His sometimes shocking public statements and quiet triumphs point to both an extraordinary level of compassion and the capacity for ferocious lethality.
So who is this guy, really, who commands this unique place of respect in modern America?
Scales, a retired United States Army major general, described him as “one of the most urbane and polished men I have known.” Mattis’s personal library of more than 7,000 books — including many obscure, scholarly titles — is as famous as his habit of carrying a personal copy of the of Marcus Aurelius with him into battle.
He is a fearsome warrior to a mostly admiring but often misunderstanding public that has stuck him with the nickname Mattis himself dislikes: “Mad Dog,” a moniker implying that he loses control.
This was Mattis’s first real-world experience of war as a Marine.People perhaps mistake his ferocious aggression for a lack of discipline.Anyone who has served with him will tell you just the opposite: As a field commander, he maintains strict discipline, even discipline, continually striving for “brilliance in the basics.” In his meticulous preparations for the untested “maneuver warfare” that was about to be used in the second Iraq War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, he created a scale model of the battlefield from the border of Kuwait to the objective, Baghdad. A week before the invasion began, he dressed representatives from the dozens of coalition military units in color-coded football jerseys and had them walk through the battle plan as he narrated the maneuvers over loudspeakers to the assembled field commanders.” His competence and level-headedness are so trusted that the president of the United States has given him essentially a free hand to fight America’s wars as he sees fit.Characteristically, in announcing the change of policy toward ISIS from one of “attrition” to “annihilation,” Mattis credited his boss with the decision.