Official announcement expected early next week
According to the Washington Post, Trump has make his pick for Secretary of Defense — Retired Marine General James Mattis. Neither the Trump transition team nor Mattis have commented not the announcement expected early next week.
Mattis retired less than four years ago.
To take the job, Mattis will need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950.
An announcement is likely by early next week, according to the people familiar with the decision. Mattis declined to comment. Spokespersons for Trump’s transition team did not respond to requests for comment.
Mattis, 66, retired as the chief of U.S. Central Command in spring 2013 after serving more than four decades in the Marine Corps. He is known as one of the most influential military leaders of his generation, serving as a strategic thinker while occasionally drawing rebukes for his aggressive talk. Since retiring, he has served as a consultant and as a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University.
Like Trump, Mattis favors a tougher stance against U.S. adversaries abroad, especially Iran. The general, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in April, said that while security discussions often focus on terrorist groups like the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, the Iranian regime is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”
Mattis said the next president “is going to inherit a mess,” and argued that the nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration last year may slow Iran’s ambitions to get a nuclear weapon, but won’t stop them.
“In terms of strengthening America’s global standing among European and Mid-Eastern nations alike, the sense is that the America has become somewhat irrelevant in the Middle East, and we certainly have the least influence in 40 years,” Mattis said.
As for Israel, Mattis sees, “West Bank settlements turning Israel into an apartheid state” reports Haaretz:
“I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians,” Mattis said in 2013 at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
At the same forum he criticized Israel for settlement building, saying that the settlements “are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.”
He said the settlements would undermine Israel as both a Jewish and Democratic state, and said the settlements would lead to apartheid.
“If I’m in Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid,” he said.
His resume is impressive and is worth a full read.
The good folks at the Washington Free Beacon posted 16 of Mattis’ best quotes when he retired in 2013. They’re also worth a read. My favorites being: “Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit,” and “I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years,” both of which pretty well embody my life philosophy.
Presumably, Trump is confident passing the legislation required for Mattis to assume to role is in the bag. Hard to imagine him selecting someone to one of the most crucial cabinet posts without a way forward.
Here’s Mattis talking about leadership in a video posted in October:
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