Several of you sent me links to the news that General James Mattis may be taking leave of his duties as commander of Central Command at the request of the President, or his functionaries. Thomas Ricks broke the news in his column at Foreign Policy.
Why the hurry? 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. 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?”
It’s no secret that General Mattis is popular among his troops. I’ve also heard that he’s an occasional fan of The Duffel Blog. But it looks like his outspoken criticism of the way the US is handling their foreign policy will be his undoing. He is known for saying things like “…no war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote…” and “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”
Ricks says about Mattis; ” I’d call him a tough-minded realist, someone who’d rather have tea with you than shoot you, but is happy to end the conversation either way.” Lord knows we can’t have a general who think that war-fighting is part of his job.
It’s going to be a long four years.