Trump: Re­tired gen­eral pick for De­fense

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA -

US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump said Thurs­day he will nom­i­nate James Mat­tis, a re­tired US Marine Corps gen­eral, to be his de­fense sec­re­tary, mak­ing the an­nounce­ment at a post-elec­tion vic­tory rally in Cincin­nati.

Mat­tis, 66, is a Marine Corps gen­eral who re­tired in 2013 af­ter serv­ing as the com­man­der of the US Cen­tral Com­mand.

His se­lec­tion raises ques­tions about in­creased mil­i­tary in­flu­ence in a job de­signed to in­sure civil­ian con­trol of the armed forces. The con­cerns re­volve around whether a re­cently re­tired ser­vice mem­ber would rely more on mil­i­tary so­lu­tions to in­ter­na­tional prob­lems, rather than take a broader, more diplo­matic ap­proach.

For Mat­tis to be con­firmed, Congress would first have to ap­prove leg­is­la­tion by­pass­ing a law that bars re­tired mil­i­tary of­fi­cers from be­com­ing de­fense sec­re­tary within seven years of leav­ing ac­tive duty.

Mat­tis has a rep­u­ta­tion as a bat­tle-hard­ened, toughtalk­ing Marine who was en­trusted with some of the most chal­leng­ing com­mands in the US mil­i­tary. In a tweet last month, Trump re­ferred to Mat­tis by his nick­name “Mad Dog” and de­scribed him as “A true Gen­eral’s Gen­eral!”

Mat­tis would be only the sec­ond re­tired gen­eral to serve as de­fense sec­re­tary, the first be­ing Ge­orge C. Mar­shall in 1950-51 dur­ing the Korean War. Mar­shall was a much dif­fer­ent fig­ure, hav­ing pre­vi­ously served as US sec­re­tary of state and play­ing a key role in cre­at­ing closer ties with West­ern Europe af­ter World War II.

The only pre­vi­ous ex­cep­tion to the law re­quir­ing a gap af­ter mil­i­tary ser­vice was for Mar­shall.

Although his record in com­bat and his cre­den­tials as a se­nior com­man­der are widely ad­mired, Mat­tis has lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in the diplo­matic as­pects of the job of sec­re­tary of de­fense.

Richard Fon­taine, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Se­cu­rity, de­scribed Mat­tis as a de­fense in­tel­lec­tual and as a mil­i­tary leader who dis­tin­guished him­self in com­bat.

“He knows the Mid­dle East, South Asia, NATO and other ar­eas and has evinced both a nu­anced ap­proach to the wars we’re in and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the im­por­tance of al­lies,” Fon­taine said in an email ex­change. “If he were to get the nom­i­na­tion, I sus­pect that he could at­tract a num­ber of very tal­ented peo­ple to work with him.”

But Mat­tis hasn’t been im­mune to con­tro­versy. He was crit­i­cized for re­mark­ing in 2005 that he en­joyed shoot­ing peo­ple. He also drew more re­cent scru­tiny for his in­volve­ment with the em­bat­tled biotech com­pany Ther­a­nos, where he serves on the board.

Born in Pull­man, Wash­ing­ton, Mat­tis en­listed in the Marine Corps in 1969, later earn­ing a his­tory de­gree from Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity. He was com­mis­sioned as an of­fi­cer in 1972. As a lieu­tenant colonel, Mat­tis led an as­sault bat­tal­ion into Kuwait dur­ing the first US war with Iraq in 1991.

As head of the Cen­tral Com­mand from 2010 un­til his re­tire­ment in 2013, he was in charge of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the af­ter­math of the 9/11 at­tacks, Mat­tis com­manded the Marines who launched an early am­phibi­ous as­sault into Afghanistan and es­tab­lished a US foothold in the Tal­iban heart­land.

As the first wave of Marines moved to­ward Kan­da­har, Mat­tis de­clared that, “The Marines have landed, and now we own a piece of Afghanistan.”

REUTERS / MIKE SEGAR

US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump stands with re­tired Marine Gen­eral James Mat­tis fol­low­ing their meet­ing at the Trump Na­tional Golf Club in Bed­min­ster, New Jer­sey, on Nov 19. Trump has said he will nom­i­nate Mat­tis to run the Pen­tagon as sec­re­tary of de­fense

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