Jim Mattis, current commander of Central Command, is one of the most revered generals in the recent history of the Marine Corps. He has been nicknamed affectionately “Mad Dog” and the “Warrior Monk,” and he has acquired a considerable and well-earned reputation for battlefield excellence and general strategic acumen over the course of the last decade in Afghanistan and Iraq and now at Centcom. The San Diego Union Tribune has a great profile of him.
Yet, although only 62 years old, his military career may well end in the next few months, because he is slated to leave Centcom. Veteran military correspondent Tom Ricks reports here and here that Mattis may be getting pushed out a bit early because the White House does not appreciate his blunt advice and thinks he is too hawkish on Iran.
I don’t know the truth of the matter, but if Ricks’ reporting is accurate, it does not reflect well on the administration. It would be a shame to lose such a fearless, experienced, and brilliant general who can provide unvarnished advice to an administration whose senior ranks increasingly appear to be stocked with the president’s cronies and loyalists rather than the “team of rivals” Obama was thought by some to try to cultivate in the first term.
Of course Mattis has been at Centcom for a considerable period of time–since 2007, making him the second-longest-service Combatant Command chief–and it is unrealistic to expect that he would stay in the job indefinitely. But it would make sense to find some other employment for him, whether in another prominent command or in an educational capacity helping to groom the next generation of soldiers and marines. Certainly it would be a real loss if he were to retire to farming in Washington State, as he is rumored to be contemplating. America already owes a considerable debt to Mattis, but he is young enough and energetic enough that we can still derive considerable benefit from this wise and inspirational warrior.