It’s been hit or miss with President Trump’s picks for his new cabinet so far. Some of the posts have been filled with limited government conservatives that libertarians can be content with. Other picks have been the typical establishment swamp monsters that have become multi-administration furniture. Although, Donald Trump does deserve a lot of credit for his pick for Secretary of Defense – hopefully. Trump has tapped General James “Mad Dog” Mattis for the position which gives libertarians reason to be cautiously optimistic. In a newly unearthed recording, Gen. Mattis can be heard declaring the invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake”.
The recordings were made during a defense industry symposium that General Mattis spoke at last year according to Glen Greenwald’s site The Intercept which obtained them. They point out in their article that the Trump transition team was informed before the story was published but did not choose to make a comment. That bodes well for the authenticity of the recordings. It also speaks to the ideological leanings of the Trump administration as a whole. If Mattis’ comments on the Iraq War were out of step with Trump’s foreign policy the administration would have wanted to make that clear.
Until being fired by President Obama in 2013, General Mattis was a career military man, and therefore doesn’t have a long history of public comment. His job has been to toe the current administration line and bit his tongue, at least publicly. The General is reportedly rather outspoken behind closed doors. Therefore, for Mattis to come out publicly and a label the invasion of Iraq a mistake, an invasion which he lead in part, is groundbreaking. It shows that the man is capable of learning from his mistakes. Besides a few noteworthy libertarians, and Donald Trump, few Republicans have ever called the Iraq War a mistake.
Although, this was just one comment and there’s no way of knowing if the non-interventionist sentiment is General Mattis’ actual underlying philosophy. We can only hope that his view of the invasion of Iraq as a mistake will carry forward. It’s important to have a Secretary of Defense that realizes invading Syria or Libya would be just as disastrous as invading Iraq was. For more on the General’s philosophy you can listen to his entire speech below.