Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has appointed the new head of Central Command: Four star general, Joint Forces Command chief, and notoriously blunt-spoken Marine James Mattis. He will replace General David Petraeus at CENTCOM, which oversees all U.S. military operations in the Middle East and South Asia. Mattis is a memorable personality, to say the least. His tough demeanor and penchant for colorful language earned him a brief portrayal in Generation Kill, the HBO miniseries drama about the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Defense writers are applauding the decision.
- 'Mattis is Terrific' Foreign Policy's Tom Ricks, who wrote extensively on Mattis's work in Iraq for his two books on the war, writes, "This is the best news I have heard in a long time. Just when I think Gates has lost his touch, he revives my faith by doing something like this. Readers of this blog will know that I think Mattis is terrific."
- Mattis and Petraeus Team Up Again The New Atlantcist's James Joyner writes, "Congratulations to General Mattis on being selected for such a prestigious post. He faces a daunting, if not insurmountable job. But it's hard to imagine a better team than Mattis and Petraeus -- the 2009 recipient of the same award."
- 'Our Grant and Sherman' National Review's Victor Davis Hanson gushes, "Some of us had hoped three weeks ago that a leader like General Mattis might become Centcom commander. The recent announcement that Secretary Gates, wisely, has just done that could not come at a better time. Mattis is a proven battlefield commander, a sophisticated student of history, and unshakeable in his nerve and purpose. We now have, with General Petraeus as ground commander, our two most gifted senior combat generals in charge of Afghanistan, who have worked well together and who were brilliant in Iraq in its darkest hours."
- Unconventional Thinker Will Change CENTCOM Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes, "Mattis is the kind of guy who rabidly gnarls through the gristle of pretty much every military shibboleth. He was into counterinsurgency before it was dogma. At a time of tech-driven constant communication, he thinks the military should be switching its radios off. Want to ensure that all levels of the force are networked together? Mattis wants a hierarchical organization like the military to embrace decentralization. And now, pending Senate confirmation, this guy is going to be running the most important command the military has."
- 'Truly Impressive' Defense Tech's Greg Grant writes, "This is a great move. Defense Tech readers will know we are big fans of the blunt speaking Mattis. As Gates said today, Mattis' intellect and knowledge are truly impressive; he selected Mattis to lead the 'red team' that war gamed scenarios that informed the recent QDR."
- A Unique Personality Slate's John Dickerson collects key anecdotes: "Mattis is known for his ferocity and his risk-taking--which included regularly riding out into combat with his jump platoon, despite his high rank. (That's something he'll probably have to give up now.) He is also known for his intellect. He is well-read in history and military strategy but has also studied innovation and adaptation techniques. Mattis is also known for his mouth. He is a jokester in person and also blunt. In the spring of 2003, in the first of his meetings with recently defeated Iraqi military leaders he famously said: 'I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I'll kill you all."'"