Ralph Peters: What our nation would get with Gen. Mattis as Defense Secretary

By Ralph Peters

 Published December 01, 2016 

I’m lucky enough to know General James Mattis slightly. Just well enough to trust him unreservedly with our military and our nation’s security.

The president-elect could not choose a better man to be our next Secretary of Defense. Not just because Mattis is a battle-hardened Marine with a remarkable combat record. And not just because he has a mind of remarkable clarity and is, without question, the best-read general of his generation.

I trust Jim Mattis because he’s a man of character, that most un-Washingtonian quality. His public image is of one rough-and-tough Marine, but the man I’ve encountered is, above all, one of integrity. His code of honor is so out of fashion that one has to reach back to a Victorian vocabulary:  He has a noble spirit.

And he’s a genuine patriot, not a shouter with his eye on the next chance. He will do what’s right, not what’s expedient.  And he will never go along with anything he believes might harm our country.

In addition to plenty of dirty-boots experience in the Middle East and a deep knowledge of history—that most underrated study—Jim Mattis has another great qualification to be SecDef: He wasn’t looking for a job. He was happy in retirement, studying, helping his fellow Marines, and contributing thoughtfully to our national security behind the scenes.

The last time I heard from him—a bit before the election—he mentioned, not for the first time, that he was glad to be west of the Rockies. A Washington, D.C. post was not part of the plan; rather, he thought of farming in rural Washington State.  

This matters. In an age of sycophants and clawing ambition, it’s a splendid prospect to have a classic patriot who’s willing to sacrifice to serve (as Jim Mattis already has for four decades in uniform).

Our most underrated president of the last century, Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, didn’t want anyone in his cabinet who actively sought the position. He wanted successful men from various walks of life who would have to leave successful careers and contented lives to come to Washington and run a department ethically (an earlier version of “draining the swamp”).

For General Mattis, the position of Secretary of Defense wouldn’t be just another inside-the-Beltway badge to add to his resume. The greatest danger would be that he would prove too honest for D.C.

Yet another quality Mattis would bring to the office—a vital one—is that he’s a superb listener (yet another rare quality in Washington). He’s not quick to speak, but when he finally does have his say, his words show command of the subject under discussion. And he uses words with the same economy as a rifleman uses bullets: no wasted rounds.

As a member of the Hoover Institution’s Military History Working Group, he’d listen to the rest of us blather on for hours before saying a word. Then he would succinctly, politely and irrefutably explain why we had no idea what we were talking about.

What would the nation get with General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense? Integrity. Deep knowledge. Courage, both moral and physical. Humility. Decency. Vision. A steely sense of duty. Fiscal responsibility. A natural leader of men.

In short, character.

Inevitably, we’ve heard plaints from the left about the “danger” of generals in high government positions, with the suggestion that they’ll take us into wars. But it hasn’t been the generals who’ve gotten us into our recent conflicts or who have failed to resolve them. For the last sixteen years, we’ve seen civilians with no military experience launch ill-considered wars and impulsive interventions without considering the second- and third-order effects. Generals, by contrast, are reluctant to send our troops to war—they know the complexity and the cost.

General Mattis has a long list of military accomplishments, but I suspect that one of the experiences that cut deepest came in 2004, in Fallujah. After a week of brutal, successful combat his Marines stood within forty-eight hours of a clear-cut victory over a terrorist army. And the Bush administration lost its collective nerve, calling a halt just short of the finish line. I watched the tragedy unfold from northern Iraq, where I was a guest of the Kurds. And we all said the same thing to each other:  “We’ll have to go back and finish this.” And we did have to go back, in less than a year.

Having seen his Marines die, only to be denied victory at the eleventh hour because the global media was howling, must have been terribly painful for General Mattis. One of the many reasons he’s so widely respected in military circles—not just by Marines—is that he understands that, contrary to academic pronunciamentos, victory is not only possible, but essential.

Jim Mattis not only fights the good fight—he fights to win. With him as our next Secretary of Defense, the United States of America would win.

Fox News Strategic Analyst Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. Army officer and former enlisted man. He is the author of prize-winning fiction and non-fiction books on the Civil War and the military. His latest is "The Damned of Petersburg: A Novel" (Forge Books, June 28, 2016).

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  • WAIT WAIT... News is just breaking that they will be using solar on a road in the UK to test its fictionality.
    It's a thin layered solar panals that lays over the existing road and will take heavy traffic, this technology is changing fast. The test strip will create enough energy to power one home. I am anxious to see how the tackle some of the obstacles I spoke of earlier. Compitition breeds inovation.
    • Old Rooster chek your PM.
  • If that wasn't enough Heres one thing the proponents of green energy don't talk about much.... Caustic chemicals such as Sodium Hydroxide and Hydroflouric acid are used with water in the production process which emits greenhouse gases and create toxic waste. This undercuts solar ability to fight climate change and reduce environmental toxins..
  • Congratulation and I am crossing my fingers for him.  I did not have a chance to serve under him, but from ANY military man of the past and present I get only very positive and enthusiastic response.

  • Old Rooster after you read and watch the video go to the net and type in "the problem with solar powered roads" there are a number of websites you can read the other side of.the argument comments by readers on these sites make many valid points. Many are in the field and allied fields
    • Oh... Let me state one other problem... One reason byways and roadways are made out of asphalt is for noise reduction. Even if this concept was feasible it would not only not reduce road noise it would amplify it. To even be considered of these issues were addressed it would have to be cost efficient we donot have the funds to even maintain our infrastructure and highways currently. Afraid I can't take out my check book at this point in time. But who knows it could lead to other feasible concepts.
    • Old Rooster.,,, Great idea.. I have put in a lot of research on this concept. Unfortunatly it is neither feasible at this time and even if it was its not cost efficient. I do see some applications on bike paths and driveways and parking lots. Their is a plethora of problems with this concept being used on our roadways at this time I'll try to cite just a few. First of all you need direct sunlight and maximum exposure the solar we have in several of our family homes faces directly in the duns path, that is not feasible with a roadway. Then, even if that was possible you need constant exposure to direct sunlight. Unfortunatly cities like Los Angeles which have bumber to bumper traffic 24/7 that's not possible. Then the surface need to remain clean, we have to wash our solar panals on a regular basis to maxmize their output. Tire wear oil from vehicles mud etc would quickly make them unusable. Then you have the problem of vibration with vehicles constantly traveling over them. Also, you would need a huge amount of battery back up and enough extra stored electricity generated during daylight hours to power the roadways through the night. Electrical engineers have said that you cannot produce enough electricity to melt the amount of snow that falls in he US remember with a layer of snow no sunlight gets through. Finally for highway application you need as glass surface to withstand the weight even if all these other issues were solved and that type of surface is yet to be invented. The husband a wife team who developed this have it in driveway at their home which is a prototype showing it at night. They had to have battery back up and when asked how much power was being generated the refused to answer the question. People have invested millions of dollars which in turn has made them millionaires overnight unfortunately I believe people invested out of emotion instead of research. Now the good thing is on bike paths driveways and parking garages their could be some benifits if they can overcome the issues I've stated and that is not all of the myriad of problems that need to be addressed. Just for back up batteries alone you would need a battery thousands of times more efficient to capture electricity and store it in smaller less expensive units that are currently available. Tesla currently profuces battery's to back up your home solar system which we are looking into but they are a long way off for highway application. Tesla has also developed a roof shingle with solar built into it, hence my sons investing in Tesla stock! From the myriad of problems I've have and have not listed, people I've read in the engineering, electrical and solar industries I've concluded its not technically feasible at this time.
      • Michael, I sent you a PM.......... check your in-box for messages here on PFA.

        • Old Rooster check your inbox
          • You too.

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