Welcome, Mr. Secretary

At one point during his election campaign, President-Elect Donald Trump promised to spend the first hundred days on the job restoring the U.S military. And following the endless unsuccessful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, restoring it certainly needs. Now he has come up with the man who is supposed to do the restoring: four-star Marine Corps General (ret.) James Mattis.

To imitate the language of the Old Testament, I shall not list “the rest of the General’s acts, and all his might, and all that he did.” They can easily be found on the Net. A few points, however, are worth taking note of. First, he is immensely experienced, having made his way up by participating in practically every war the U.S has fought from 1972 on. Second, as a high-ranking Marine he is intimately familiar with operations “in the air, on land and sea” (the Marine Corps anthem) and not just with one of the three as so many army, navy and air force generals are. Third, along with general David Petraeus he was responsible for America’s counterinsurgency doctrine. Precisely that which, in this day and age of what I once called “non-trinitarian warfare,” is the most important and the most necessary of all. Fourth, he cares for his troops. Fifth, he is a man of considerable learning such as is rarely found among his fellow officers (having lived with them, I should know). Last not least, he has no fear of speaking his mind. A quality which, in today’s politically-correct world, is as hard to find as diamonds.

Entering office, the General will have his work cut out for him. Two issues on which he has expressed himself in the past are Iran and “the Middle East” (meaning, of course, Israel and the Palestinians). So let me start by venturing to provide him with some cautious advice on both of those. Re. Iran, I think that the present agreement with that country is as good as can be had. It is good for Iran, good, for the Middle East, good for the U.S, and good for world peace. Why re-open a (nuclear) nest of hornets when, judging by everything that has happened since Tehran re-started its nuclear program back in the early 1990s there is no need? The more so because, by doing so, the US will be widely seen as untrustworthy, a problem which will surely complicate efforts to deal with similar issues such as, for example, North Korea. And the more so because it will be pushing Iran into Putin’s welcoming arms.

As to my own country, I agree with outgoing President Barak Obama that fifty years of occupation are enough and more than enough. The present situation is untenable for the world, for the US, and, not least, Israel itself. Surprising as it may sound to outsiders, many, perhaps even most, Israelis are aware of this fact. However, they are prevented from doing what has to be done—in one way or another, get the devil out of the Territories—by the country’s complicated internal political divisions. As they say, four Jews, five opinions! So I strongly suggest that the new Secretary of Defense should put his weight behind the attempts to impose some kind of enforced solution. One which, while not perfect, will at least extinguish many flames and dispose of many sparks (as our mutual acquaintance Clausewitz puts it in On War.)

Important as these issues are, they only comprise the beginning. As readers of the present blog as well as my book Pussycats will know, I see the military crisis the U.S (and other Western countries, including, in many ways, my own) is undergoing primarily as a spiritual one. Not, in other words, one that is occasioned by lack of money. And not as one caused by defective organization, inappropriate doctrine, insufficient equipment, inadequate training, and so on. To repeat, it is the spirit, eroded partly by a whole series of unsuccessful wars and partly by domestic factors, which has been lacking and which must be restored.

Here I want to quote some little-known words General Mattis uttered two years ago (according to the Washington Times, 25.5.2014). The text of his remarks goes as follows:

I would just say there is one misperception of our veterans and that is they are somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.

If we tell our veterans enough that this is what is wrong with them they may actually start believing it.

While victimhood in America is exalted I don’t think our veterans should join those ranks.

There is also something called post traumatic growth where you come out of a situation like that and you actually feel kinder toward your fellow man and fellow woman.

We are going to have to have young people in our country who are willing to go toe to toe with this because two irreconcilable wills exist.

There is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role.

Coming on top of some other courageous words General Mattis has spoken over the years, it is probable that, in the entire U.S military there is no one more suitable to carry out the necessary repairs than he is. Repairs, let me repeat, whose nature is predominantly spiritual, not material.

And so I wish him good luck in what is surely going to be a very difficult task.