The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

A Real Hero

10/28/2019

Because I have such great respect for General Jim Mattis, a good friend bought me a copy of Mattis’ latest book, Call Sign Chaos.  He was the first Secretary of Defense under President Trump, lasting almost two years before resigning in protest.  The title of this book comes from the humorous acronym given to him by his troops that means “Colonel has an outstanding suggestion.”  The book is more historical than biographical, in that it glosses over his early years, with some detail on the Iraq War I, a little more detail on the Afghan invasion, and a great deal of detail on Iraq War II.  In fact, it is primarily a management book.  Contrary to typical military management, he insisted on pushing decision-making down to the lowest level and to encourage initiative.

My personal experience as a junior officer was that “losing according to the book was better than an unauthorized win.”  That ridiculous logic was the primary reason that I volunteered for Special Forces, which was wonderfully unconventional.  General Mattis was an early believer that senior officers should not override the commander-on-the-ground, unless absolutely necessary.  Good for him!

While not particularly well-educated, Mattis was exceptionally well-read.  He wrote “If you haven’t read several hundred books, you’re functionally illiterate.”  He describes how each promotion brought a new required reading list, which benefited him greatly.  He was called “the warrior monk” and quotes easily from many long-forgotten books, mostly historical references.  I would love to have dinner with him.

Two things are missing from this book, however.  One, it does not discuss his personal life.  He was engaged early in life but the lady changed her mind, almost at the last minute, when she realized what his career would mean to her.  That was not discussed.  Two, I was hoping to gain some insight into his service to President Trump.  That was also not discussed.  (By the way, John Kelly reported to Jim Mattis, and they speak highly of each other.)

This book is surprisingly well-written, and I hope it will be first of a series completing the unique perspective of a genuine American here!  He emphasized learning is a lifelong responsibility, and I want to learn more from him . . .

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