Secretary Mattis Hits The Ground Running

Demonstrating to the world there is ‘No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’ than a U.S. Marine

Since last Friday when Congress granted the waiver to retired General Jim Mattis to assume the role as defense secretary there has been an uptick in the deaths of Islamist militants.

Coordinated attacks like the ones that have been taking out Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters take time to plan, and no, Secretary Mattis wasn’t there for the planning. Still, one gets the sense that just by Team Obama handing off the baton to Team Trump the U.S. has gotten more serious—and lethal.

For instance, last Friday, according to Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, U.S. airstrikes took out more than 100 Al-Qaeda fighters in a Syrian training camp. Additionally, U.S. airstrikes took out more than 10 boats on the Tigris River used by ISIS to flee Mosul.

When Mattis, at long last, arrived at the Pentagon on Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve bombed the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq 31 times. Raqqa, ISIS’s capital, was especially hammered, taking 22 of the hits.

While this certainly seems like an impressively successful weekend in the war against Islamist militants, it is merely a glimpse of the much larger campaign that is to come with Mattis in the Pentagon. Mattis, who was the head of Central Command from 2010 to 2013, once called President Obama’s war on ISIS “unguided by a sustained policy or sound strategy [and is] replete with half-measures.”

The world will soon be afforded the opportunity to see what a sustained strategy carried out by full measures looks like.

Worth noting, coalition nations besides the United States that have conducted strikes in Iraq include the Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Syria, coalition nations that have conducted strikes besides the United States, are Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

But will those nations play a larger role in the fight? Early indications are that at least some understand they are going to need to.

Aside from presiding over the flurry of military operations, Mattis also conducted some diplomacy. He reportedly called British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who have expressed concerns over President Trump’s tough talk about NATO’s contributions to the fight against ISIS and the individual NATO member states’ failing to meet their obligation to commit at least two percent of their respective GDPs to collective security.

In his call with Fallon, Mattis “emphasized the United States’ unshakeable commitment to NATO” and thanked him for Britain’s willingness to meet and go beyond the 2 percent GDP commitment. Secretary General Stoltenberg just weeks ago applauded Britain’s example and urged other NATO countries to keep increasing defense spending. He said of Britain’s increased spending, “By doing so you lead by example. It’s good to see that other allies are now following you and they are starting to increase defence spending. They still have a long way to go but are starting to move in the right direction. More defence spending in Europe is important for the transatlantic bond, for fair burden-sharing between Europe and the United States.”

I think it’s pretty safe to assume at this point that in the months and years to come Secretary Mattis will be issuing more death sentences to Islamists and more thank-yous to allies for increased help.

And that is a very good thing for American security.

About Rebeccah Heinrichs

Rebeccah is a Fellow at the Hudson Institute. She served as an adviser on military matters and foreign policy to Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and helped launch the bi-partisan Missile Defense Caucus. She has testified before Congress and has presented to numerous organizations including the Aerospace Industries Association, the Reserve Officers Association, the National Defense Industrial Association, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. She holds a Master of Arts degree in national security and strategic policy from the U.S. Naval War College. She also graduated with highest distinction from its College of Naval Command and Staff, receiving the Director’s Award for academic excellence. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ashland University in Ohio, and graduated from the Ashbrook Scholar Program.

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7 responses to “Secretary Mattis Hits The Ground Running

  • Two of my concerns related to Gen Mattis are about NATO and modernization. I get it that he will be good on the operational side, however there is a whole other side he needs to take care of. First, the military needs to be reorganized. With this there are several balls that have to be juggled (trade offs): getting rid of government civilians and some contractors that have taken the place of uniforms at various levels, reducing the OSD/JCS staffs, transitioning to a one major front military, reorganize the Guard/Reserves to be more operationally supportive (and get rid of the chaff), getting more divisions/wings to be operationally ready, get away from the fascination with technology (we have the best, but is it worth it if our allies can’t keep up? … e.g. GPS III, C2, F-whatevers, hi-tech ships, etc.), and so on. Secondly, NATO needs to be modernized and I think that’s more important that all the modernization. All of this needs to be bi-partisan and done for the good of the country and for future threats. (Mr. Rumsfeld wanted to do this, but 911 stopped him.) We need to get rid of sound-bites (350-ship Navies) and let the requirements process work and be agreed to by all.

  • Kill ISIS first. Deal with the rest later. I have to believe, all they’ve had to do was change the ROE. An alliance with Russia to decimate ISIS would very quickly restore stability to the are and most of the refugees would go home. And if they don’t, good reason to ask them why not.

  • Impressive article. Good read. One gets the sense of awakening, of talent and ideas.
    Dares one hope?

  • Magnificent! And maybe America will finally see light at the end of the tunnel in this already 15 year war. Can you imagine if our nation had fought our past enemies with the level of incompetency, wavering, and downright betrayal and treason that the past 2 administrations showed?

  • The key is to establish realistic rules of engagement. The US military is powerful but when you adopt rules of engagement that preclude using that force, our power is useless. It is no coincidence that the last War that America had an unambiguous win in was WWII when we did things like used our bombers to attack enemy cities and factories and firebombed many cities knowing that the attacks would kill many civilians. Not all ISIS has to do to neutralize our air force is to put their HQ by a school or a hospital and we are afraid to attack. Stupid. Either fight a war to win or surrender, but do not halfway fight a war – all that does in increase your casualties.

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