Best quotes about the warrior mentality from the patron saint himself

Somewhat of a cult favorite in American military culture, retired Marine General James Mattis is beloved by more than just the US Marines. Popular with service members of all branches as well as many civilians and politicians, the man known as “Chaos” is notable for being a unique juxtaposition of brains, brawn and blunt force trauma of physical, verbal and strategic varieties.

The veteran of numerous engagements over his 44-year stint in the USMC, Mattis places personal emphasis on efficiency, cross-discipline education, philosophy and calculated (through brutal) violence when the situation calls for it.

Mattis has made headlines in recent memory largely in part to his being selected as the new Secretary of Defense by president-elect Donald Trump, resulting in the surfacing of many quotes by the seasoned combat commander.

In what could easily be called one of the best public job interviews to date, Mattis blew away the Senate Armed Services Committee on live television as they grilled him for the position, securing both their approval and the waiver he needed to get the job (with only three people opposing his taking the position).

Here are some good quotes from Mattis, uttered during his military career, his time as a civilian and during his interview with the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday:

“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f— with me, I’ll kill you all.”

Said during the wrapping up of the US invasion of Iraq, Mattis gave a stern warning to local tribal leaders that they would seriously regret causing trouble for his 1st Marine Division.

“Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it’s a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents… Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave.”

Following a survey that showed only 40 percent of Marines would report civilian abuse to higher command, Mattis stepped up in 2007 to remind his warriors that even in an environment where *anyone* could be the enemy, abuse, resentment and disrespect of the locals would only hinder US efforts.

“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”

Mattis is beloved for being a straight-shooter: even the Israelis and Arab nations they are in conflict with came to that consensus when he was Chief of Central Command. A man with a penchant to tell it like it is with little regard for political correctness, it has earned him as much respect as it has controversy.

“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a**holes in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”

There is some of that controversy we were talking about. To be absolutely fair, it is pretty mild when you put it into context- Mattis said this back in 2006 in an effort to improve the morale of his Marines, who up until then had been exhausted from fighting off a brutal insurgency. Needless to say, civilian critics of the general did not take it well.

“Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

During his SecDef job interview before the SASC, Mattis made it pretty clear that the social issues focused on by previous Defense Secretaries -such as homosexuals serving in the military or women on the front lines- amount to little more than a non-issue for a man whose sole focus is to win wars. While he has expressed lack of favor for allowing women in combat roles, he denied having an agenda to reverse the policy without good reason.

“I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military,” he told a New York senator who insisted on badgering him on the issue. “In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000-person division. …I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”

In short, it seems Mattis cares not about your sexual orientation, color, creed or gender- those are civilian problems for civilians to concern themselves over. The only thing that matters is that you fight and win.

“Your enemy always moves against your perceived weakness.”

A cunning adversary always preys on the weakness of their foe, be it in direct combat or on a political and strategic level. Being a master of strategy, Mattis has an innate understanding of such global-scale games of chess.

“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”

The consummate professional, Mattis understands the Rommel-esque philosophy of “war without hate.” In fact, being an avid reader, it is a safe bet that he’s studied the Afrika Korps general of World War II in-depth. Mattis has a job to do, be it in the Pentagon or in the lead vehicle going into Fallujah. If you end up on the business end of his troops, it is nothing personal.

“The most important 6 inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Despite his (hated) moniker of “Mad Dog”, Mattis is a thinking man’s warrior, leading to his other nickname of “Warrior Monk (and you know, the fact that he never married).” A man of history, Mattis uses the past to see the future and encouraged his Marines to utilize history and intelligence over violence when possible. In 2003, he reminded his Marines that their actions would determine the outcome of the war, good or bad. “You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force,” he said. “Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

Despite his bookwormish nature, Mattis is a warrior above all. From invasion to occupation, he made it clear that his Marines should not become complacent under any circumstances while still maintaining behavior befitting of ambassadors from the United States. There is nothing deadlier than a smart man who can maintain professionalism while exercising measured and concentrated violence.

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

Last but not least, Mattis has the mindset of a winner. He does not accept the idea of defeat and expected the same of his Marines (and soon, the whole military) that he expects from himself. Warfare is not one-dimensional, it is a multi-spectrum affair that involves more than just tactics and brute strength to master. Mattis has pushed himself in every arena of personal development to be a better commander, a practice we can all take away from.

In conclusion, Mattis is a superb (and highly quotable) leader who is more or less guaranteed to succeed wherever he decides to set down his briefcase/assault pack. May the legendary general continue to lead from the front and have the best of luck in his future endeavors.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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