U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis, Centcom Commander, Afghanistan, 2011
Having been over COIN with a fine tooth comb for years, my entries on Kilcullen, Mullen, Petraeus, McChrystal, Allen and their ilk, up and down the chain of command (including their bunkum-swami, Greg "Three Cups" Mortenson), are quite voluminous. I find no Mattis, however. This is a little curious, given his shared role with Petraeus in "catalyzing" the bankrupt COIN doctrine and manual, not to mention his allure for COIN-happy Bill Kristol, who tried and failed to energize an anti-Trump presidential groundswell for Mattis last spring.
Those two counts alone should make Mattis a non-candidate for any Trump administration role, but, lo and behold, there he sits, a leading SecDef contender.
Why? I wouldn't be very surprised to find out that his arrrr nickname, "Mad Dog," is his main asset with The Donald. Having reviewed some of Mattis' speeches and interviews, however, I propose changing it. This, I am thinking, would stop his Trump-train cold.
Let's start with Andy Bostom's post on Mattis's explanation to the Wall Street Journal/Hoover Institution of "the problem with Islam."
A guy named "Mad Dog" would surely highlight "the problem with Islam" as being the extinction of freedom, which makes leaving Islam a death-penalty crime, right? Which elevates Muslim men over women and non-Muslims in the eyes of Islamic law; which offers conquered "infidels" the world over the choice, "convert or die" -- or any other specifically Islamic, violent and coercive offenses against humanity.
Not Mattis. He explains it this way:
The problem with Islam goes back to the days of The Prophet, when he dies and it splits into two halves and at that point they’ve got an internal war that’s kept waxing and waning over the years between the Sunni and the Shia. ... This is not new, it's gone on for a long time, obviously it’s in a waxing phase, it's getting stronger."
"The Prophet," for Pete's sake. That's no "Mad Dog" talking -- that's the voice of a four-color-glossy Saudi travel brochure.
Bostom fills in what's missing:
Thus Mattis’s formulation of Islam’s central “problem” ignores nearly 14 centuries of brutal, often genocidal jihad war—initiated by Muhammad, Islam’s prototype jihadist—against non-Muslims, ongoing to this day,
Sure enough, on reviewing several "Soft Soap" Mattis's speeches and interviews, I find the subject just doesn't come up. One might explain this by saying that as a general deployed to the Middle East, Mattis is singularly focused, if not tunnel-visioned, on the Sunni-Shia battlefield, but that is a reason to doubt his broader vision as Defense Secretary.
There are more.
Mattis goes on: "I think the first question you have to ask ... is political Islam in our best interest?"
By the way, this one question inspired a vacantly rapturous (and Google-search-favored) story in The Federalist, arguing that Mattis' appointment "could bust our political correctness about Islam." Problem is, the story overlooks Mattis' own stated definition of "political Islam," which is narrow enough to fit inside any politically correct box.
Here it is from Mattis:
And let me define `political Islam.'
From the Sunni side, it would be the Muslim Brothers in Cairo for a year afer the Arab Spring put them in power; or, in Tehran, with the Shia side, Is political Islam as practiced in Tehran in our best interest? ... If [no] is the answer ... then what is our effort, how should our effort look to support the countervailing forces.
Somehow, pointing out that Egypt's MB Morsi and Tehran's mullah-ocracy are "not in our best interest" isn't "madly" breaking through PC and ripping truth about Islam, "political" or other, from PC-censorship's dungeons. Indeed, Mattis seems quite tamed by the unicorn of "moderate Islam."
Which is not to say Mattis's words are not a little terrifying. It's just that they are pointed the wrong way. I refer to that bit about "our effort to support the countervailing forces." This suggests to me this is someone who wants to keep fighting wars in the Middle East, probably because it's all he knows how to do. That would be great for a Bill Kristol administration, but not for Trump's.
There is something even more fundamentally mismatched about the visions of Mattis and Trump. On addressing the Heritage Foundation in 2015, Mattis gave an assessment of foreign policy problems around the world begininning with reference to the carnage of World War II and how "the greatest generation" responded with the Marshall Plan, NATO and other measures.
They came up with the United Nations, he noted, approvingly -- "a place to talk things over." Also Bretton Woods.
"You and I know it as the the World Bank, as International Monetary Fund. All these things were put together as they used traditional diplomatic tools, and they also used traditional economic means and new ones adapted to the situation … and the end result is, using those, they developed a world order. There had never been a world over, ever. ... That’s what we have today. ... So, if you define the problem, it is: How do we sustain this world order?"
That would be sustaining "this world order" as birthed by Soviet spies Alger Hiss and the UN and Harry Dexter White at Bretton Woods, not at all by the way.
Is that a good match with America's first America First president?
"World Order" Mattis has the wrong administration. I hope.