Defense Secretary James Mattis is well aware he and incoming national security adviser John Bolton don’t entirely share the same worldview, but that won’t stop him from trying to form a “partnership” with Trump’s controversial new hire.
“I look forward to working with him — no reservations, no concerns at all,” Mattis told reporters. “Last time I checked he’s an American and I can work with an American. I’m not in the least bit concerned with that sort of thing.”
Speculation that Mattis was unhappy with Trump's newest hire started piling up over the weekend and into Monday, with the New York Times reporting that the Defense Secretary had told confidants he didn’t know if he could work with Bolton.
Mattis didn’t entirely push back when asked by reporters if the two had stark differences in ideologies, acknowledging “there’s some different worldviews.” But he added “that’s the normal thing you want unless you want groupthink.”
Mattis and Bolton appear at odds on the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the U.S., most notably the twin threats of North Korea and Iran. Bolton has publicly and repeatedly advocated for military intervention in North Korea and Iran, while Mattis, who’s no stranger to military conflict, has struck a more even tone, highlighting his preference for diplomatic solutions.
This wouldn't be the first time Mattis has differed with his boss. He has publicly disagreed with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate pact, voiced his support for the Iran deal, and opposed the president’s ban on transgender service members, for example.
But the Defense Secretary may find himself increasingly isolated among Trump’s retooled cabinet.
With the addition of Bolton and CIA director Mike Pompeo to the State Department, Mattis is now firmly surrounded by well-known war hawks.
“Bolton is a flamethrower,” Robert Deitz, who was Senior Councillor to former CIA Director Michael Hayden from 2006 to 2009, told VICE News shortly after Bolton's appointment was announced. “Now you have a flamethrower backing up a flamethrower. Who’s going to provide the temperance that’s needed in that White House?”
Bolton, who will take over from his predecessor, H.R. McMaster, on April 9, is considered an extreme hawk even in Republican circles. He has advocated for military intervention in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and just last month, North Korea.
Cover image: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, listen to President Donald Trump, center, speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018, about the $1.3 trillion spending bill. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)