Retired Army General Weighs In On Trump's National Security Team

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U.S Army Gen. James T. Hill, United States Southern Command, addresses the media in April 2004 in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump has named retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis as his nominee to be secretary of defense.

Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson asks retired Army Gen. Tom Hill, the first military fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, what he thinks of the choice, and what he thinks are the major national security challenges Trump faces.

Interview Highlights

On Trump’s pick for defense secretary

“I’ve met General Mattis and I’ve got a lot of regard for General Mattis. I have a personal issue with anyone from the military being secretary of defense. We come at, we senior military people, we come at our roles in national security policy formulation from a different perspective based upon our experience. I have concerns about anyone taking that role from the military. Having said that, Jim Mattis is an excellent choice, if you’re going to do it that way.

“In my opinion, there’s always been healthy friction between the senior military and our civilian bosses. A civilian boss comes from a different background — he sees security issues in a different way than a military guy does. And I think it’s useful to have the civilian and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a military guy, having different perspectives and different ways of looking at things. So in this case, James Mattis is a Marine and the chairman is a Marine, and they’re going to come at national security issues based upon that experience.”



On Obama’s foreign policy

“I am a big proponent of President Obama, and was very from the very beginning. I have, for the most part, liked his way of doing business, his measured tones. So I’m OK with most of the stuff he did. He could’ve made a couple of quicker decisions in Syria, but at the time — knowing what we know now — I’m not sure it would’ve come out any different.”

On Trump winning the presidency

“It’s easier for a military guy to process a new president, because the moment it happens, we switch allegiances because we’ve sworn our oath to the Constitution of the United States. So I’ve tried to remind everybody that he is in fact our president, and we need to support our president. That doesn’t mean you have to buy into everything our president says, but you do need to support and work with him when you like what he’s saying, and try to show a different path if you think there’s another way of doing things.”

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