Almost as soon as Gen. McChrystal’s Rolling Stone comments went into the internet ether, speculation started about a replacement as commander of the Afghanistan war. And quickly there came, in email debates and blog posts and on Twitter, a frontrunner, at least in the minds of wags, speculators and analysts: Marine Gen. James Mattis, the outgoing commander of the Joint Forces Command, whom Defense Secretrary Gates passed over as the next Marine Corps commandant last night.
“Hello to Mattis?” asked Tom Ricks on his blog. “Jim Mattis, anyone?” added Ricks’ CNAS colleague Andrew Exum. (And, uh, me too.) Over at Commentary, Max Boot thought that appointing Mattis would unfortunately require “a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation” — a delay that the U.S. could “ill-afford.”
So I asked Mattis what his take on all this was. The general declined my interview request, but his chief of media operations at Joint Forces Command, Kathleen Jabs, issued me the following statement: “General Mattis serves at the pleasure of the President, and is completely focused on his assignment as Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command.”
You parse that however you’d like, because I’m not going to go there. After Mattis’s current job expires — basically, after the Senate confirms Army Gen. Raymond Odierno to helm Joint Forces Command — he’ll be out of command and facing retirement. Unless…