Recently retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis is probably the single most respected four star general of recent years, at least among the more junior members of the services. Why? Because he is blunt and direct. That forthrightness means you always understand where you stand with him. It inspires trust and respect. His letter to his Marines on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was certainly clear moral guidance:
And his plea to local Iraqi leaders in to embrace the chance at peace was an instant military classic:
“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all”-Mattis
— DrewMTips (@DrewMTips) July 8, 2010
So now, in retirement, GEN Mattis has a new mission- to remind veterans and the public, that “veteran” is not synonymous with “victim.”
Victimhood is somewhat en vogue in America today, with virtually every possible group claiming some sort of favored status by means of some injury or slight by the “other.”
But victimhood implies a helplessness, a lack of agency, and a lack of ability or means to improve ones situation.
In a speech last month, Mattis tackled a concern that is on the minds of a number of combat leaders: A public that wants to paint veterans as victims and why that is potentially damaging to the fighting spirit of America’s warriors.
“I would just say there is one misperception of our veterans and that is they are somehow damaged goods,” Mattis said. “I don’t buy it.”
“If we tell our veterans enough that this is what is wrong with them they may actually start believing it,” he said during questions after a speech at the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco.
“While victimhood in America is exalted I don’t think our veterans should join those ranks,” Mattis said.
That’s not to say that we as a nation don’t have an obligation to provide care and services to our wounded warriors. That’s not to say that those veterans struggling with PTSD or other issues should not avail themselves of services, or the support of their peers and veterans associations. But it is a reminder to veterans that they hold the key to their future. The same drive and determination that made them successful in the service can carry them through the challenges they face in the society at large. It is a notice to the public that the oft portrayed deeply flawed veteran is a trope, a caricature, of the veteran. The fact is, looking back at historical precedent, veterans tend to be better educated, better paid, and generally more successful than their non-veteran peers.
CDR Salamander has, for a decade now, warned of the attempts by some in society to paint all veterans as victims of circumstances beyond their control, as children in need of the nannying care of the progressive government and culture, with no true free will to care for themselves or to make their own future. To say he’s a fan of GEN Mattis’ latest mission would be an understatement.