Defense secretary nominee Gen. Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis believes ISIS is "al-Qaida on steroids" and must be defeated in head-to-head "battles of annihilation" that leave "no survivors" on the enemy side, according to a recent discussion he participated in with a conservative think tank.
The career Marine, who faces Senate questioning at a confirmation today, also asserts that the US military "can handle Iran" in a shooting war, but cautioned that the Navy needs more warships to challenge "China's bullying in the South China Sea."
Mattis made the eye-opening remarks in a little-noticed interview with Stanford University's Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif., where he is a visiting fellow.
Before retiring in 2013 after a 43-year-career in the US Marine Corps, Mattis directed military operations of more than 200,000 troops and allied forces across the Middle East as commander of U.S. Central Command.
Mattis doesn't believe in "managing" the Islamic State threat or just running ISIS out of Middle Eastern towns, but pulverizing the Islamist enemy.
"They're a lot like al-Qaida philosophically, but operationally, they're like al-Qaida on steroids. And when you put that together, they're a uniquely capable organization," he added during the revealing 2015 Hoover interview. "But the fact is, they couldn't last two minutes in a fight with our troops."
Mattis said America and the West can no longer tolerate "the assassinations, the mass killings, the mass rapes that are going on there," to say nothing of the ISIS-directed and -inspired terrorist attacks plaguing both European and American cities.
"We should try to shut down its recruiting, shut down its finances, and then work to fight battles of annihilation - not attrition, but annihilation - against them; so that the first time they meet the forces that we put against them, there should basically be no survivors," he asserted. "They should learn that we can be even tougher than them."
Added the general: "If they want to fight, they should pay a heck of a price for what they've done to innocent people out there."
Mattis didn't pull any punches regarding Iran, either, which has aggressively pursued the development of nuclear weapons while threatening both the US and Israel.
Through its proxy Hezbollah, the Islamist regime has carried out terrorism around the globe, including attacks that have killed American citizens. In 1983, for example, an Iran-trained suicide truck bomber killed 220 of Mattis's fellow Marines while they slept in barracks in Beirut. Iran is also responsible for IED-related deaths of US soldiers in Iraq.
Mattis, who joined the Marine Corps at 18, confidently predicted victory if the US had to go to war against Iran.
"It would take more forces if we had to go with the military option for Iran," he said. "But we can handle Iran. I have no doubt."
"It would be bloody awful," he added. "But could we handle it from a military point of view? Absolutely."
An invasion of Iran would be tougher than Iraq because Iran is surrounded by mountains, making it hard for tanks and artillery to pass. Behind the towering ranges, the terrain becomes unstable salt flats and dry lake beds oozing with thick black mud that would make it even more difficult to advance on Tehran.
It was the Great Salt Desert where the fateful 1980 military mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran ran into bad weather and had to be aborted.
Asked about Beijing seizing islands in the South China Sea and clandestinely building airstrips and other military installations there, Mattis says the US should no longer turn a blind eye to such territorial expansion in contested international waters. He says the US will need a larger naval presence there to check Beijing's military aggression.
"In light of China's bullying in the South China Sea, I don't think we're building enough ships," Mattis noted, adding that China's military maneuvers will require the Pentagon to adopt "a more naval strategy."
Right now the Navy has 272 ships, more than 80 ships short of what the Navy Force Structure Assessment calls for to meet the new threat reality in the South China Sea and other global hotspots.
"We may have to give the Navy a bigger slice of the budget," he added, to help reassure Taiwan and other allies in the region threatened by the communist army's growing mischief.
"There are a lot of nations out in that region that would like to see more US Navy port calls in their harbors, from Vietnam to the Philippines, from Malaysia to Taiwan and Japan," Mattis said.
He added that while the first option in the growing conflict ought to be diplomacy, "Sometimes the best ambassador you can have is a man-of-war."
Mattis, who following 9/11 commanded the First Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Naval Task Force 58 in operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, also revealed in the interview that he does not agree with President Obama that the US combat role in Afghanistan is over.
"We have irreconcilable differences with the Taliban," he said.
Added Mattis: "They will continue to support al-Qaida, they will continue to do this kind of terrorism that they conduct over there every day. And as they do that, for us to declare arbitrarily that the war is over may not match the reality on the ground."
Since Obama withdrew troops in 2014, ISIS and other terror groups have joined the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, all working to topple the US-backed government in Kabul. All told, there are now 20 terrorist groups operating inside Afghanistan and along the Afghan-Pakistani border region.
Read more at Family Security Matters.