I have mixed feelings about GEN Petraeus and GEN Mattis being SecState and SecDef respectively. Not because they aren’t qualified to do the job, they both are, but I’m concerned that US foreign policy would take an unproductively harsh turn towards way more stick (military options) than carrot (economic, diplomatic, information).
All military officers are expected to be familiar with Strategic thinking, generally getting their first big dose of it as senior Captains or newly minted Majors although every career is different. Some Lieutenants and junior Captains get to serve as General’s Aides and get to see military operations from the top of the pyramid long before they normally would, and this is a good thing for them. Others end up on SF, CA, or PSYOP teams working directly with Ambassadors to implement policy in foreign countries. Others still end up working Public Affairs or Information Operations and get a taste for working policy from a Combatant Command on down. And from there, the higher they go the more deeply involved in directly supporting foreign policy with the State Department becomes. Retired Generals are probably the ideal recruiting pool for SecDef and SecState.
But… I have mixed feelings about Petraeus as he’s ruffled feathers as CIA director. GEN Mattis is loved by the troops, but in the long string of Generals who have made it to SecState, none has ever been as successful as GEN Marshall was. The “Marshall Plan” came about from SecState Marshall, not GEN Marshall, because the military couldn’t implement his plan while he was a General. So even though Petraeus was famous for coining the term “money as a weapon system” he has very big shoes to fill, especially with a President like Trump who may not always listen to expert advise. But, whether Paula Broadwell was a flaw in judgement or a flaw in character doesn’t inspire confidence. The assumption is that Generals have good judgement, so it must be a flaw in character.
GEN Mattis as SecDef is putting a strong personality in charge of the DOD. However Mattis was also the General who fired a Colonel commanding a Marine Regiment riding along in 7 Ton Trucks because it wasn’t taking ground as fast as the Sledgehammer Brigade rolling north to Baghdad in Abrams Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. General Mattis is also completely complicit in the utter fiasco that is the F-35 and what it has done to the USMC budget and the series of capabilities hits the ground force has had to endure for that “die in a ditch” capability. That’s two pretty serious flaws of judgement that put into doubt a lack of flaws in character.
Now for the good, these men have been tested before “on the hill” and have fought there hundred battles while in service before. They will bring to Trump’s cabinet valuable experience that other choices may not have (which is likely the reason why Pence was chosen as VP). Trump can’t “drain the swamp” and keep the system running at the same time, so he needs people around him who can push his agenda through the existing mechanisms.
And finally, I think that Petraeus and Mattis, for all the risk in putting the two of them together at the very involved level of foreign policy creation, that they will both be more competent than the people they are replacing. No one wants to avoid war more than a former General, which is why SecState Powell was quietly replaced after his aversion to going into Iraq in 2003 put him at odds with Cheney and Rumsfeld.
Comments are open, feel free to speak your mind.