Thursday, June 15, 2017

When Somebody Called "Mad Dog" Is The Only Adult In The Room

In the last few days it has come to pass that twice US Secretary of Defense, James "Mad Dog" Mattis has shown himself to be the only adult in the room in the Trump administration.  His first such exhibition of adulthood came during the bizarre spectacle of Trump's first full televised cabinet meeting.  Trump openly demanded verbal obeisance from those assembled, promptly delivered by all but one in the room, with some of them embarrassingly effusive, such as Reince Priebus declaring it to be a "blessing" to serve Trump.  Ugh.  Even SecState Tillerson chimed in with a relatively perfunctory bit of praise for Trump.  Only Mad Dog Mattis refused to go along, making a statement praising US military personnel around the world without a single word about Trump.

And then we have the underreported event yesterday that I saw on Juan Cole's blog that Mattis signed a $12 billion dollar deal for F-15s with Qatar.  Now I am not in general a big fan of  these Middle East arms deals with anybody, but in this case this blatantly goes against Trump's absolutely stupid and probably corrupt (Saudis paid $270,000 in hotel bills at Trump's hotel in Washington since Trump took office) support for the Saudi move to blockade Qatar and pressure it into  going along with Saudi aggression in Yemen and more generally against Iran.  Both Tillerson and Mattis made verbal statements last week arguing for a more balanced approach there, only to have Trump double down on supporting this very stupid policy.  Tillerson is  not able to cut deals independently supporting Qatar, but Mad Dog Mattis has just done so.

Maybe Trump will fire him, but I kind of think that maybe even he is  not quite that stupid in the current circumstances.  So there we have it, having to thank somebody nicknamed "Mad Dog" twice in a few  days for being the much=needed adult in the room.

Barkley Rosser


Peter T said...

Maybe. The US has just put extra troops and weapons into tiny enclaves on the Syria-Iraq border. Not near ISIS, but adjacent to Iraqi militias and Syrian troops, and fired on the latter. I don't know why, but it hardly looks sensible unless one wants to provoke a fight with Syria, Iraqi militias, Russia or possibly Iran. I presume this is with Mattis' approval, since the trump could not find Syria on a map. said...

Mattis and Tillerson both have reps of being anti-Iran hardliners. It is not surprising that they are supporting some anti-Iran military stuff. But they also know that US is working with Iran against ISIS in Iraq and US needs the al Udeid air base in Qatar.

Peter T said...

There are reports that some White House staffers are pushing hard for "action" against Iran (Bush and Trump - dumb and dumber), with Mattis resisting. May be that he's unable to do the sensible thing and pull out of these enclaves as that would cause ructions with the WH, so puts in enough to keep them there while waiting. But while this sort of incoherence is more or less normal for US policy in the region, it carries greater risks given the current crew in charge.