
Presidents should feel free to boot generals anytime they want, of course—that’s our system, and one I applaud. But ousting Mattis at this time, and in this way, seems wrong for several reasons:
TIMING: If Mattis leaves in March, as now appears likely, that means there will be a new person running CENTCOM just as the confrontation season with Iran begins to heat up again.
CIVIL-MILITARY SIGNALS: The message the Obama Administration is sending, intentionally or not, is that it doesn’t like tough, smart, skeptical generals who speak candidly to their civilian superiors. In fact, that is exactly what it (and every administration) should want. Had we had more back in 2003, we might not have made the colossal mistake of invading Iraq.
SERVICE RELATIONS: The Obamites might not recognize it, but they now have dissed the two Marine generals who are culture heroes in today’s Corps: Mattis and Anthony Zinni. The Marines have long memories. I know some who are still mad at the Navy for steaming away from the Marines left on Guadalcanal. Mattis made famous in Iraq the phrase, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” The Obama White House should keep that in mind.
Donald Sensing’s sources do not agree with Ricks’.
I shot a note off to a highly-connected former Marine infantry officer I know well, with extensive experience in CENTCOM’s area of operations and who served close alongside many of the Marine generals in these kinds of key positions. He replied that while he’s no fan of Ricks, he doesn’t think Ricks is right. Specifically,
Let me absorb this. He was already at the end of his career…so now he’s fired??!! I am dubious… He was an old timer, not the future, and had already outlived his political (but not operational) relevance.
The administration says the average command in combat is 2.7 years, and March will be 2.6 for Mattis. I LOVE the general, but he does indeed have a reputation for being relentless and obtuse when questioning a plan—but shouldn’t they all be?