Trump's Pentagon pick takes aim at Russia
- China 'shredding' trust -With regard to China, which has a rapidly growing military, Mattis said it is "shredding trust along its periphery" as it builds up its military presence in the South China Sea. In written testimony, he said America "must try to engage and collaborate with China where possible, but also be prepared to confront inappropriate behavior if China chooses to act contrary to our interests." Trump has frequently spoken out against China's trade policies and ruffled feathers in Beijing when he took a call from Taiwan's leader after the election. Mattis sailed through the three-hour hearing with broad support, despite some senators expressing reservations that his appointment runs counter to decades of Pentagon tradition -- and US legal custom.
- Waiver granted -The 66-year-old Washington state native needs a special Congressional waiver -- only granted once before, for the famous World War II General George Marshall who served under President Harry Truman from 1950-1951. The Senate voted by a large majority to grant one, and the House Armed Services Committee also approved the measure, clearing the way for a full confirmation vote. "Civilian control of the military is a fundamental tenet of the American military tradition," Mattis said. Politicians across the spectrum lauded Mattis, and his appointment appears to be a formality. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he would vote against the waiver for fear of setting a precedent. But even he declared: "Let me say that very bluntly, if ever there were a case for a waiver of that principle, it is you at this moment in our history." "Your appreciation for the costs of war in blood, treasure and lives and the impact on veterans afterwards will enable you to be a check on rash and potentially ill-considered use of military force by a president-elect who perhaps lacks that same appreciation." A colorful commander famed for his pugnacious aphorisms, the media dubbed Mattis "Mad Dog" for his battle-hardened swagger and the sort of blunt language Marines are famous for. He has been quoted as saying, "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet." But Mattis also has a well-known cerebral side: he issued reading lists to Marines under his command, and instructed them that the most important territory on a battlefield is the space "between your ears." Mattis would replace technocrat Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama's fourth Pentagon chief. Senators also grilled Mattis over a slew of security issues, including the pace of the fight against the Islamic State group, North Korea's nuclear ambitions, women in combat and budget constraints. Trump has said his administration "will begin a major national effort to rebuild our badly depleted military."