The autobiographical dimension is a stimulating read, but I was more engaged by Mattis’s thoughts on strategy and how it is devised — or not — in the political/military domain. Here one detects frustration with the Washington machine. Campaign planning requires the government to define its objectives; it should answer the general’s question: ‘What do you want me to do?’ It is then for the military to decide on the way in which to apply its means. The means may well also include non-military dimensions, such as civil governance or humanitarian aid. The problem is the inability or unwillingness of politicians to define the end-state.
Mattis comes across as plain-spoken and reflective, a fan of books and history... Yet Mattis does not grapple with domestic political realities... When it comes to Trump, Mattis flanks, avoiding a head-on clash. Call Sign Chaos takes aim at bigotry and lauds the military service of migrants. As in his resignation letter, Mattis gives full-throated support for Nato: “Nations with allies thrive, and those without wither.”