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COLUMN: Trump’s Defense pick is a master of temperance, art of war


In the age of Donald Trump, uncertainty and hostility from the outside world are certain. The president-elect stressed pulling out of NATO throughout his campaign, while also denigrating people from the Middle East.

The confirmation of retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense may bring a sense of ease to those fearing Trump’s outlandish views on foreign policy.

Respectfully referred to as the “Warrior Monk,” Mattis has stood out in his 44 years of service as someone dedicated to the study of war and his devotion to those who serve with him, according to Slate.

He is a longtime supporter of NATO and its duty to protect its members against Russia and terrorism. The retired general told the Heritage Foundation in May 2015 that he believes Russia is trying to break NATO apart, and that Trump’s views of Russia and NATO are ill-informed. There is no question that Mattis believes America should be engaged — and aware — of the threats Russia poses to the international community.

A Secretary of Defense Mattis would not only be a vocal and tempering voice to Trump’s outspoken admiration of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, but also Trump’s opposition to NATO.

Even as Trump rails against political correctness in Washington’s current policies toward the Middle East, Mattis has taken a markedly different approach. Before leading his Marine division to war in Iraq, he specifically called for all of his troops to undergo cultural sensitivity training. Other Marine Corps groups later adopted this program.

Mattis has always been a firm believer that sheer power does not always win wars. This was on clear display when he toured Iraq. On those tours, he frequently told Marines to grow mustaches and beards to look more like the people they were there to work with. His temperance in the Iraq War was most evident when he told his fellow Marines, “Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave,” according to a profile on Mattis published by The Los Angeles Times.

This apparent penchant for self-restraint would be a welcome thought in a White House where the prevailing thought is to “bomb the shit out of them.”

As an intellectual who is constantly noted for being a voracious reader of history, Mattis believes the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is through the two-state solution.

To him, Israel is damaging and creating an unsustainable situation that threatens the fragile peace talks between the two states. As Trump has called for defunding of the United Nations, after the UN voted to condemn Israel’s building of settlements, Mattis has argued that these settlements hamper the peace talks.

It should be noted that Mattis is a vocal supporter of Israel, but he does not let that blind him to the reality that Israel should tone down its claims to land, according to the Times of Israel.

Trump foreign policy will be determined by a president-elect who has never had to deal with global crises. That’s why it is so important that Trump surrounds himself with people who have felt the weight of war — and more importantly, those who understand the gravity of leading people to that war.

Mattis may not be the only voice to Trump’s ear, but it will be one that is sorely needed.

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