After lots of rumors and predictions, President-elect Donald Trump announced he is nominating retired four-star general James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense. Mattis has been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration. Trump’s appointment of Mattis echoes his intention of taking a tougher stance against U.S. enemies abroad, especially Iran.
Trump made the announcement during a rally in Cincinnati. “We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense,” “But we’re not announcing it ’til Monday, so don’t tell anyone — Mad Dog. He’s great. He is great.”
General Mattis is a retired Marine General who led the 1st Marine Division’s rapid drive into Baghdad during the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq. Mattis has been known for being a blunt military strategist. Mattis was also former commander of U.S. Central Command, is a hardliner on Iran and has a confrontational style which disgusted the Obama administration.
While Mattis may be Trump’s desired choice, he will need Congress to pass new legislation to ignore a federal law that says Secretary of Defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. The last time Congress granted an exemption in 1950 when General George C. Marshall was appointed as Defense Secretary.
Mattis told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the Iranian regime is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.” In 2014, Mattis publicly criticized President Obama’s plan to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2016.
General Mattis will inherit the ongoing air campaigns in Iraq and Syria and the thousands of troops deployed in Iraq training local forces and elite troops who are targeting leaders of ISIS. Mattis will also see the continued war against Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan drag on.
Mattis will also have to deal with the aggressive Russian military and China’s ambitious movements in the South China Sea. If confirmed the Defense Department will be run by a general has received high praise throughout his 44 years of service. He has been praised for his leadership during the 2004 Battle of Fallujah.