Politics

Trump May Pick Fmr. Gen. Mattis As Defense Secretary

| by Oren Peleg

Rumors of a new Cabinet pick for the incoming President-elect Donald Trump administration are buzzing. If true, retired Marine Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis will be the new Secretary of Defense.

According to CNN, the official announcement is expected to be made in the following days. Meanwhile, Jason Miller, Trump’s transition team spokesman, downplayed the news.

“No decision has been made yet with regard to Secretary of Defense. #TrumpTransition” Miller tweeted Dec. 1.

"General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man,” Trump told The New York Times, reports CNN. "I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, 'What do you think of waterboarding?' He said -- I was surprised -- he said, 'I've never found it to be useful.' He said, 'I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.'"

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The retired general lead the Marines during the 2004 Battle of Fallujah, and courted controversy in 2005 by stating "it's fun to shoot some people."

According to Vox, Mattis is a hawk, especially on Middle Eastern policy and relations with Iran.

In 2013, President Barack Obama fired Mattis from his post as head of Central Command.  

“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,” Tom Ricks, a reporter covering the U.S. military for many years, wrote in Foreign Policy.

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“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?’”

CNN notes that a legal statute prevents Mattis (and other service members) from such a quick turnaround into a civilian role. But Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, believes the ban may be lifted.

"It will certainly be an issue,” he said. “My guess is because his reputation is so strong and, frankly, because there's enough concern among Democrats about some of the President-elect's other choices, they'll be a desire to amend the statute if that's what' necessary and I believe it would be necessary.”

Sources: CNN, Vox, Foreign Policy / Photo credit: U.S. Naval War College/Flickr

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