James Mattis the Teacher

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 July 12, 2017|
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I guess that in this day and age, we shouldn’t be surprised that a high school student was able to obtain Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s cell phone number and call him up for an interview. But should we be surprised that Mattis accepted the call and then answered a series of questions? Those who know him are not. That’s the kind of man he is: a natural teacher who admires his fellow citizens. His respectful responses to the student’s questions and his lack of condescension are earmarks of the man.

Here’s a similar story. When I was teaching at the Naval War College, a young lieutenant commander in the intermediate course was working on a project examining how to conduct military operations in a “degraded” operational environment, i.e., how does a unit carry out its mission when communications don’t work, when the satellites upon which the military depends are blinded, when friction and the fog of uncertainty in war completely engulf the commander and his staff.

I had just seen Mattis, who at that time was the commander of Joint Forces Command, an organization that was examining this question. I sent him an email describing what the student was doing and asked him if there was someone on his staff that I might have the student contact. That’s what I was expecting. That’s what most very busy generals would do. But the next day, the student stopped me in the passageway.

“Sir,” he said, almost awestruck. “General Mattis called me last night and offered to give me any help I need.”

With all the references to “Mad Dog” and the like (an appellation he doesn’t like, by the way; it was given to him by his Marines when he commanded 1st Marine Division during the “march up” to Baghdad in 2003. I believe that the only people who should be allowed to call him that are the Marines he commanded then), the fact is Mattis was a tough but compassionate commander. On the one hand, he relieved a regimental commander whom he believed was not pushing hard enough. On the other, he took care of the troops.

For instance, in The March Up, an account of the 1st MarDiv’s operation in Iraq, Bing West and Ray Smith describe how Mattis ”led from the front” in order to maintain situational awareness. On one occasion, he pulled his vehicle to a stop as hot, tired Marines marched past. He offered water to a particularly weary Marine, who gratefully accepted and said, “thanks, man”—apparently so focused on advancing that he did not recognize his division commander.

The high school student’s interview illustrates something about Mattis that more people need to know. He takes education seriously. That was always apparent in his talks at Newport. Nothing irritated the War College students more than a general or admiral who tried to get away with delivering the “chamber of commerce speech.” Most of the general and flag officers who addressed the students at the Naval War College did a good job. But Mattis always stood out. He first spoke to the War College student body as a brigadier general after his successful operation that inserted Marines into Afghanistan in 2001. He always referred to the students as “my fine young officers” and he never disappointed in his talks. The teacher in him always came through as clearly as the hard-charging Marine. He was the true soldier-scholar.

And he loves his fellow citizens. Several years ago, the late Peter Schramm visited me in Newport. I invited him to my traditional Wednesday afternoon gathering of War College faculty and students that I jokingly called the “Mudville Study Group,” in honor of the pub where we met. I had also invited Jim Mattis, who stopped by. Schramm wrote a lengthy account of the meeting, but this passage in particular illustrates his ability to size up a man.

You would not mistake this man for a Roman, or a Russian, or even an English general. An entirely American character, he is disposed to look at things from the inside rather than from without, and certainly not to look down on those of us he is sworn to protect. He understands that in this country all men may rise, that distinction is based only on merit; and he demonstrates gratitude for the opportunity to labor in his field.

Schramm nailed it. And as his response to the high school student shows, the last thing Jim Mattis would ever do is “look down on those of us he is sworn to protect.”

 

About the Author:

Mackubin Owens
Mackubin Thomas Owens is dean of academics for the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC, a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, and editor of Orbis, FPRI’s quarterly journal. He recently retired after 29 years as Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. From 1990 to 1997, Dr. Owens was also Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly defense journal Strategic Review and Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Boston University. Owens is the author of Abraham Lincoln: Leadership and Democratic Statesmanship in Wartime (2009) and US Civil-Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain (January 2011) and coauthor of US Foreign and Defense Policy: The Rise of an Incidental Superpower (2015) and The Evolution of the Executive and Executive Power in the American Republic (2014). Before joining the faculty of the War College, Owens served as National Security Adviser to Senator Bob Kasten, Republican of Wisconsin, and Director of Legislative Affairs for the Nuclear Weapons Programs of the Department of Energy during the Reagan Administration. Dr. Owens is also a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, where as an infantry platoon and company commander in 1968-1969, he was wounded twice and awarded the Silver Star medal. He retired as a Colonel in 1994. Owens earned his Ph.D. in Politics from the University of Dallas, a Master of Arts in Economics from Oklahoma University, and his BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
  • Bad Wolf

    Trump has put into place many exceptional individuals. But Mattis is likely his finest appointment. Gorsuch, another exceptional nomination, may have the greater long term impact, but Mattis is the best of the best as a thinker, a man, a leader and an American.

    • bshirt

      100% correct sir!

  • Sam Delaney

    Great work Dr. Owens, and, thank you for your service to our great nation.

  • John Willson

    Thank you, Col. Dr. Sir! Having met you first at Hillsdale College in 1986 when you came as a young officer-teacher in response to our students who wanted better to understand Vietnam, I would say to your readers that you too belong in the tradition you describe. I will never again call Gen. Mattis “Mad Dog,” but I admit to sleeping well (as he does) because there is the side to him that gives honor to the name.

  • gifteconomy

    My country was attacked
    – in 1914 by the world’s most powerful army in this period – WW I started by attacking my poor Serbian people who were not prepared, had no weapons and were just liberated from 500 years Turkish occupation – we lost 1/2 of our population… but, Serbia won !
    -in 1941 the world’s most powerful Hitler’s army bombed my country and killed 1/2 of the population once again – but, Serbia won !
    -in 1999 your criminal politicians have diabolized an innocent man, Milosevic : http://www.globalresearch.ca/milosevic-exonerated-as-the-nato-war-machine-moves-on/5539411 and Serbia was bombed by 40 tones uranium, destroyed and humiliated !

    Destroying 3 times my lands/people in last century is not enough ? Now, it seems that your politicians want more blood in the Balkans ! The war is not over in Serbia :

    1. Albanian Muslims, supported by your mad USA government, have stolen the heart of Serbia (Kosovo) and burned all Serbian churches in 2004 in total media black-out : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bKF4ffLuUM The so called “Kosovo PM ” is a proven drug and human organ dealer : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/dec/14/kosovo-prime-minister-llike-mafia-boss
    Serbs can not live on own lands – because your government supports Albanian Muslims who deal heroin from Afghanistan, traffick /kidnap women, sell human organs… !

    2. in Bosnia Serbs fought alone against USA/Croats and Muslims all over the world who came help Bosnian Muslims – even Bin Laden was an ally of Bosnian Muslims and USA when Serbs stood alone against the entire world : http://www.barenakedislam.com/2015/07/10/the-disaster-that-bill-clinton-created-in-bosnia-by-backing-muslims-against-the-serbs-has-now-become-next-front-for-the-islamic-state-isis-caliphate/
    Now, the small almost independent Serbian country in Bosnia that was built on Serbian victims is in danger too – your satanic politicians want to destroy Serbian Sovereignty over own Bosnian lands to please Vatican’s pedophiles !

    3. in 1995 NATO satanists helped Croats to expel 800 000 Serbs from their homes – in fact, a half of Croatian territories was inhabited by Serbian orthodox population that live now in Serbia as refugees ! 25 years after “cleansing” Serbs out of Croatia – Serbs can not turn back home – because your mad USA politicians support an fascist Croatia government !

    I am writing you, hoping that you patriots can first bring order and peace in your own country and then help Serbian courageous people remain SOVEREIGN and FREE from any foreign forces – we do not want USA colonization ! Our ancestors have always fought for LIBERTY ! Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia, CrnaGora (Montenegro), Macedonia, Bulgaria… should live in one country and be FREE !
    You have to clean your radioactiv garbage and leave Serbian lands to Serbs. STOP bying “Serbian” leaders and cheat on people ! General Wisley Clark and Madlein Albright have no right to own Serbian mines and telecommunications ! Stop stealing ! Clintons have to be judged !

    Looking forward that you can do something to bring your government gone mad back to normality and respect other nations’ existence !

    • Mark Luhman

      Well that what happens when you have a Demorat in charge.

      • gifteconomy

        That what happens when YOU have SATANISTS IN CHARGE

    • farmboy-ed

      In 1914 you were not attacked by the world’s most powerful army. You were attacked by
      the inept Austro-Hungarians. If the Serbs were unarmed how did they fight their enemy
      to a standstill through the winter of 1914-1915.
      8,000 Muslim Bosniaks in Srebrenica did not commit suicide, they were murdered by
      Serbs.
      Serbs have been victims many times in history but their hands are not clean. They
      have murdered as much as their enemies. It doesn’t matter who started it.
      My parents were born in Ireland. Much the same story there. It doesn’t matter who
      started the murdering the retaliation is still murder.
      To call Milosevic a victim is a joke.

      • gifteconomy

        -Who was stronger than Austro-Hunagarians in that period of time ? Nobody ! It was the strongest army of the world ! Germans joined the Austro-Hungarians, of course ! Bur, Serbia was occupied until 1913 by Turkish army ! After 500 years occupation Serbia has to fight against Germans (austro-hungarinas) who wanted WAR believing that they can easely occupy Serbia for ever ! Serbian army retired to Albania !!! And, created in Thessaloniki The South Front together with French !!!
        -Srebrenica was engineered by war criminal B. Clinton ! 5 000 Serbian children and women were killed in Srebrenica in 1992-1995 BEFORE GENERAL MLADIC killed only those muslim men who HAD weapons – he left muslims (=”bosniacs”) women and children free ! this is not genocid over Muslims, but a genocid over Serbs – read more here : http://www.barenakedislam.com/2015/07/10/the-disaster-that-bill-clinton-created-in-bosnia-by-backing-muslims-against-the-serbs-has-now-become-next-front-for-the-islamic-state-isis-caliphate/
        -I think, you do not understand, that Serbs have lived all over Yugoslavia – there were 1 000 000 Serbs in Croatia (region : Krajina, Slavonija, Lika.. where Nikola Tesla was born) – they were all expelled in 48 hours in 1999 and still can not turn back – their homes are empty the region is devasted – the meda are silenced – it was another WAR CRIME IN 1995 against Serbs in Croatia ; In Bosnia lived only Serbs before Turkish occupation – Turks used to rape Serbian women, have harems and some Serbs converted out of misery to Islam – that is how you have “bosniacs” = muslims in Bosnia. Bosniacs are Sers too ! Serbs have not invaded Bosnia because they have always lived in Bosnia as Serbs / Christians who resisted Turkish
        occupation ! They have lived all over Europs in IX century : in yellow are SORBS ( Serbs) : https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heiliges_R%C3%B6misches_Reich#/media/File:Treaty_of_Verdun.svg
        Vatica is trying to destroy all Slavonic people ! That’s way they want you believe that Serbs, Slavonic people Russia have to be attacked ! 50 000 000 russians / serbs died only in WW II ! No, Serbs have never attacked others ! They are retireing for over 3000 years – Satanists are destroying Serbian living space ! In Jasenovac, Croatia 1 000 000 serbs were killed by Nazis helped by catholics (croats) ! Serbs have never in history search to occupy others ! Now, I think they should !
        -Milosevic was innocent : http://www.globalresearch.ca/milosevic-exonerated-as-the-nato-war-machine-moves-on/5539411 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FusfOqCtqc&t=34s

  • Undoubtedly, General Mattis would be impressed with your dedication and commitment to cultivating traditional American values, Mr. Owens.
    Thank you.

  • itsy_bitsy

    Thank you for making it apparent that we have much to admire about this man! I appreciate your article and the view it gives me of General Mattis and his outlook.

  • DeltaMortarman

    The Trump Administration will be remembered for having brought us people like Jim Mattis. And who do we have to remember from the Obama Administration? Valerie Jarrett?

  • ADM64

    Unfortunately, even General Mattis has waffled on things like women in the military and allowing the transgendered to serve. As Napoleon once observed, “The moral is to the physical as 3 is to 1.” All the tough talk, all the willingness to teach, all the focus on the most unobjectionable aspects of tactics and strategy fail when one comes up against anything perceived as a moral issue, because then one has to take a stand and be able to explain why one has taken it. Let’s see what the good General has to say about Islam once the PC crowd starts shouting “Islamophobia.”