There is probably more uncertainty about both Trump’s policies and personnel heading into his inauguration than there has been for any president since FDR. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:
When it comes to foreign policy, the incoming Trump administration displays a split personality. This was readily apparent during the campaign, when, on the one hand, Donald Trump told us we were lied into the Iraq war, that NATO is “obsolete,” and that we have no business supporting regime change in Syria – and, on the other hand, he declared that he would crush ISIS, that it was a mistake to leave Iraq, and that we have to “rebuild our military,” as if we don’t already spend as much as the top ten defense spenders. It was a combination of “isolationist” rhetoric and belligerent bombast – surely an odd combination (albeit not one without precedent in our history, but we’ll get to that later).
We are seeing this ambiguity play out in the process of the Trump transition, as national security slots are slowly filled. Mike Flynn, a three-star general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, exemplifies this Janus-faced persona: in Flynn’s interview with Al Jazeera, interviewer Mehdi Hasan remarked “There’s a dove General Flynn and there’s a hawk General Flynn,” and this applies not only to Trump himself but also to his latest appointee, Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, chosen for Secretary of Defense.
A retired four-star Marine Corps general, former commander of CENTCOM, Mattis commanded the Marines during the invasion of Iraq, and also served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (2007-09). Mattis is idolized by many and feared by some. The Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble, a staunch anti-interventionist, sees him as a restraining influence on our new commander-in-chief: “[W]ithin the Trump administration he could be a critical voice of caution with respect to the wisdom or folly of the use of force going forward.” Preble cites Mattis as saying:
“As I look back over these wars since World War II – Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, dare I say Afghanistan, stick Somalia in there somewhere, other expeditions – when America goes to war with murky political end states, then you end up in a situation where you are trying to do something right, but you’re not sure if it’s the right thing. And suddenly you end up with a situation where the American people say ‘what are we doing here?’ And ‘what kind of people are we that we do this sort of thing?’
“If you don’t know what it is that you’re going to achieve, then don’t be surprised that eventually you’ve wasted treasure, lives, and the moral authority of the United States.”
According to several reports, Gen.Mattis’s favorite reprise to those who advocate some form of military intervention is “And then what?”
To continue reading: ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis and the Spirit of Trumpism