At a rally in Cincinnati, OH Thursday night, President-elect Donald Trump made the announcement that he would like to appoint retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his administration’s Secretary of Defense. Trump went on to liken Mattis to World War II hero, General George S. Patton, saying General Mattis is, “the closest thing we have to General George S. Patton.” Similarities to Patton aside, the appointment of James Mattis as Trump’s Secretary of Defense also places him in rare company with former General and Secretary of Defense under the Truman Administration, George C. Marshall.
The National Security Act of 1947 is the piece of federal legislation that placed Mattis and Marshall in such elite company. For a former service member to hold the private appointment of Secretary of Defense, he or she must have been retired from active duty for at least ten years. Later modified to eight years in 2008, Mattis has not met this requirement, only being retired from active duty since 2013. As George Marshall was subject to in 1950, James Mattis will have to receive approval from Congress to accept President-elect Trump’s appointment. From recent media reports, it sounds like Mattis will have the support of Congress, so Mattis might be able to institute his defense policies, whereas Marshall was primarily responsible for keeping Douglas MacArthur under control during the Korean War.
Regarding defense policy, Mattis has not minced words regarding the United States policy towards the Islamic State. He has gone on record stating that the United States needs to take a “firm, strategic stance,” against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations, and believes that the current policy in the Middle East has fostered an environment of extremism. However, some Mattis’ policies differ from President-Elect Trump. Namely, Mattis believes that Trump’s attitude toward Russia is misguided, as well as his belief that torture does not work to the extent that some high-ranking officials believe.
Regardless of your political leaning, or personal thoughts on James Mattis’ potential appointment as Secretary of Defense, the next few weeks will prove to be a unique time in the history of the United States.
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