Mattis, 66, retired as the chief of U.S. Central Command in spring 2013 after serving more than four decades in the Marine Corps. He is known as one of the most influential military leaders of his generation, serving as a strategic thinker while occasionally drawing rebukes for his aggressive talk. Since retiring, he has served as a consultant and as a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University.
Like Trump, Mattis favors a tougher stance against U.S. adversaries abroad, especially Iran. The general, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in April, said that while security discussions often focus on terrorist groups such as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, the Iranian regime is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”
Because current law mandates — in the name of maintaining civilian control of the military — that defense secretaries be at least seven years’ removed from active duty, Congress will have to pass a special waiver for Mattis. George C. Marshall, in the aftermath of the Second World War, is the only American general officer to have been previously granted such an exemption.
The appointment is likely to attract support on the right, hungry for a more muscular approach to combating America’s enemies; Victor Davis Hanson has written that Mattis would be a “unique secretary of defense.”
He is apolitical, a widely read Jacksonian, blunt, and combative; he has a wealth of experience, especially in the Middle East, and is highly respected abroad and at home. It is no exaggeration that he is acknowledged as America’s most admired retired soldier.
That said, congressional Democrats may seek to rally in opposition to Mattis’s previously stated views on the wisdom — or lack thereof — of the Obama administration’s policy on women in combat. Heather Mac Donald, has praised Mattis for “bring[ing] something to the position that no civilian possesses: experience with the exigencies of battle.”
Last December, Mattis was the only member of a security panel at the Hoover Institution who was willing to question the Pentagon’s current position on co-ed fighting units, particularly in the Marines. . . .
Despite his healthy repudiation of political correctness, [Trump] may be clueless enough about the pernicious influence of gender politics that he would be influenced by his daughter, say, to think that co-ed fighting units are a fine idea. Mattis’s awareness of the incompatibility between military preparedness and feminist propaganda is a strong count in his favor.