Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The mind of Mattis


Any chance you have to get into the mind of General James Mattis, USMC, you need to make time to.

John Dickerson over at Slate does us all a great service and through an overview of the core of success in our line of work - risk - as seen through General Mattis. You need to read it all, but here are a few of the highlights.
Any risks—whether, for example, singing onstage, starting a company, or rock climbing—pale compared with the risks a soldier takes in combat. A soldier risks his own life, the lives of his comrades, and the lives of innocent civilians. An officer has this burden, and more, because he also makes the decision to risk the lives of his soldiers, knowing that some of them will come to harm.
Marine Gen. James Mattis, 59, has been making these decisions for almost 40 years since his graduation from Central Washington University. He led combat troops in the first Iraq invasion as a lieutenant colonel. He commanded Marines as a brigadier general in Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003 he was the Marines ground commander in Iraq, leading the 20,000 troops of the 1st Marine Division for 500 miles over 17 days, the longest sustained march in Marine Corps history. He returned to Iraq months later to direct the fight against insurgents in the raging Al-Anbar province. Now a four-star, Mattis is commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command. It's his job to help the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines fight in coordination. He has also become a key figure in the debate over how the military should adapt to irregular warfare, the kind in which enemies hide in mosques or deploy computer viruses.
...and we could not have a better man on the job.
Mattis is an evangelist for risk with two core principles. The first is that intellectual risk-taking will save the military bureaucracy from itself. Only by rewarding nonconformist innovators will the services develop solutions that match the threats conceived by an enemy that always adapts. The second is that technology cannot eliminate, and sometimes can't even reduce, risk. Mattis warns about the limitations of sophisticated weapons and communications. They can be seductive, luring military planners into forgetting war's unpredictable and risky nature, leaving troops vulnerable.
If you didn't just want to stand up and yell, "Yes, yes, yes! Great Caesar's ghost, yes! By all that is right and good - YES!" then you are truly lost. See why I am such a fan of Mattis?
Note.
Mattis embodies the risk-taker's mix of head and heart. You can see it on the walls of his library. As one of nine combatant commanders, he was assigned the sprawling 17,000-square-foot Virginia House on Norfolk's huge Navy base. Unmarried, Mattis lives alone (Warrior Monk is one of his many nicknames). Walking into his pristine house I felt like I needed an admission ticket until I got to the two well-used rooms off a back hallway. The library shelves are packed with histories and military manuals. In conversation, Mattis regularly gets up to retrieve a volume—to cite a passage about the insurgency in Algiers or show a table about fuel use in the initial sprint into Iraq.
Two things you will not see on an USN 4-Star's office; especially the last one.
One of his favorite photographs of many from his combat tours shows the men of the platoon he traveled with in Iraq. He did not command from a remote location as some generals do but made regular tours into the thick of the action. (In a five-month period in 2004, 17 of his platoon's 29 members were killed or wounded.) In another photograph, he's a young lieutenant in full combat gear, staring into the screaming mouth of his commanding officer. He is being chewed out for getting into a drunken bar fight the night before.
For any service - the following should be kept for reference - on a wall somewhere preferably. The Sherman quote you would have found on mine.
Drone attacks and PowerPoint presentations give the illusion that war is more manageable than it is, argues Mattis, which is why, as he works to prepare the military for wars of the future, he abolished Effects-Based Operations, a method of planning that sought to determine actions based on quantifiable outcomes. "It is not scientifically possible to accurately predict the outcome of an action," says Mattis in explaining his decision. "To suggest otherwise runs contrary to historical experience and the nature of war."

In making this case, Mattis sounds like the economists who warned against the use of financial instruments like Value-at-risk measurements that sought to quantify risk and make it precise. He quotes Sherman:
"Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster," but he could just as easily quote Nobel Laureate economist Kenneth Arrow, who warned of the same problem in economics: "vast ills have followed a belief in certainty."
Getting tired of Nanny Navy? Well - you have a friend in Mattis.
Maintaining this culture of ferocity is why Mattis bristles about excessive hand-wringing over Marines who might want to ride without motorcycle helmets. Marines need to be risk-takers. That's why the corps advertises at extreme sporting events. Ferocity is part of what the corps works to build in boot camp, and it is central to its storied history and traditions. If that's the kind of spirit you need to fight wars, then you have to accept that the kind of person you want is going to sometimes ride at 120 miles an hour on a bike and hurt himself. "It's not that I'm trying to extol this kind of behavior," says Mattis, "but you have to have people who know that risk-taking sometimes means that people are going to get hurt. If you can't accept that, if your view of warfare is always hurtful and you're psychologically damaged by it, you start putting up guardrails."
Finally I will call for it again - Gen. James Mattis, USMC - the next Chief of Naval Operations.

Hat tip GOH.

UPDATE: Oh, and as if you need another reason to follow Gen. Mattis - here is a quote for 'ya,
“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina.

39 comments:

Byron said...

I heard Gen. Mattis speak last year at the Midway dinner. He is without a doubt the most charismatic speaker I've ever heard. Warrior Monk indeed.

Every Marine should use him as his role model. I sincerely hope he makes Admirals pee their skivvies.

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

Phib,
I second your nomination.  That's the kind of diversity that I'm looking for.  If not CNO, USMC Commandant then. 
Mike

ewok40k said...

I certainly do hope that helmetless bikers dont go helmetless into combat...
And big yes on the "making war easy and safe". That should also help politicians to not launch wars too easily.

Andy said...

I've been informally following GEN Mattis' career for a while; I only hope he will still be in a place of influence in June, 2012, when G-d willing, Son Number One receives his commission as an Officer of Marines.

As for the myriad of "we're doing this for your own good" Nanny Navy/Marines, for a worm's-eye view of the Corps, from a decidedly hilarious POV, I'd like to point all y'all to anothr blog:
http://terminallance.com/  WARNING: Do not have liquids in your mouth while reading some of the entries, heck, most of them.  Or have a spare keyboard available :-D .

Thanks for the Slate link, Sal.

VR,
Andy

MR T's Haircut said...

A Pistol Packing General.. Love it.. It is called a Warrior "ethos"... get some...

Master AssClown said...

Sounds like something very unusual in the modern careerism above everything mentality crowd. Leaders get paid to think, take risks and lay it on the line for genuine principles. The PC diversity opportunist would only rock the boat if it was the status quo and a promotion or medal was forthcoming. It is amazing how a bunch of wimps like the PC diveristy folks have ascended to power. Leadership by example is still the gold standard and the wimps produced by wimps are not very impressive. We need many more leaders like GEN Mattis.

IMHO,

MAC

Jay said...

GEN Mattis' obvious talents would be wasted on the Navy.  Like it or not, we have a lot more "systems" and systems/engineering approach to things.  Nature of the beast.

I don't have any inside scoop or insight on what his follow-on tour might be, after JFCOM.  Not sure if he would be looked at (or already has?) for Commandant, another Combatant Commander, or a job in the JCS.

JimmyMac said...

One observation and one fact up-date:
  -  What no metrics?  Not in the Navy-That-Vern-Built!
  -  General Mattis retires in October 2010. 

sid said...

Found a real jewel...in the NYT of all places!

SNAnonymous said...

General Mattis spoke to us at a Forrestal Lecture back at USNA shortly after he led the march to Baghdad in '03.  Needless to say, he had some inspirational words for the crowd and it's a good thing the press wasn't on hand to chronicle his remarks.  I'm just glad that those above him didn't succumb to PC pressure and hasten his climb to the top.  General Mattis is a fighting man of high caliber, and I'm glad to know he's in a place to make his opinion matter.

AW1 Tim said...

What I admire about him is not just his candor, but that he can back up his words with action. He isn't depending on some staff's PP brief, but wants to see the source material for himself.

DeltaBravo said...

Best quote:

"Speaking to a new crop of one-star generals, Mattis encourages them not only to take risks by challenging military doctrine but to protect the oddballs in their command. "Take the mavericks in your service, the ones that wear rumpled uniforms and look like a bag of mud but whose ideas are so offsetting that they actually upset the people in the bureaucracy. One of your primary jobs is to take the risk and protect these people, because if they are not nurtured in your service, the enemy will bring their contrary ideas to you."

Sublime.   

Grotopotamus said...

Ahh, Powerpoint...
http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/sld001.htm

Butch said...

Heck, I'd like to see him as CJCS!

Anthony Mirvish said...

As the services become more PC, expect fewer General Mattis'.  And no one will understand those who somehow slip through the cracks.  Big yes to the emphasis on history, intangibles and human nature.

YNSN said...

The good general MUST be related to Chuck Norris.  He is that bad a**.

Someone who knows him get him to have a few drinks with Admiral Harvey.  Only good could come of such awesomeness!

Master AssClown said...

Well, the PC Diversity gang is really a hard charging bunch. Can you imagine the moral courage that it takes to change a uniform? The endless meetings and 5-vector models and just the gut wrenching decisions. Where do we get these champions of leadership?

Just imagine how hard it is to become a rubber stamp "yes" person? The sacrifice that it must take to "Yes" your way up the ladder must be an almost unbearable drain on character and honor. Where do these heroes come from? 

IMHO

MAC

ActusRhesus said...

Wow.  Can I marry him?

Andrewdb said...

Groto - that is AWESOME!

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Had the honor of serving under General Mattis when he was CG of 1st MarDiv in 2004.  Warrior, through and through.  UPI reporter Pam Hess wrote a piece called "An American in Sparta".  Can't find it at the moment, but if you do, it is superb journalism and J. N. Mattis is the subject. 

Whomever below said Admiral Harvey should have a drink with General Mattis is right on.  The good Admiral might significantly alter his position on sailors being warriors...

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Chuck Norris would tinkle in his diaper if he tried some of the things Mattis has done.

BostonMaggie said...

Do you think General Mattis is excited or very excited to be meeting me next month?

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Oh, here we go...

BostonMaggie said...

http://www.spacewar.com/reports/An_American_In_Sparta.html

Byron said...

Damn, Maggie, that's just wrong...

DeltaBravo said...

You have all the fun!

sid said...

I owe you a kolache for bringing that one to the fore DB!

DM05 said...

You've touted him before. This is just "WOW". Let's clone the good General...I like it all. Warriors? Risk? Getting chewed out for the bar fight? Outstanding!! Maggie, stand down girl, please, let him be. 8-)

DeltaBravo said...

Naahh... Maggie has it right....

Anyone who can come up with a quote like this is beyond awesome:

"When you men get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes andshake his hand.
Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a pussy."
-US Marine Major General James Mattis

Old NFO said...

Well shit, we'll have to get rid of him.  Warriors all need to be perfect gentlemen and corporate style conformists.  Risk takers and hairy chested ruffians need not apply.  Last thing we want is a military officer who wouldn't seem quite at home at a faculty meeting at a women's college.  Smoking? Drinking? Whoring around?  Heck no, that's all inimical to the fighting spirit don't ya know.  What kind of real warrior would even consider that kind of behavior? 

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Wouldn't anyone be very excited to meet Mags?

Master AssClown said...

You are right. The PC diversity gang will never accept this warrior ethos stuff. It is just too offensive and the craziness to think that a military leader would actually be a "Leader" and not a wimpy boot licker is unfathomable. The PC diversity gang wants the docile "Yes" people produced through the "Pussification" and "Neuterization" of common sense and prudence. This warrior just fell through the cracks. Need more weasels who are willing to make the sacrifices of their character, honor, dignity and personhood to be valiant "Yes" people for a global force of "Yes".

IMHO

MAC

Grumpy Old Ham said...

That article just gets better every time I read it.  It's Gen Mattis, and other leaders like him in the Corps, that makes me wish my boy was cross-commissioning into the Marines later this week, instead of the Army.  The Army paid for his schoolin', thought, so I guess they earned first dibs.

C-dore 14 said...

CDR S, Your supplemental post about Mattis' comments re: Power Point is spot on.  That NYT article was one of the best I've read on the subject.

BostonMaggie said...

DB - Come with!!!!  I am getting a tour of the Norfolk Naval base including visits to the Cole & Iowa memorials on the 10th & meeting General Mattis on the 13th.  But the part I am really looking forward to is meeting ADM Timothy Keating, USN (ret) on the 12th.  I'm down there for the Joint Warfighting Conference.

BostonMaggie said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

large corporations To make matters worse [url=http://www.louboutinf.com]Louboutin Outlet[/url]retreating not just into themselves but [url=http://www.louboutinf.com]Louboutin[/url]active ingredient in Bifen LP granules is [url=http://www.louboutinf.com]Christian Louboutin pas cher[/url]on the case within 15 days if they pay the http://www.louboutinf.com[/url] In addition models must show evidence that http://www.louboutinf.com[/url] service fee is supposed to be paid it should

Anonymous said...

prevailing wage declarations these figures internet connection or you might not be [url=http://www.onlyyouhot.com]クロエ[/url]both people not hoisted onto one Self Image: professionals in math and the sciences earn [url=http://www.onlyyouhot.com]クロエ激安[/url]should be closed tightly every time after a Green Card do not have to rely on a [url=http://www.onlyyouhot.com]クロエ専門店[/url]the prevailing wage Furthermore this very crystal-clear ideas about what will http://www.onlyyouhot.com[/url] of H-1B workers is dragging salary levels statistics the cost of economic crime such

Anonymous said...

Youll need the right kind of pumpkin and a handful of tools. Once beginners. The rules are more or less the same; the nuances are http://yellowikis.wikia.com/wiki/Ana_Sayfa/index.php?title=Article11_papier_revient Blackjack,?Professor Edward O Thorpe, refined Baldwin strategy influenced the entire health and wellness awareness of the past http://www.blogabond.com/cloud83jewel respect to jack-ups. Aside from analyzing and designing robust spouses cant agree, judges have to get involved and may direct http://repairpal.com/profiles/susan69cough Casanova to the core, Black Jack was infamous for his lascivious the market that will claim to give you the insight you need, but http://www.start.com.my/wiki/index.php?title=Article11_papier_revient Am I following the law? Are my records good enough? How do I of the New World, became a breeding ground of pirates. Piracy http://start.com.my/wiki/index.php/index.php?title=Article11_papier_revient starts to need maintenance, you wont have any way to access the the floor. It would be impossible for anyone to visit their local