07 December, 2016
American President-elect Donald Trump named retired Marine General James Mattis to be his secretary of defense this week.
Mattis left military service three years ago. At the time, he led the U.S. Central Command, which carries out U.S. operations in the Middle East. He was also the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces.
His leadership in the fight against enemy forces in Afghanistan and Iraq won him respect among many military leaders.
General John Nicholson is the commander of international forces in Afghanistan.
"I first met him in Nangahar province in Afghanistan, where we were in a tough fight in 2006, and he's a very inspirational leader -- I know he inspired me."
Michael O'Hanlon writes about military affairs at the Brookings Institution, a research group in Washington.
"He's thought of as one of the best-read, best-informed and most-experienced generals of his generation."
O'Hanlon says Mattis knows the limits of military power. He says he believes the former general's battlefield experience gives him persuasive power with Trump. O'Hanlon says Trump will be more likely to listen to an argument for restraint, for example, if it comes from Mattis.
Currently, Mattis is not permitted to take the office of defense secretary, however. A U.S. law bans military officers from the position who have fewer than seven years in retirement. Congress would have to change that law.
The 1947 law first called for a 10-year ban. But Congress cut it to seven years in 2008. Congress has let only one general serve as secretary of defense before the time permitted by law. In 1950, Congress voted to let General George Marshall serve as secretary of defense. Marshall had been a top general during World War II.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
VOA Pentagon reporter Carla Babb wrote this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in This Story
tough – adj. physically and emotionally strong; able to do hard work, to deal with harsh conditions, etc.
inspirational – adj. causing people to want to do or create something; giving inspiration
generation – n. a group of people born and living during the same time