|Commander of United States Central Command|
August 11, 2010 – March 22, 2013
|Preceded by||John R. Allen (acting)|
|Succeeded by||Lloyd Austin|
|Commander of the United States Joint Forces Command|
November 9, 2007 – August 11, 2010
George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Lance L. Smith|
|Succeeded by||Keith Huber (acting)|
|Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation|
November 9, 2007 – September 8, 2009
|Preceded by||Lance Smith|
|Succeeded by||Stéphane Abrial|
September 8, 1950|
Pullman, Washington, U.S.
|Alma mater||Central Washington University (BA)|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1969–2013|
Mattis is known for implementing the COIN strategy. Before President Obama appointed him to replace General Petraeus on August 11, 2010, he previously commanded United States Joint Forces Command from November 9, 2007 to August 2010 and served concurrently as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from November 9, 2007 to September 8, 2009. Prior to that, he commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War.
Early life and education
He initially enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1969. He later earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Central Washington University and was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps on January 1, 1972. During his service years, Mattis was considered to be an intellectual among the upper ranks, with his personal library numbering more than 7,000 volumes. Major General Robert H. Scales, Retired, Ph.D., described him as "... one of the most urbane and polished men I have known." Reinforcing this intellectual persona was the fact he carried his own personal copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius throughout his deployments.
As a lieutenant, Mattis served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he was assigned as the Naval Academy Preparatory School's Battalion Officer (composed of Enlisted Midshipman Candidates and its Company Officers and Enlisted Staff), commanded Rifle and Weapons Companies in the 1st Marine Regiment, then Recruiting Station Portland, Oregon, as a major.
Persian Gulf War
During the initial planning for the War in Afghanistan, Mattis led Task Force 58 in operations in the southern part of the country, becoming the first Marine Corps officer to ever command a Naval Task Force in combat.
While serving in Afghanistan as a brigadier general, he was known as an officer who engaged his men with "real leadership". A young Marine officer named Nathaniel Fick cited an example of that leadership when he witnessed Mattis in a fighting hole talking with a sergeant and a lance corporal: "No one would have questioned Mattis if he'd slept eight hours each night in a private room, to be woken each morning by an aide who ironed his uniforms and heated his MREs. But there he was, in the middle of a freezing night, out on the lines with his Marines."
Mattis played key roles in combat operations in Fallujah, including negotiation with the insurgent command inside the city during Operation Vigilant Resolve in April 2004, as well as participation in planning of the subsequent Operation Phantom Fury in November. In May 2004, Mattis ordered the 3 a.m. bombing of a suspected enemy safe house near the Syrian border, which later came to be known as the Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre, and which resulted in the locally-reported deaths of 42 civilian men, women and children who were attending a wedding celebration. Mattis stated that it had taken him 30 seconds to deliberate on bombing the location.
Following a U.S. Department of Defense survey that showed only 55% of American soldiers and 40% of U.S. Marines would report a colleague for abusing civilians, Mattis told U.S. Marines in May 2007 that "Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it's a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents." Reflecting an understanding of the need for restraint in war as key to defeating an insurgency, he added that "Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave."
Mattis popularized the 1st Marine Division's motto "no better friend, no worse enemy", a paraphrase of the famous self-made epitaph for the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, in his open letter to all men within the division for their return to Iraq. This phrase later became widely publicized during the investigation into the conduct of Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, a platoon commander serving under Mattis.
As his division prepared to ship out, Mattis called in experts in Arab culture to lead cultural sensitivity classes. He constantly toured the battlefield to tell stories of Marines who were able to show discretion and cultural sensitivity in moments of high pressure. He encouraged his men to grow mustaches to look more like the people they were working with.
He also was noted for a willingness to remove senior leaders under his command at a time when the U.S. military seemed unable or unwilling to relieve under-performing or incompetent officers. During the division's push to Baghdad, Mattis relieved Colonel Joe D. Dowdy, regimental commander of Regimental Combat Team-1, and it was such a rare occurrence in the modern military that it made the front page of newspapers. Despite this, Mattis declined to comment on the matter publicly other than to say that the practice of officer relief remains alive, or at least "We are doing it in the Marines." Later interviews of Dowdy's officers and men revealed that "the colonel was doomed partly by an age-old wartime tension: Men versus mission—in which he favored his men" while Mattis insisted on execution of the mission to seize Baghdad swiftly.
Combat Development Command
After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking ad libitum at a forum in San Diego, he said "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling." Mattis's remarks sparked controversy and General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement suggesting that Mattis should have chosen his words more carefully, but would not be disciplined.
U.S. Joint Forces Command
The Pentagon announced on May 31, 2006 that Lieutenant General Mattis was chosen to take command of I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. On September 11, 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that President George W. Bush had nominated Mattis for appointment to the rank of general to command U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. NATO agreed to appoint Mattis as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. On September 28, 2007, the United States Senate confirmed Mattis's nomination, and he relinquished command of I MEF on November 5, 2007 to Lieutenant General Samuel Helland.
Mattis was promoted to four-star general and took control of JFCOM/SACT on November 9, 2007. He transferred the job of SACT to French General Stéphane Abrial on September 9, 2009, but continued in command of JFCOM.
U.S. Central Command
In early 2010, Mattis was reported to be on the list of U.S. Marine generals being considered for selection to replace James T. Conway as the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. In July, he was recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for nomination to replace David Petraeus as commander of United States Central Command, and formally nominated by President Barack Obama on July 21.
His confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee marked the first time Marines had held billets as commander and deputy commander of a Unified Combatant Command. He took command at a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base on August 11.
As head of Central Command, Mattis oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was responsible for a region that includes Syria, Iran, and Yemen. The Obama administration did not place much trust in Mattis, because he was perceived to be too eager for a military confrontation with Iran.
He retired from the Marine Corps on May 22, 2013.
Since retirement from the military, Mattis has worked for FWA Consultants and also serves as a member of the General Dynamics Board of Directors. In August 2013, he became an Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and has since been named as their Davies Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow.
In mid-2012, a Department of Defense official evaluating Theranos' blood-testing technology for military initiated a formal inquiry with the Food and Drug Administration about the company's intent to distribute its tests without FDA clearance. In August 2012, via email, Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of Theranos asked Mattis, who had expressed interest in testing Theranos' technology in combat areas, to help. Within hours, Mattis forwarded his email exchange with Holmes to military officials, asking "how do we overcome this new obstacle." Since 2013, Mattis has been a board member of the controversial Silicon Valley biotech company, whose corporate governance practices have been criticized. In a July 2013 letter from the Department of Defense approving his possible employment by Theranos, Mattis was given permission with conditions. He was cautioned to do so only if he did not represent Theranos with regards to the blood testing device and its potential acquisition by the Departments of the Navy or Defense. According to the Wall Street Journal, Theranos is under criminal investigation.
In December 2015, Mattis joined the advisory board of Spirit of America - a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides assistance to support the safety and success of American troops and the local people they seek to help.
Secretary of Defense
On November 20, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump said that he was considering Mattis for United States Secretary of Defense. Trump met with Mattis for a little over one hour in Bedminster, New Jersey. He later stated on Twitter, "General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who is being considered for Secretary of Defense, was very impressive yesterday. A true General's General!"
On December 1, 2016, it was announced at a rally in Cincinnati that Mattis would be nominated for Secretary of Defense by President-elect Donald Trump. As Mattis retired from the military in 2013, his nomination will require a waiver of the National Security Act of 1947, which requires a seven-year wait period before retired military personnel can assume the role of Secretary of Defense. Mattis would be the second Secretary of Defense to receive such a waiver, following George Marshall.
Israeli-Palestinian peace process
Mattis supports a two-state solution model for Israel-Palestinian peace. He says the current situation in Israel is “unsustainable” and argues that the settlements harm prospects for peace and could theoretically lead to an apartheid-like situation in the West Bank. In particular, he believes the lack of a two-state solution is upsetting to the Arab allies of America, which weakens US esteem amongst its Arab allies. Mattis strongly supports John Kerry on the Middle East peace process, praising Kerry for being "wisely focused like a laser-beam" towards a two-state solution.
Iran and Arab allies
Mattis believes that Iran is the principal threat to the stability of the Middle East, ahead of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Mattis says: "I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief. Iran is not an enemy of ISIS. They have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that ISIS creates." On the Iran nuclear deal, although he sees it as a poor agreement, he believes there is now no way to tear it up, saying: "We are just going to have to recognize that we have an imperfect arms control agreement. Second, that what we achieved is a nuclear pause, not a nuclear halt". Mattis argues that the nuclear inspections may fail to prevent Iran from seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but that "[i]f nothing else at least we will have better targeting data if it comes to a fight in the future." Additionally, he criticizes President Barack Obama for being naive about Iranian intentions and Congress for being “pretty much absent” on last year’s nuclear deal. Mattis' views on Iran were speculated to have been the reason he was fired by President Obama.
Mattis praises the friendship of regional US allies such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. He has criticized Barack Obama and Donald Trump for their view of seeing allies as 'free-loading', saying: "For a sitting U.S. president to see our allies as freeloaders is nuts." He has cited the importance of the United Arab Emirates and Jordan as countries that wanted to help, for example, in filling in the gaps in Afghanistan. He has criticized current defense strategy as giving “the perception we’re pulling back” from US allies. He stresses the need for the US to bolster its ties with allied intelligence agencies, particularly the intelligence agencies of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In 2012, Mattis argued for providing weapons to Syrian rebels, as a way to fight back against Iranian proxies in Syria.
Speaking at a conference sponsored by The Heritage Foundation in Washington in 2015 Mattis stated that he believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin's intent is "to break NATO apart." Mattis has also spoken out against (what he believed to be) Russia’s expansionist or bellicose policies in Syria, Ukraine and the Baltic states. Mattis also believes that Donald Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Russia are ill informed.
Mattis is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. Mattis is also noted for his intellectualism and interest in the study of military history and world history, with a personal library that once included over 7,000 volumes, and a penchant for publishing required reading lists for Marines under his command. Mattis is a life-long bachelor, who has never been married and has no children. He is nicknamed "The Warrior Monk" because of his bachelor life, and the fact he devoted his life to studying and fighting war. He is known for the intellectual rigor he puts on his Marines and his belief in risk-management, and in the need for troops under his command to read widely about the cultural norms and history of the area they are sent to, as he himself does. Before deploying to Iraq, Mattis ensured his troops were given courses on Arab culture and cultural sensitivity classes.
Mattis's decorations, awards, and badges include:
Mattis's civilian awards include:
- 2009 – Center for National Policy's Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award
- 2010 – Atlantic Council's Distinguished Military Leadership Award.
- 2013 – World Affairs Council of Greater Hampton Roads "Ryan C. Crocker Global Citizen of the Year" Award
- 2014 – Marine Corps University Foundation Semper Fidelis Award
- 2014 – Washington College honorary doctor of laws degree
In popular culture
- Mattis's quote "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." was paid homage in the Meet the Sniper video for Team Fortress 2. The quote became "Be polite, be efficient, have a plan to kill everyone you meet."
- Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond: The U.S. Marine Corps in the Second Iraq War. p. 5. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-717-4
- Kovach, Gretel C. (January 19, 2013). "Just don't call him Mad Dog". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- Boot, Max (March 2006). "The Corps should look to its small-wars past". Armed Forces Journal. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
- Garamone, Jim (August 11, 2010). "Gates: Mattis brings experience, continuity to Central Command". American Forces Press Service. Headquarters Marine Corps. Retrieved August 18, 2010.
- Lamothe, Dan (December 1, 2016). "Trump picks retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
- "Nominations before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Second Session, 111th Congress" (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- "Rose Marie Proulx Ames Obituary". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
- Kraemer, Kristin M. (November 22, 2016). "Gen. Mattis, Trump's possible defense chief, fulfills Benton County jury duty". Tri-City Herald.
- Mattis, James (September 25, 2013). General James Mattis, "In the Midst of the Storm: A US Commander's View of the Changing Middle East". Dartmouth College. Event occurs at 80:10. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
- "Official website". United States Joint Forces Command.
- Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond. pp. 4–5. ISBN 9781591147176. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- Ricks, Thomas E. (August 1, 2006). "Fiasco". Armed Forces Journal. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- Thomas E. Ricks (2012). The Generals : American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin Press. p. 405. ISBN 9781594204043.
- Thomas E. Ricks (2006). Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin Press. p. 313.
- West, Bing (2008). The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq. New York, NY: Random House. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-4000-6701-5.
- Perry, Tony (May 17, 2007). "General Urges Marines To Add A Friendly Wave To Their Arsenal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- Durant, Will (2001). Heroes of History : A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern Age. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 131. ISBN 0-7432-2910-X.
- "Top 10 Stories of 2005: Pantano, roads, Olchowski are 10-7". Star News Online. December 28, 2005. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
- Quinn-Judge, Paul (February 28, 2005). "Did He Go Too Far?". Time. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
- Phillips, Stone (April 26, 2005). "Marine charged with murders of Iraqis: Lieutenant claims self-defense in shooting of detainees". MSNBC. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
- Jeff Schogol (November 16, 2005). "Marine acquitted in Iraqi shootings will publish a book". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
- Walker, Mark (July 1, 2006). "Pantano case has parallels to Hamdania incident". North County Times. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
- Charen, Mona (February 25, 2005). "Is the Marine Corps P.C.?". townhall.com. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
- A Marine General at War By John Dickerson, Slate, 04/2010
- Cooper, Christopher (April 5, 2004). "How a Marine Lost His Command In Race to Baghdad". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- Guardiano, John R. (February 11, 2005). "Breaking the Warrior Code". The American Spectator.
- Lowe, Christian (June 12, 2006). "Popular commander to lead I MEF". Marine Corps Times. p. 24.
- "French general assumes command of Allied Command Transformation". Allied Command Transformation Public Affairs Office. USS George Washington (CVN-73): NATO. September 18, 2009. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
- Gearan, Anne (June 22, 2010). "Gates announces nomination of Amos for CMC". Marine Corps Times. Associated Press. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Cavallaro, Gina (July 8, 2010). "Pentagon picks Mattis to take over CENTCOM". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- "Obama backs Mattis nomination for CENTCOM". Marine Corps Times. July 22, 2010. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- "Petraeus' replacement at Central Command confirmed". The Fayetteville Observer. Associated Press. August 6, 2010. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- "Mattis takes over Central Command, vows to work with Mideast allies in Afghanistan, Iraq". Fox News. Associated Press. August 11, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- Mitchell, Robbyn (August 12, 2010). "Mattis takes over as CentCom chief". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- "Mattis assumes command of CENTCOM". U.S. Central Command. August 11, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- "Mattis interview: Syria would fall without Iran's help". USA Today. April 12, 2013.
- Panetta, Leon. Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace (Kindle ed.). Penguin Group. pp. Kindle Locations 6368–6370.
- "About General James Mattis". FWA Consultants. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- "General Jim Mattis, Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow". Hoover Institute. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- "General Jim Mattis". Hoover Institution. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- Carolyn Y. Johnson (2 December 2015). "E-mails reveal concerns about Theranos's FDA compliance date back years". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
- "A singular board at Theranos". Fortune. June 12, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
- Weaver, Christopher; Carreyrou, John; Siconolfi, Michael (2016-04-18). "Theranos Is Subject of Criminal Probe by U.S.". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
- Mattis, James. "Why I'm Joining Spirit of America". Spirit of America. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- Mattis, Jim; Schake, Kori, eds. (August 2016). Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution. ISBN 9780817919344. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
- Phil Mattingly (20 November 2016). "Trump: 'Mad Dog' Mattis is a 'very impressive' candidate for defense secretary". CNN. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
- Donald J. Trump (11 November 2016). "Donal Trump Tweets he is considering "Mad Dog" Mattis for Secretary of Defense". Twitter. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
- Lamothe, Dan. "Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
- Lamothe, Dan (1 December 2016). "Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
- Trump’s top Pentagon pick said settlements were creating ‘apartheid’ BY ERIC CORTELLESSA November 20, 2016, 7:51 am, Times of Israel
- Ex-US general: We pay a price for backing Israel BY LAZAR BERMAN July 25, 2013, 10:11 pm, Times of Israel
- McIntyre, Jamie (April 22, 2016). "Mattis: Iran is the biggest threat to Mideast peace". Washington Examiner. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
- Shane III, Leo (April 22, 2016). "General Mattis wants Iran to be a top focus for the next president (whoever it is)". Military Times. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
- Halper, Daniel. "Obama Fires Top General Without Even a Phone Call". Weekly Standard. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
- Seck, Hope Hodge (April 22, 2016). "Mattis: 'I Don't Understand' Speculation about Presidential Run". military.com. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- Grady, John (May 14, 2015). "Mattis: U.S. Suffering 'Strategic Atrophy'". USNI News. U.S. Naval Institute. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- Muñoz, Carlo (April 22, 2016). "James Mattis, retired Marine general, says Iran nuclear deal 'fell short'". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- Ackerman, Spencer (March 6, 2012). "Military's Mideast Chief Sounds Ready to Aid Syria's Rebels". Wired. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- General stating Russian aggression in Ukraine "much more severe" than U.S. treats it may become Defense Secretary, UNIAN (19 November 2016)
- James Mattis, Outspoken Retired Marine, Is Trump’s Choice as Defense Secretary, The New York Times (1 December 2016)
- "LtGen James Mattis' Reading List". Small Wars Journal. June 5, 2007.
- Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, p. 317
- How a Marine Lost His Command In Race to Baghdad
- North, Oliver (July 9, 2010). "Gen. Mattis: The Warrior Monk". Fox News Insider. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- "Convocation Will Honor Marine General James Mattis". Washington College. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- "Character Bio". HBO. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
Lance L. Smith
|Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation
| Succeeded by|
|Commander of United States Joint Forces Command
| Succeeded by|
John R. Allen
|Commander of United States Central Command
| Succeeded by|