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US president-elect Donald Trump (L) stands with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis following their meeting in Bedminster, New Jersey, USA, on Nov. 19.
US president-elect Donald Trump (L) stands with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis following their meeting in Bedminster, New Jersey, USA, on Nov. 19.

Trump Names General Mattis for Defense Secretary

The choice of a military strategist would be another indication that Trump, a Republican, intends to steer US foreign policy away from Democratic President Obama’s increased reliance on US allies to fight militants

Trump Names General Mattis for Defense Secretary

US president-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday night he would nominate retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, known as “Mad Dog” and renowned for his tough talk and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to lead the Pentagon.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense,” Trump told a rally in Cincinnati. He said the formal announcement would be made on Monday, Reuters reported.
The choice of a military strategist would be another indication that Trump, a Republican, intends to steer US foreign policy away from Democratic President Barack Obama’s increased reliance on US allies to fight militants and help deter Russian and Chinese aggression in Europe and Asia.
Mattis is a revered figure in the Marine Corps. The Washington Post and CNN reported earlier that Trump had chosen Mattis, but Trump spokesman Jason Miller said earlier on Twitter that “no decision has been made yet with regard to secretary of defense.”

  Bureaucratic Hurdle
While the nomination of the 66-year-old Mattis would likely be popular among US forces, it would have to clear a bureaucratic hurdle.
Because he retired only in 2013, Mattis would need the US Congress to waive a requirement that a defense secretary be a civilian for at least seven years before taking the top job at the Pentagon. His impressive combat record, however, may deter some Senate Democrats from trying to block his nomination. Trump has described Mattis as “a true general’s general”.
Mattis, whose past assignments include leading Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East and South Asia, is known for his colorful expressions that unashamedly embrace the job of the US armed forces: fighting wars.
In one famous line in 2003 attributed to Mattis, the general told Marines in Iraq: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

  Tough Talk
In a 2016 question-and-answer session, Mattis appeared to be moved by a Marine’s question about how far out he could inflict casualties with his knife hand, known as a “kill-casualty radius”.
“Once you get to be a high-ranking officer, the kill-casualty radius is whatever your Marines make it, and by the time I got up to the senior ranks it was hundreds of miles,” he said in a video for the Marine Corps.
Still, such tough talk has gotten him in hot water. He was once rebuked for saying in 2005 that “it’s fun to shoot some people”.
Now a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Mattis is also a scholar who was praised by then-US defense secretary, Robert Gates, in 2010 as one of the country’s great strategic thinkers. 
Mattis reads avidly, frequently quotes history and is proud that he grew up with a large library and no television.
After meeting Mattis on Nov. 19, Trump described him as a strong, dignified man who persuasively argued against waterboarding, an interrogation tactic that involves pouring water over someone’s face to simulate drowning.
Trump had promised during the campaign he would not only revive the use of waterboarding, which is widely regarded as torture and was banned under President Obama, but bring back “a hell of a lot worse” if elected.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider Mattis’ nomination. In a statement on Thursday night, its chairman, Republican John McCain, called him “one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader”.
Mattis would be the first former US general to become defense secretary since George C. Marshall took the job in 1950.
The decision adds to Trump’s national security team another Pentagon veteran who served during the Obama administration but often had a testy relationship with it.

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