A Pledge for More of the Same at the Pentagon - Defense One: That retired General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Donald Trump’s nominee to become defense secretary, is a Marine’s Marine and a genuine warrior is undoubtedly the case. If less well-known than David Petraeus, he is easily the better field commander, something Mattis demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq. The question is whether he possesses the qualities suited to lead the Pentagon at this particular juncture.
Mattis’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which convened today to consider his confirmation, raises doubts on that score. Or more precisely, it should raise doubts on the part of anyone viewing U.S. national security policy since 9/11 as less than satisfactory.
The most intriguing aspect of the exchange between Mattis and members of the committee was the absolute absence of interest, from either side, in how the armed forces of the United States have performed in recent years. In Afghanistan, in the now-resumed war in Iraq, in U.S. combat operations, large and small, in Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria—none has yielded anything approximating conclusive victory. However you define U.S. aims and objectives—promoting stability? Spreading democracy? Reducing the incidence of Islamist terrorism?—they remain unfulfilled. Yet no senator thought to ask Mattis for his views on why that has been the case, what conclusions he draws from that absence of success, and how he might apply those conclusions as defense secretary.
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