Small Wars Journal

Donald Trump’s Staff Shake-Up Leaves Jim Mattis in a Key Role

Donald Trump’s Staff Shake-Up Leaves Jim Mattis in a Key Role by Gerald F. Seib – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump has, to great fanfare, remade his national-security team in recent days. But the most intriguing and consequential member of that team isn’t one of the newcomers, but rather the one who has been there all along: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Mr. Mattis is the most enigmatic member of the Trump team. He’s the Iran hard-liner who defends the nuclear deal with Iran. He’s the warrior who argues for using diplomacy to address North Korea’s nuclear threat. He’s the military man who argues against allowing trade disputes to disrupt ties to key allies.

And he’s the one senior official who has learned how to disagree with Mr. Trump privately without being publicly skewered by the president for doing so.

All those positions were easier for Mr. Mattis to sustain when he was joined at the hip with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But Mr. Tillerson is gone now, and the key question is whether Mr. Mattis can continue to do his thing when paired with new Secretary of State-to-be Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, both of whom strike quite different tones on those key issues.

“I think he’s more important than ever,” says former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The question, Mr. Hagel adds, is “how long Mattis can survive in that environment.…There’s an intersection of conflict coming here, and it’s been coming.”…

Read on.