- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is currently announcing the appointment of Gen. James Mattis to replace Gen. David Petraeus as commander of U.S. Central Command. Slate‘s John Dickerson has more on the 41-year Marine officer’s background. Of course, the CENTCOM job became available after Petraeus was moved to Afghanistan to take over for Gen. Stan McChrystal after some ill-advised comments in a Rolling Stone magazine profile. So it’s interesting that Petraeus’ replacement is, himself, known as something of a loose cannon. Here he is in 2005:
"Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot," Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. "It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.
"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil," Mattis said. "You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
Gates was asked about those comments at today’s press conference and said "there was the appropriate action at the time" and that "the lesson was learned.” All the same, I suspect that part of the Pentagon’s new post-McChrystal media strategy will be to be to keep Mattis far away from any live microphones.