The nation’s next Pentagon chief will be a “warrior monk,” former Marine Gen. James Mattis, according to the president-elect himself at a rally in Cincinatti Thursday evening.
The Trump transition team has said in a late Thursday afternoon tweet, that no decision has yet been made.
“Mattis is very good at everything. He’s a warrior, an innovator, an intellectual.”
But Trump confirmed a pair of earlier reports that Mattis has been offered and accepted the job.
Mattis, nicknamed “Mad Dog” by his supporters, achieved the rank of four-star general in the Marine Corps. He retired in 2013 after fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The pick has long been expected by members of Trump’s inner circle — and it has been the focus of much speculation by the media. (Indeed, LifeZette suggested the next Pentagon chief would be Mattis as far back as Jan. 20.)
Trump recently interviewed Mattis at his golf club in New Jersey.
Mattis, 66, served as commander of the U.S. Central Command and commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, and authored the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy. The outspoken general, born in Washington state, has substantial counterinsurgency and counterterrorism experience, as he served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His military resume was so impressive that he was floated as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.
In a time of trouble with both terrorists and geopolitical rivals, Mattis is seen as a smart and stable choice, according to Robert Kaufman, a professor at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and author of “Dangerous Doctrine: How Obama’s Grand Strategy Weakened America.”
“Mattis is very good at everything,” said Kaufman. “He’s a warrior, an innovator, an intellectual. He’s a writer. He’s everything you want in a secretary of defense at a time of turmoil and uncertainty.”
Mattis let it be known to America’s enemies during the Iraq War that he would not tolerate terrorism or insurgency. Meeting with captured or surrendered Iraqi officers, Mattis reportedly told the group that if they messed with him or took up arms against the United States or the new Iraqi government, he would kill them all.
It is one reason Mattis has a mystique. His own Marines nicknamed him “Mad Dog.” They also called him the “warrior monk,” as Mattis has a knack for philosophizing.
According to The Daily Beast, Marines even have a Twitter hashtag for the best Mattis quotes: #Mattisisms.
But the retired general can’t simply be approved by the Senate. The full Congress will have to give him a dispensation to serve, since ex-military officers have to be retired seven or more years to lead the Pentagon. Mattis retired in 2013.
Kaufman says Mattis should reassure those in Congress who are worried about Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience. Trump raised concerns when he suggested NATO allies pay more for their defense, for example.
Democrats also bashed Trump for allegedly being too soft on Russia.
Mattis is not only expert on terrorism and the Middle East, but fully aware of the threat of a more aggressive Russia, Kaufman said. Mattis is wary of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, he added.
Mattis is also skeptical of the efficacy of the nuclear arms deal with Iran, Kaufman said.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect the president-elect’s confirmation of Gen. Mattis’ selection for secretary of defense.