General James Mattis, USMC, is NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command. This transcript is based on his keynote speech delivered at the February 12, 2009 Defense Showstoppers: National Security Challenges for the Obama Administration conference, sponsored by FPRI and the Reserve Officers Association, held in Washington, D.C.
In Joint Forces Command, we have about 1.2 million troops under us, and aircraft carriers, aircraft squadrons, Army brigades, and Marine air-ground task forces. When General Petraeus or Admiral Keating needs forces, we assign those forces out. That aspect of Joint Forces Command is very straightforward. We also train the Joint Forces Headquarters that go into Baghdad, to Bakhtaran, to Djibouti. But I spend most of my time on forward-looking concepts. That's the intellectually demanding part. That's where the two jobs, NATO and Joint Forces Command, come together. Think of the Roman God Janus, who looks both forward and backward. That's because history—especially very recent history—provides us some of our best signposts for the future.
I got the phone call that I was going to be the Allied Commander Transformation and Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command when I was in Kabul, Afghanistan, so I called for a map of NATO. They didn't have one there, so they got me a map of the world. At that point I was a Marine from California who answered to John Abizaid and Admiral Fallon as the Marine Force's Central Command. There I was in Kabul, closer to Brussels than Brussels is to my current headquarters in Norfolk. And therein lies part of the problem. Right now, we are superior to our enemies in terms of nuclear warfare and conventional warfare (we've lost a little bit of that edge, but we'll get it back very quickly), but we are not superior in irregular warfare, and that is what we've got to do...
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