Former top military advisor: Strategic atrophy plagues U.S.

By Linda Weiford, WSU News

James-MattisPULLMAN, Wash. – Retired four-star general James Mattis, who once led the United States’ most high-profile military command, addressed a large audience at Washington State University on Tuesday with a word of warning: Turmoil in the Middle East is getting worse and it won’t improve soon.

As a Marine Corps combat veteran in charge of U.S. Central Command 2010-13, Mattis oversaw military operations in areas that included the hot spots of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Retired Gen. James Mattis greets members of WSU’s ROTC program during a reception hosted by the provost’s office. (Photos by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services)

In his public address, sponsored by WSU’s Office of the Provost, he said the White House must take a “strategic, historically sound approach,” in supporting peace and prosperity in the Middle East. “The strategy-free stance is not working,” he told the crowd, and the solution is about more than fighting battles.

The next president should focus on keeping America safe by implementing a strategy that includes strengthening and broadening our foreign allies, said Mattis. He cited the crucial role of the United Nations and NATO countries in upholding international norms to oppose extremists who support terrorism.

“’There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them,” he said, quoting Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill. “The problems emanating from the Middle East can’t be contained in the Middle East,” he said, emphasizing the importance of “finding counties abroad who will stand up with us.”

James Mattis

Building allies will demonstrate a mission of common interest to terrorists and also project strength – and a degree of humility – he said.

“We need those outside relationships. We need to stay engaged in the world and resist isolationism,” he said.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Mattis was born in Pullman and graduated from Central Washington State University in 1972. Nicknamed the “warrior monk” for his legendary part- soldier and part-scholar ethos, he recently declined bids to run as a third party presidential candidate.