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Mattis is overrated by a lot

Posted by John T. Reed on

Forget the boy who cried wolf. The new metaphor is the Democrat who cried “this is really the last last straw”—daily since the Access Hollywood tape was released.

Mountains from every molehill

I have defined a politician in part as a person who endlessly tries to make mountains out of their opponents molehills. The molehills in question must be negative, or at least able to be spun as negative, which means just about anything. About the best treatment Trump gets from an undeniable positive accomplishment or news is they ignore it. It they could spin the crime bill as negative, they would. But if they cannot do that, they will refuse to discuss it.

Do we still have civilian control of the military?

Have the Democrats abandoned civilian control of the military? They seem to think the elected Commander in Chief has been insubordinate to the 44-years-in-the-military Mad Dog Mattis.

Mattis never married

Mattis never married. Lifelong bachelors and spinsters often claim it was a choice. I suspect it is a failure to succeed at finding and winning a good spouse. I said in my Succeeding book that your two big decisions are choosing the right career and the right spouse, with the spouse being more the important than the career.
I am not just saying that because it’s the approved thing to say. Probably my long-term readers don’t need me to say that. Your family—spouse, children, and grandchildren—are your life. They are there more than your career and you have a higher duty to them than to your career.

After a boring ten years, Mattis decided to stay in

To me, Mattis is a guy who chose to stay in the marines when most of his peers got out. He is not a Vietnam vet—too young. So he did not lead marines in battle when he was a lieutenant or captain. Majors are staff officers.
The great respect people have for Mattis is he was John Wayne leading his platoon, company, or battalion in combat. Exactly what combat was that?
Here is what Wikipedia said about his platoon/company-age service:
“As a lieutenant, Mattis was as a rifle and weapons (mortars and heavy machine guns) platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he was assigned as the Naval Academy Preparatory School's Battalion Officer, and commanded rifle and weapons companies in the 1st Marine Regiment, then served at Recruiting Station Portland, Oregon, as a major.”
Exciting stuff. But pardon me. What wars were those? He became a lieutenant in 1972, just when I got out of the Army. His first and second lieutenant years would have been 1972-4. What war happened then? None. So he may have “commanded” a rifle and weapons (mortars and heavy machine guns) platoon, but in a Gomer Pyle, USMC/Sgt. Bilko stateside base.
He spent part of his captain years as the sort of dorm mom for a bunch of Navy enlisted men who needed remedial high school before entering the U.S. Naval Academy, an institution which Mattis did not attend. He took ROTC at Central Washington University where he studied history. He commanded rifle and weapons companies in the 1st Marine Regiment. Wow! In what war?
That would be around 1975 to 1982. The Marines in Lebanon were killed in their sleep then. Mattis was not there. We invaded Grenada in 1983. He was not there. He was in charge of a Marine recruiting station in Portland, OR. I can’t wait for the movie of that.

The great intellectual from Central Washington University

Much is made of Mattis’s intellectualism. Oookay. He seems eager to understand, and have his subordinates understand, the local culture where he is stationed abroad. That sounds like a good idea, although marines are assigned to kill the locals if they trigger the rules of engagement. Marines are not nation builders or diplomats.
I search in vain for Mattis’s advanced degrees. Going to grad school after West Point was almost standard. I went to Harvard Business as did 22 of my classmates. Many more went to Harvard JFK School or Harvard Law School, also Stanford, etc. Petraeus got a masters and a PhD in international relations from Princeton. The only schools the intellectual Mad Dog attended after Central Washington U. were U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the National War College.
Mad Dog likes to read is the about the only evidence he is an intellectual. His lack of actual masters and doctorate degrees stands out among his four-star general peers. His undergraduate school is, I suspect, what one college guide calls “nonselective.”
If he is so intellectual why did he not attend an Ivy or a public ivy or a service academy or Stanford or Northwestern or MIT? The usual reason is they rejected him.

Why did he study history rather than a STEM subject? I say his academic career is extraordinarily UNdistinguished even among the “modern major generals” of the 1879 Pirates of Penzance era as chronicled by Gilbert and Sullivan:
I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news, (bothered for a rhyme)
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's;
I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard the music's din afore, (bothered for a rhyme)
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.
Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you ev'ry detail of Caractacus's uniform:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat",
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery –
In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy – (bothered for a rhyme)
You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.
For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
Mattis’s first combat command was in the 100-hour “war” in the Persian Gulf, as a lieutenant colonel battalion commander. Good job, but 100 hours? And the Marines were initially a decoy action in that Persian Gulf War like Patton’s fake PAs De Calais invasion unit in 1944. The marines did fight in Kuwait City, but 100 hours falls far short of the combat command time of officers in the world wars or Korea or Vietnam.
Mattis is often called a hero. Nowadays, who isn’t if they ever wore a uniform? Here are his medals:
Defense Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star (with Valor)
Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal (3)
All but one of these are good bureaucrat medals—given as hail-and-farewell gifts at the end of an assignment. Maybe this is a better-than-average collection of good bureaucrat medals. Who cares?

The only bravery medal there is the bronze star with a V. That ranks fourth out of the five bravery medals. Neither I nor other people on line could find Mattis’s bronze star citation. That is suspicious. Probably because he got it as a colonel or general, ranks at which he had no business being close enough to the enemy to be brave. Petraeus also got a Bronze with a V—when he was a general. Sounds like BS to me.
Do not call Mattis a hero until that bronze star with a V is explained. It sounds like an inflated award for being a brass hat tourist in a combat zone.
Here is an incident in the Wikipedia bio of Mattis:
“In December 2001, an airstrike carried out by a B-52 bomber inadvertently targeted a position held by U.S. special operations troops and Afghan militiamen in Urozgan Province. Numerous men were wounded in the incident, but Mattis repeatedly refused to dispatch helicopters from the nearby Camp Rhino to recover them, citing operational safety concerns. This prompted an Air Force helicopter to fly from Uzbekistan to ferry the men to the Marine Corps base where helicopters sat readily available but unauthorized to fly. Then-Captain Jason Amerine cited the delay caused by Mattis's refusal to order a rescue operation as having resulted in the deaths of several men. Amerine wrote, "Every element in Afghanistan tried to help us except the closest friendly unit, commanded by Mattis." This episode was used against Mattis after he was nominated for Defense Secretary in 2016.”
Here’s another giving details about the general who is so interested in the local culture.
“In May 2004, Mattis ordered the 3:00 a.m. bombing of a suspected enemy safe house near the Syrian border, which later came to be known as the Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre and resulted in the deaths of 42 civilians, including 11 women and 14 children. Mattis said it had taken him 30 seconds to decide whether to bomb the location. Describing the wedding as implausible, he said, "How many people go to the middle of the desert to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive." The Associated Press obtained video footage appearing to show a wedding party, but the occurrence of a wedding was disputed by military officials.”
Mattis sounds to me like a career military officer who managed to make 4 stars without the normal amount of advanced degrees, who had no combat command experience until the 100 hour war as a colonel. Combat experience as a general strikes me as not what Mattis’s admirers imagine.
I think Mattis’s career is a matter of demeanor triumphing over substance. Central casting might make Mattis a four-star general. I am surprised the Marines did.

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