A retired US Army Colonel who served in both the Obama and Trump administrations has slammed outgoing Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, claiming that the retired Marine commander was a “deeply flawed defense secretary.”
Retired Colonel Bob Wilson, a former National Security Council member in the Obama and Trump administrations, insinuated that Mattis was highly overrated in the praise he was given for the job he did.
Publishing a perspective piece in The Washington Post, Wilson criticized Mattis’s stances on several issues, ranging from US/Mexico border operations to his Afghanistan strategy, as well as his comments regarding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The recent fawning evaluations are hard to square with his record,” Wilson wrote of the Secretary of Defense.
Wilson claimed that Mattis was seen as a near-mythical figure in light of his departure, something that seemed odd for an individual he felt did not accomplish much.
“Jim Mattis’s resignation from the Trump administration, and his subsequent accelerated dismissal, prompted responses that bordered on the hagiographic,” he wrote. “Tellingly, most of the anecdotes in these articles and columns emphasized his career up to the point when Mattis walked into the Pentagon as defense secretary, rather than his performance in that role- which was decidedly lackluster.”
On the case of the Khashoggi murder, Wilson claimed that Mattis was wrong to say there was “no smoking gun” mere days before CIA Directior Gina Haspel briefed Congress on evidence that Saudia Arabian government officials were complicit in his killing. It is unknown, however, if Mattis actually knew or was simply keeping information classified until it could be released through proper procedure.
Speaking of the placement of troops along the US/Mexico Border, Wilson criticized Mattis’s words to a soldier who asked what the “short and the long-term plans” of the operation were.
“Short term right now, you get the obstacles in so the Border patrolmen can do what they gotta do,” Mattis is quoted as saying. “Longer term, it’s somewhat to be determined. We’ll just have to see what the situation develops in, and then we’ll get you an answer.”
Wilson was wholly unsatisfied with this statement, claiming that, “When an opportunity to talk about the military’s role there to service members on the ground -and the U.S. public-Mattis struggled.”
Video of a soldier asking Mattis about their mission at the border:
To be sure, Mattis did not devise this misguided mission, which politicized the armed services,” Wilson wrote. “But if Mattis was not going to resign over this mission, he owed more to the men and women on the ground there than the muddled non-rationale he provided.”
While sparing Mattis no quarter in his opinion piece, Wilson did seem to hold a candle for former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, praising the Obama-era SecDef for opening combat roles to women.
“Mattis has few defense-policy achievements to point to, Wilson wrote. “His immediate predecessor, Ashton B. Carter, implemented one of the most far-reaching military personnel policy changes of the past several decades: the opening of all military combat duty positions to women. This change also provided a pathway for women to positions of leadership within the uniformed services as well, because assignment to combat units is a prerequisite for many jobs. The shift will shape the military in profound ways in the decades ahead.”
Wilson noted that Mattis did not heap praise on the idea of gender integration in combat roles, referring to the change as “a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small that we have no data on it.”
To this day, there is no measurable good to have come from the complete gender integration of the armed forces, with few female volunteers and little to no data to be evaluated in a short timeline.
In Wilson’s closing, Mattis appears to have drawn considerable ire from him, who respected the man as a combat commander but had little in the way of nice things to say about him in his current role.
“While Mattis had admirable qualities as a military leader, that experience did not translate into meaningful accomplishments as defense secretary,” Wilson wrote. “And the idea that things on the national security front would have been much worse without him is unprovably counterfactual. They are pretty bad now, and Mattis deserves some of the blame.”
Despite these criticisms, Jim Mattis has secured himself a notable place in history, and currently enough of a following to pursue a political career if he so chooses. It is unknown, however, if in one hundred years, anyone will remember the name Bob Wilson.
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