Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis appears to be a soldier of the old school who recognizes that war requires violence, but that such violence is something you have to do, not something you get to do. One of his more memorable quotes (in a speech to his troop when they arrived in Iraq in 2003) is this: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” Some call that brutality. I call it prudence. In a war zone where there are no uniforms and anybody might open fire or have a bomb strapped to their body, that is the tragic reality. Be prepared.
But at the same time, he also emphasizes that there are limits to violence. And he just made that clear to our incoming president whose sole knowledge of war is dodging STDs as his “personal Vietnam” and playing “Call of Duty”. To this ignorant little boy whose knowledge of intelligence gathering come solely from watching “24” and wishing he could practice that kind of cinematic cruelty on whoever he deems a bad guy, the General had some persuasive arguments:
“He said, “I’ve never found it to be useful,”‘ Mr. Trump said, describing the general’s view of torturing terrorism suspects. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terror suspects: ‘”Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better.”‘“‘I was very impressed by that answer.’
“Torture, he said, is ‘not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.”
Of course, the reason “a lot of people are thinking” torture works is because Trump has been saying it loudly and to great applause throughout his campaign. But the responsibility-averse Trump shifts the blame on to others as is his custom. Still, it’s good that, for the moment at least, he is in the mood to rethink his views on torture and we should pray that Mattis’ voice prevails and not that of others in his circle, who have said that “all options are on the table.” I suspect that Lt. General Flynn said this because he thought it was what the Boss wanted to hear, since he has criticized it elsewhere. So that’s hopeful sign too.
The question, of course, is what Trump will do, not what he says, since he is a pathological liar and not somebody with a history of impulse control. In the heat of anger after a terrorist attack, God alone knows what this unstable man will order. But it is an answer to prayer, nonetheless, that General Mattis has gotten through to him on this. Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.