On Tuesday, two civilian national security expert witnesses informed the Senate that it would be in the country’s best interest for them to provide General James Mattis with the legal waiver he needs to be considered as the next Secretary of Defense. In order to be considered, Mattis needs an exception from the federal law which requires that the SECDEF be out of the military for at least seven years. General Mattis, who has only been retired since 2013, received high recommendations and praise from the experts who were called in before the Senate Armed Services Committee to help determine if they should grant the retired general the waiver.
Eliot A. Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, lauded General Mattis’ character and commitment.
“I’ve known Gen. Mattis for well over a decade. He is probably the most widely read and reflective officer I know,” Cohen said. “More importantly than that, he’s shown himself to be a man of exceptional character judgment and exemplary commitment to legal and constitution norms.”
“As has long been pointed out, the secretary of defense is other than the presidency probably the most difficult job in the federal government, and I would trust General Mattis as much as or more than just about anybody else,” he continued.
Cohen stated he believed Mattis would be the perfect contender to keep President-elect Donald Trump in line with some of his tougher, more controversial stances such as waterboarding.
“That is outrageous and illegal and wildly immoral and I think a Secretary Mattis would refuse to comply with that order,” Cohen said.
Kathleen Hicks, the director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that she “is convinced that [Mattis] passes the standards set by Marshall,” speaking of General George C. Marshall who was the last military officer to receive a waiver 70 years ago. General Marshall received a waiver and went on to serve as the Army chief of staff during the second world war and worked on the post-war rebuilding of Europe.
Hicks also noted that she disagreed with Trump’s statement made in November that “it’s time for a general” to be SECDEF.
“I would hesitate to ever say … that there is any indication that dangerous times require a general,” she said, but added that regardless of his position, he is still the best man for the job. “I don’t think that’s the issue. I think dangerous times require experience and commitment … which I think General Mattis can bring.”