The crude, small-minded debate and the candidates’ attachment to falsehoods (e.g. we are “losing” at trade) and inflaming the public (on everything from immigration to bathrooms) in the GOP presidential race leave one wondering whether any of them are up for the job of leading a superpower facing domestic and foreign challenges. The candidates seem, well, petty and small.
Someone who is neither is retired general James Mattis, who served as the head of Central Command (“Centcom”) from 2010 to 2013. In his 44 years in the military he also commanded the U.S. Joint Forces Command. He served in the first Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. According to his biography, “He also served as both NATO’s supreme allied commander and commander of the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, commander of U.S. Marine Forces Central Command, commander of the First Marine Division during the initial attack and subsequent stability operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as executive secretary to Secretaries of Defense William Cohen and William Perry.” He is also widely praised as a scholar who totes around “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius. As one report put it:
Though many in the media refer to his nickname “Mad Dog,” the most appropriate sobriquet is “The Warrior Monk.” It’s well deserved, for he has devoted his life to studying and fighting war. I’ve heard him quote from memory Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Ulysses S. Grant, Jubal Early, George Patton, Kipling, Chaucer, Shakespeare and the Holy Bible.
He is now a scholar with the Hoover Institution, where we can attest from several visits, he is as beloved and respected as he was in the military. He is a witty, engaging raconteur who thinks about the big picture. What is America’s role in the world? What are our objectives in the Middle East?