- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
On my productive flights to and from Denver last week, in which I did much remedial reading, I also finally read the text of the speech Marine Gen. James Mattis delivered to the recent CNAS conference on the future of the U.S. military officer corps.
Mattis is always interesting. He’s one of the more thoughtful and learned generals I’ve come across, not just with academic credentials, but with genuine knowledge. (The former doesn’t always produce the latter, and actually seems to weaken the ability to write clearly.) There are some people who read this blog who disagree with his handling of the Haditha massacre, in which Marines knowingly shot women and children, but I think he did about as well as anyone could with that horrible mess.
His talk is worth reading for a number of reasons, such as his emphasis on the need for officers to be able to build trust and also be adaptable. But what particularly struck me about this speech was his emphatic call for generals, even those who are retired, to stay away from politics. He sees a need for a "strategic awakening" in our officer corps that includes:
"For our most senior officers, active and retired, awareness that nothing is more important than that they be apolitical in General Marshall’s mold. . . . We need a senior officer corps that returns to its apolitical roots, no matter how vexing it is to remain silent on issues once retired. We are military officers and we have no politics!"
Tom again: I see this as a shot across the bows of all the generals who have been endorsing presidential candidates of both parties in recent years, and even displayed like beauty contest contestants at the nominating conventions.
General Mattis speaks: Don’t think of vets as victims, do support U.S. involvement abroad and political compromise at homeThomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. | Best Defense |
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Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |