Donald Trump appoints “Mad Dog” to top defence job

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President-elect Donald Trump has announced retired general James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his nomination for US defence secretary.

Trump made his announcement at a post-election victory rally in Cincinnati.

Mattis, 66, is a Marine Corps general who retired in 2013 after serving as the commander of the US Central Command.

For Mattis to be confirmed, Congress would first have to approve legislation bypassing a law that bars retired military officers from becoming defence secretary within seven years of leaving active duty.

Mattis has a reputation as a battle-hardened, tough-talking Marine who was entrusted with some of the most challenging commands in the U.S. military. In a tweet last month, Trump referred to Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog” and described him as “A true General’s General”.

Mattis would be only the second retired general to serve as defence secretary, the first being George C. Marshall in 1950-51 during the Korean War. Marshall was a much different figure, having previously served as U.S. secretary of state and playing a key role in creating closer ties with Western Europe after World War II.

The only previous exception to the law requiring a gap after military service was for Marshall.

Although his record in combat and his credentials as a senior commander are widely admired, Mattis has little experience in the diplomatic aspects of the job of secretary of defence.

Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, described Mattis as a defense intellectual and as a military leader who distinguished himself in combat.

“He knows the Middle East, South Asia, NATO and other areas and has evinced both a nuanced approach to the wars we’re in and an appreciation for the importance of allies,” Fontaine said in an email exchange. “If he were to get the nomination, I suspect that he could attract a number of very talented people to work with him.”

But Mattis hasn’t been immune to controversy. In 2005, he raised eyebrows when he told a San Diego forum that it was “fun to shoot some people.”

According to a recording of his remarks, Mattis said, “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. ... It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling.”

He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis continued. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Mattis was counselled to choose his words more carefully.

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