General Mattis: Realizing the Slogan of “Make America Great Again” in Military Dimension?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Abbas Kardan

US President-elect Donald Trump cautiously declared his decision to appoint four-star retired United States Marine Corps General James Mattis as the new secretary of defense in early December. It was a week later that he officially introduced Mattis as his pick for the United States Department of Defense.

That fact that Trump used the nickname of Mattis (Mad Dog) to introduce his secretary of defense by saying, “We are going to appoint 'Mad Dog' Mattis as our secretary of defense,” was indicative of the fact that the new US president expects this retired general to take bold measures in military encounters. The question is who will be the target of these bold measures? In view of Trump's remarks during his election campaigning, many analysts have answered this question by pointing the finger at Iran and the ISIS Takfiri group.

Of course, analysts have noted that Trump will take hardline positions in the face of Iran, but his viewpoints up to the present time have not attested to this. Even positions adopted by General Mattis show that although he considers Iran as a big threat, he simply stresses the need for the United States to bolster military readiness with regard to It and this was the main sticking point between Mattis and President Barack Obama. From another viewpoint, since Trump's way of thinking is economic-oriented and profit-based, one can assume that through his anti-Iran rhetoric, Trump is perhaps trying to get more concessions in the field of economy.

At the same time, there are prominent analysts, who have noted that due to the possible cooperation between the United States and Russia in the fight against ISIS, relations between Iran and the United States may also improve through mediation by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another reason mentioned in this regard was Trump's remarks about accepting the incumbent government in Syria, which can benefit the Axis of Resistance. From the viewpoint of Trump, regime change in Syria will only lead to more instability in the Middle East and although he does not see Syrian President Bashar Assad as a good partner, Trump maintains that bolstering his government is the best way to uproot terrorism as the main cause behind the ongoing civil war in Syria. Trump has said in this regard, “Our current strategy of nation building and regime change is a proven absolute failure…. We have created a vacuum that allows terrorism to grow and thrive.

On the other hand, Trump had taken a direct aim at ISIS during his election campaigning by declaring annihilation of this group as a priority for his foreign policy. Of course, the goal he pursues through this measure, as admitted by him, is also of an economic nature and is to dominate the oil wells that are now being controlled by ISIS. From a theoretical viewpoint, Trump, on the one hand, is following the same imperialistic ideas of the past centuries (which are considered foolish in the 21st century) and is looking for spoils of war, while on the other hand, is trying to help American oil companies once again dominate the oil wells in the region. The choice of Rex Tillerson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation, as the secretary of state was another step taken to confirm this issue.

Trump had promised that the annihilation of ISIS would be his first priority after winning the presidential election, noting that he would take advantage of all military, financial and cyber capacities for this purpose. He added, “All actions should be oriented around this goal, and any country which shares this goal will be our ally…. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East … and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.

Referring to the Iraqi war in 2003, Trump noted, “We go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then … what happens is we get nothing.” Then explaining about his goal to control the Iraq oil, Trump said, “You’re not stealing anything. We’re reimbursing ourselves … at a minimum, and I say more. We’re taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves.

In view of the above facts, the appointment of General Mattis as the new US secretary of defense cannot be taken as a sign of military confrontation with Iran, because such a confrontation would need more than a four-star general (even of the “mad” type) at the helm of the US Department of Defense. Such a confrontation would need a full team of anti-Iran figures, who would follow a special ideology, and would be able to forge a consensus among the American people and also within international community in this regard. Such a consensus existed under the government of the former US president, George W. Bush, and among conservative figures of his administration, but getting entangled in Afghanistan and later on, in Iraq, prevented them from paying attention to Iran.

On the other hand, it is imaginable that the main goal of choosing General Mattis for this post has been to eradicate ISIS. In order to fight such a group as ISIS, it would suffice to take advantage of an experienced (and of course “mad”) person like General Mattis, who has the successful fight against Iraqi insurgents and routing them on his track records. In fact, the eradication of ISIS can help Trump's election slogan of “Make America Great Again” be realized at a minimal level and in military dimension. Afterwards, realization of this goal, along with its economic outcomes, would help take the American army out of the state of passivity, which it has been experiencing during recent years, and this is one of the main goals pursued by General Mattis.

* Photo Credit: Independent Journal Review
*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.