Trump’s Cabinet

Same topic, different views

By Tim Baldwin and Joe Carbonari

By Tim Baldwin

President-elect Donald Trump chose Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary. Congress will have to waive the legal requirement that the defense secretary be a civilian at least seven years prior to being defense secretary. To protect our constitutional republic, Americans have determined that military leaders should not fill the role of civilian leadership due to the risk of becoming a military state. In this volatile time in the world, is it wise to put a recently-retired military general in this civilian position?

Some journalists think this choice will cause America’s involvement abroad to expand. President Barack Obama saw Gen. Mattis as a “war hawk” and cut short his tour in 2013. Contradicting Trump, Gen. Mattis favors enforcing the Iran nuclear agreement and wants to work closely with allies to strictly enforce it. Gen. Mattis advocates increasing troops in Iraq “only if it is tied to an overall strategy [to] defeat” ISIS in Mosul, and is expected to rebut Trump’s military plans when he believes they will not work.

Trump’s views on foreign policy were not exactly coherent and consistent. Determining if Gen. Mattis’ views lines up with Trump’s is difficult. Still, what seems apparent is that Trump chose a defense secretary whose foreign policy views are different than his campaign rhetoric.


By Joe Carbonari

War is the end product of failed diplomacy. Lest it be turned to too quickly, we keep our military under civilian control –the president as Commander in Chief, the secretary of defense as director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  A retired military officer is barred from taking a senior position in the Department of Defense for seven years after leaving the service. One exception, by waiver from Congress, has been granted. It was to George C. Marshall after World War II. He had been a civilian for five years. He proved to be a diplomat. It worked out well.

James N. Mattis has been selected as Donald Trump’s choice to head up the department in his administration. It looks like a good choice.

Mattis’ nickname is “Mad Dog,” which suggests that he is not reticent to fight. Neither, however, does he appear to be eager. He acquitted himself well as head of the U.S. Central Command but was removed from that position by President Barack Obama when he proved too hawkish on Iran. He does, however, support the continued honoring of the Iran nuclear agreement and is considered to be an informed, disciplined, strategic thinker with few illusions.

Mattis is in the proactive mold that Trump prefers and stands for. He is not, however, reckless, and would likely temper some of Trump’s own proclivities as well as those of his more aggressively oriented advisors. Mr. Trump will be president for all of us. We must help him succeed, for all of us.

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