By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
In a video posted online on August 25th, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis was touring a military base abroad and gave an impromptu talk to some soldiers. To shouts of “how are you sir” the Defense Secretary wandered into a group of soldiers who all gathered around him.. “To all those I haven’t met, my name is Mattis, I work at the Department of Defense obviously.”
He said it was good to see the young soldiers out in the field. “You get promoted, after a while you get out of touch with those that matter. Believe me I know you are far from home, every one of you, you could all be going to college you young people…I’m greatful, the only way this great big experiment is going to survive is because we have tough hombres like you. Some of you are too young [to remember], on 9/11 we were up against an enemy that thought they could scare and hurt us. But we don’t frickin’ scare, that’s the bottom line, we will go out here and fight alongside our friends and allies, we are going to keep right on fighting until they are sick of us and leave us alone.”
Then Mattis touched on something that many Americans, and people in the world have been concerned about. The lack of leadership today, and particularly the soul-searching and chaos going on in America. “You are a great example for our country right now; it has some problems, you know it and I know it. It has problems that we don’t have in the military. You hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines…hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting one another and being friendly one another. That Americans owe to one another, we are so dog gawn lucky to be Americans.”
He was speaking about nostalgia but also about hope for the future, that if only Americans who are busy tearing eachother apart and tearing eachother down, could see these men and women on the frontline and all over the world they might realize how petty some arguments in the US are. He was also speaking the chaos and political problems in Washington, the turnover at the White House.
Then the Defense Secretary sought to touch on something deeper. “We got two powers, the power of inspiration, we will get the power of inspiration back; and the power of intimidation and thats YOU, if someone wants to screw with our families, our country or our allies. Thanks for being out here.”
He wasn’t done though.
“Keep the old guys like me guessing. The only reason I came back was to serve was to [serve] alongside young people like you who are so selfless and so rambunctious, and it’s a pleasure yo be around you. Take care of each other out here. You can get complacent, don’t let it happen, listen to your NCOs.”
The Mattis message shows why he was such a good choice for Secretary of Defense. In a time when the US is lurching and slouching and can’t find its footing, except to spend hundreds of millions on the latest Mayweather fight but is rudderless in all other respects, the Mattis message is needed. “Thanks for being out here.” Perhaps he is one of the most sensible and trust worthy men in Washington today.