Mattis interviewed by a high schooler

Mercer Island by Wiki user Dllu

In a photo published alongside this article by The Washington Post on May 11, Trump’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, could be seen carrying a stack of papers with a yellow sticky note stuck on the top. Written on it, in black ink, was the name “Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis” and a phone number.

A high school student in Mercer Island, Washington, followed up and asked Secretary of Defense Mattis for an interview, which you can find here.

TEDDY: Out of thousands of calls, why did you respond to this one?

MATTIS: You left a message there and I was going through listening to the messages and deleting them. But you’re from Washington state. I grew up in Washington state on the other side of the mountains there on the Columbia River. I just thought I’d give you a call.

State Dept photo, source

Hard not to find Mattis a pretty compelling American character, imo.

On the education, I sometimes wonder how much better the world would be if we funded for nations where they have ideology problems, where the ideologies are hateful, full of hatred. I wonder what would happen if we turned around and we helped pay for high school students, a boy and girl at each high school in that country to come to America for one year and don’t do it just once, but do it ten years in a row. Every high school whether it be in Afghanistan or Syria or wherever, would send one boy and one girl for one year to Mercer island or to Topeka, Kansas or wherever.

It wouldn’t cost that much if you had sponsoring families that would take them in. Most American families are very generous, unless they’ve lived in places where they’ve adopted kind of a selfish style. But, that’s only a few pockets of the country that really have that bad. Although they’re big pockets in terms of population, most of the country is not like that. I bet we could do that.

Where is he talking about?  Name names!

Could he be talking about New York City, where the President, a notably non-generous person, comes from?

Later, Mattis gives advice on how to avoid the psychiatrist:

TEDDY: Any advice for graduating seniors?

MATTIS: I would just tell you that there’s all sorts of people that are going to give you advice and you should listen to the people you respect, but I think if you guide yourself by putting others first, by trying to serve others, whether it be in your family, in your school, in your church or synagogue or mosque or wherever you get your spiritual strength from, you can help your state, you can help your country, if you can help the larger community in the world, you won’t be lying on a psychiatrist’s couch when you’re 45-years-old wondering what you did with your life.

Go out of your way. Not everyone has to join the military, it’s not for everyone. For one thing it’s scary as all get out at times, but whether it be the Peace Corp or the Marine Corps, whether it be serving on your local school board when you’re still not even 30-years-old, by running for office and trying to get a good education for the kids in your community, just try to put others first and it will pay back in so many ways that you’d be a lot happier in life. So just look for ways to help others all the way along, Teddy, and you’ll never go far wrong if you’re always looking to do that. You won’t get all caught up in your own problems if you’re out helping others overcome theirs.


Meanwhile, out in the desert

The top story in both the Hi-Desert Star and The Desert Trail is the removal of 1,100 desert tortoises from the Marine Corps base to safer lands.

Was Defense Secretary Mattis personally briefed on the operation?

It may seem silly but the story made me feel good.

find happy homes guys.


The Generals by Thomas Ricks

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This book is so full of compelling anecdotes, character studies, and surprising, valuable lessons of leadership that I kind of can’t believe I got to it before Malcolm Gladwell or David Brooks or somebody scavenged it for good stories.

Generaling

Consider how hard it would be to get fifteen of your friends to leave for a road trip at the same time.  How much coordination and communication it would take, how likely it was to get fucked up.

Now imagine trying to move 156,000 people across the English Channel, and you have to keep it a surprise, and on the other side there are 50,350 people waiting to try and kill you.

The Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment's bayonet charge against a Chinese division during the Korean War. Dominic D'Andrea, commissioned by the National Guard Heritage Foundation

The Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment’s bayonet charge against a Chinese division during the Korean War. Dominic D’Andrea, commissioned by the National Guard Heritage Foundation

Even at a lower scale, say a brigade, a brigadier general might oversee say 4,500 people and hundreds of vehicles.  Those people must be clothed, fed, housed, their medical problems attended to.  Then they have to be armed, trained, given ammo.  You have to find the enemy, kill them, evacuate the wounded, stay in communication, and keep a calm head as many people are trying to kill you and the situation is changing rapidly and constantly.

32nd Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Ed Hansen, on floor in front of podium, accepts reports from battalion command sergeants major as the brigade forms at the start of the Feb. 17 send-off ceremony at the Dane County Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Madison, Wis. Family members and public officials bade farewell to some 3,200 members of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and augmenting units, Wisconsin Army National Guard, in the ceremony. The unit is bound for pre-deployment training at Fort Bliss, Texas, followed by a deployment of approximately 10 months for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs photo by Larry Sommers.

32nd Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Ed Hansen, on floor in front of podium, accepts reports from battalion command sergeants major as the brigade forms at the start of the Feb. 17 send-off ceremony at the Dane County Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Madison, Wis. Family members and public officials bade farewell to some 3,200 members of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and augmenting units, Wisconsin Army National Guard, in the ceremony. The unit is bound for pre-deployment training at Fort Bliss, Texas, followed by a deployment of approximately 10 months for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs photo by Larry Sommers.

Being a general is a challenging job, I guess is my point.

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U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, left, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, talk on board a C-17 while flying to Baghdad, Dec. 15, 2011.  Source.

I saw this post about Gen. Mattis, possible future Secretary of Defense, on Tom Ricks blog:

A SecDef nominee at war?: What I wrote about General Mattis in ‘The Generals’

The story was so compelling that I immediately ordered Mr. Ricks’ book:

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A fantastic read.  Eye-opening, shocking, opinionated, compelling.

The way that Marc Norman’s book on screenwriting works as a history of Hollywood:

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The Generals works as a kind of history of the US since World War II.   I’d list it with 1491: New Revelations On The Americas Before Columbus as a book I think every citizen should read.

The observation that drives The Generals is this: commanding troops in combat is insanely difficult.  Many generals will fail.  Officers who performed well at lower ranks might completely collapse.

During World War II, generals who failed to perform were swiftly relieved of command.  (Often, they were given second chances, and many stepped up).

Since World War II, swift relief of underperforming generals has not been the case.  The results for American military effectiveness have been devastating.  Much of this book describes catastrophe and disaster, as I guess war is even under the best of circumstances and the finest leadership.

Ricks is such a good writer, so engaging and compelling.  He knows to include stuff like this:

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Ricks describes the catastrophes that result from bad military leadership.  How about this, in Korea?:

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What kind of effect did this leadership have, in Vietnam?:

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He discusses the relationship of presidents and their generals:

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shitheads

Here is LBJ, years later, describing his nightmares:

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Ricks can be blunt:

westmoreland

Hard lessons the Marines had learned:

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marines

Symbolically, There’s a Warning Signal Against Them as Marines Move Down the Main Line to Seoul From RG: 127 General Photograph File of the U.S. Marine Corps National Archives Identifier: 5891316 Local Identifier: 127-N-A3206

A hero in the book is O. P. Smith

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who led the Marines’ reverse advance at the Chosin Resevoir, when it was so cold men’s toes were falling off from frostbite inside their boots:

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The story of what they accomplished is incredible, worth a book itself.  Here’s Ricks talking about the book and Smith.

A continued challenge for generals is to understand the strategic circumstances they are operating under, and the political limitations that constrain them.

 

031206-F-2828D-373 Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld walks with Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez after arriving at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on Dec. 6, 2003. Rumsfeld is in Iraq to meet with members of the Coalition Provisional Authority, senior military leaders and the troops deployed there. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

031206-F-2828D-373
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld walks with Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez after arriving at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on Dec. 6, 2003. Rumsfeld is in Iraq to meet with members of the Coalition Provisional Authority, senior military leaders and the troops deployed there. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force. (Released) source

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Recommend this book.  One of the best works of military history I’ve ever read, and a sobering reflection on leadership, strategy, and the United States.


Yeeeeeeesh.

elizabeth-warren

Need this lady in my political life at this moment.

Was it worse to experience this in horrific car crash realtime on the West Coast or to go to bed and wake up to it on the East Coast?

jyy

dc

jl

gw

You can take this bit from Nate Silver and find it a depressing what if or a somewhat hopeful sign of how small actions can affect significant change:

Most perceptive, insightful thing I read this whole durned election was in Cracked.com, by “David Wong,” about the rural vs. urban divide.

tc

photo of TC found here

Tyler Cowen making baffled guesses at Trump on the economy:

If there is any common theme to my predictions, it stems from Trump’s history in franchising his name and putting relatively little capital into many of his business deals. I think his natural instinct will be to look for some quick symbolic victories to satisfy supporters, and then pursue mass popularity with a lot of government benefits, debt and free-lunch thinking. I don’t think the Trump presidency will be recognizable as traditionally conservative or right-wing.

I also expect U.S. trade relations to worsen significantly, as I’ve already discussed in an online conversation with Robert Zoellick. I foresee Trump renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, mostly picking on Mexico. Mexico would end up having to pay some kind of fee, either directly or indirectly, for continuing access to the U.S. market. That way, Trump could in fact make Mexico “pay for the wall.” It is no surprise that the peso plummeted as the tide started to turn in Trump’s favor Tuesday night.

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Thomas Ricks on Trump and Defense:

Second, it will be interesting to see how Trump gets along with the generals he has condemned as losers and Obama cronies. Being the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be one of the toughest jobs around. Second toughest: Being the legal advisor to the chairman. Imagine the exchanges:

President Trump: “That’s an order.”

General: “Sir, my JAG tells me that’s an illegal order.”

President Trump: “OK, your JAG is fired. Now find someone who will help me, not throw obstacles in my way.”

Trump also might find nettlesome the generals who say things like, “OK, if we do that, what happens after that? What’s the next step?” The Obama administration didn’t like that when General Mattis did in that in discussions of Iran, and Trump will like it even less.

Distraction, diversion, tales of sub-wall countries and the politics of dictatorships can be found in this:

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Available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore.