Best Defense

Mattis, McMaster, and — Trump?

What does this mean? You tell me.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (L) shakes hands with British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on February 15, 2017. 
NATO allies meet new US Defence Secretary James Mattis for the first time in Brussels seeking reassurance over President Donald Trump's commitment but bracing for military spending demands. / AFP / POOL / Virginia Mayo        (Photo credit should read VIRGINIA MAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (L) shakes hands with British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on February 15, 2017. NATO allies meet new US Defence Secretary James Mattis for the first time in Brussels seeking reassurance over President Donald Trump's commitment but bracing for military spending demands. / AFP / POOL / Virginia Mayo (Photo credit should read VIRGINIA MAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

If you asked anyone who paid attention to list the 10 leading thinkers in the U.S. military of the early 21st century, Marine Gen. James Mattis and Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster would have made the list. There might be some argument — who goes above J.D. Alford, who below David Petraeus — but little question about their being on it.

And if you listed the most intellectual presidents of recent years, Barack Obama would be among them. You might dislike him (and some of the readers of the blog did) and you might have problems with his foreign policy (as many of the readers did, as did I), but you couldn’t question that he was a smart guy who sought to inform himself through conversation and reading.

But Donald Trump? I have the impression that he is a ADD-ish, one of those guys who barely reads but is very good at retaining information gained in conversation. Whatever he is, he isn’t an intellectual, and he would I think happily agree with that finding.

But Obama never brought McMaster on board. And his people actually made Mattis walk the plank when Mattis commanded Central Command.

What does this mean? You tell me.

Photo credits: VIRGINIA MAYO/AFP/Getty Images, NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images, CHIP SOMODEVILLA/Getty Images

 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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