President-elect Donald Trump’s close consideration of retired Gen. James Mattis for defense secretary and Mitt Romney for secretary of state signals a foreign policy posture will be more practical than Trump’s campaign rhetoric indicated.
“That he is considering Gen. Mattis, who has quite a bit of experience in the Middle East, suggests that he is not radically overturning policy,” said Kamran Bokhari, senior fellow with the Center for Global Policy and a fellow with the program on extremism at George Washington University. “He needs people who have dealt with the region, and he knows the value of experience.”
From 2010 to 2013, the blunt-spoken Mattis, 66, headed the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations stretching from the Horn of Africa through the Middle East and into Central Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mattis, a popular former American commander in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was at odds with the Obama administration over potential threats from Iran and military support for Afghanistan. But he’ll likely only be able to modify America’s current Middle East strategy, not radically depart from it, Bokhari said.
“Ultimately, there aren’t that many policy options that are going to be radically different from what was available to the Obama administration,” Bokhari said.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who now heads Trump’s transition team, said Mattis had “a legendary military career.”
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said it was a “very real possibility” Mattis would get the job, telling the ABC program “This Week:” “I know that President-elect Trump loves leaders like General Mattis.”
Romney is seen as a more diplomatic representative of United States interests while sharing many of Trump’s views about America’s position in the world. Pence said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” that the former Massachusetts governor and Trump had “a warm and a substantive exchange.”
“I can say that Governor Romney is under active and serious consideration to serve as secretary of state of the United States,” Pence said.
Trump conferred with Mattis and Romney over the weekend at his golf resort in New Jersey, as well as other candidates for top posts, such as Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.
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