Mr. Trump made the announcement at a rally in Cincinnati, calling General Mattis “the closest thing we have to Gen. George Patton.”
Politically, Patton was a loose cannon. Erratic. Given to making stupid mistakes based on emotion. Given to making important decisions based on feeding his ego. Yeah, he was a great fighting general, one of our best, no doubt about that.
But I would never support Patton for SecDef, or any other political position. Patton is a perfect example of why civilian control of the military is an absolute necessity and why generals generally should not be placed in political positions (so is MacArthur, but that's another story).
Mattis is also one of our great fighting generals, but he is an entirely different breed of cat from Patton. He strikes me as more measured, more thoughtful, more politically aware on a global scale, more politically savvy on a global scale, more aware of the limitations of use of force in consideration of the global political milieu. Capable of subtley, which Patton was not. I am sure he too has a ego; most people in those kinds of positions do, but keeps it under control. At least, more so than Patton. Mattis is also a deep thinker; Patton does not come across that way at all.
If I were Mattis, I believe I'd be a little irritated as being compared as a runner-up to Patton. I think Mattis is a much better general than Patton. Trump saying such a foolish thing simply illustrates his ignorance of the military. I guess he never got past his heel spurs.
Meanwhile, here is a pretty good article that gives some insight into Mattis' thinking:
Note that Mattis has a penchant for dealing with locals in a manner that badass flag-waving All-American SuperPatriots™ would consider 'politically correct.' It's interesting that the Marines would take such a comparatively 'soft' approach in contrast to the Army's tendency to 'kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out'.
The article seems to end abruptly.
The last paragraph:
Marine commanders found that their broader plan for the pacification of Anbar province would be undercut by the chronic lack of troops. Col. Toolan, commander of the 1st Marines, recalled that he had four basic missions: to control major supply routes, develop Iraqi security forces, eliminate insurgent sanctuaries and create jobs. “The challenge was, when we controlled the MSRs [main supply routes] and developed the ISF, there was no one left to eliminate sanctuaries or create jobs,” Toolan recalled. “So it was like whack-a-mole.” And so, within weeks of arriving, the Marine Corps, which had wanted to go back into Iraq to show how to work better with the people, would wind up instead involved in some of the most savage fighting U.S. troops had experienced in decades.
Why? Why the shortage of troops? An underestimation of what it would take? A failure by the administration to fund and furnish?
Here's the book: