Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis has a reputation for giving quotable quotes, based on his thoughtful consideration of warfare and strategy, and deep reading of military history.
At Thursday's confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee, he didn't disappoint, peppering his three hours of testimony with a number of succinct observations, or quote-worthy aphorisms. Full coverage of that confirmation hearing is here.
Here are 11 quotes, beginning with his pushback on the nickname "Mad Dog," which he hinted strongly he doesn't like:
1. "Senator, I assure you that nickname was given to me by the press and some you have experienced similar occasions with the press where they perhaps they didn't get it quite right."
2. "History is not a straitjacket, but I've never found a better guide for the way ahead than studying the histories."
3. "There's another piece of wisdom from antiquity that says: fear, honor and interest always seem to be the root causes of why a nation chooses to go to hostilities."
4. "I've never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with." (He was answering a question on gays serving in the military.)
5. "We have to make certain we're not dominant and irrelevant at the same time. Dominant in a past form of warfare that is no longer relevant."
6. "My belief is that we have to stay focused on the military that is so lethal that on the battlefield, it is the enemy's longest day and worst day when they run into that force."
7. "A lot of crises and even wars, have started from miscalculation. So while it's important we make clear what we stand for … it's also important that our adversaries know what we absolutely will not tolerate. And by making that clear, you're less apt to have somebody stumble into a situation where now we're forced to take action."
8. "America has two fundamental powers. One is the power of intimidation. I was part of it and America will defend herself and our idea, this experiment that we call America. And that's all it is, is an experiment in democracy. But the other power I think that perhaps we have used less in recent years, last 20 years maybe, is the power of inspiration. And I think that the power of inspiration of America at times has got to be employed just as strongly."
9. "The primitive and often even atavistic aspects of the battlefield test the physical and mental agility of everyone, but most of what it tests is the courage and the spiritual side of the troops we put in harm's way. And oftentimes it's only unit cohesion, leadership and the belief in themselves and their comrades that allows them to go through what they have to go through and come home as better men and women, not as broken. And so the Warrior Ethos is not a luxury, it is essential when you have a military."
10. "I think the way you maintain credibility is when you give your word on something, you live up to it."
11. "The national security decision-making process, as you know, you need different ideas to be strongly argued. You don't want the tyranny of consensus of group-think." (He was answering a question about serving with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, President-elect Trump's national security adviser.)