Friday, September 20, 2019

CDSN Workshop #1 With A Bullet: Defence Procurement

The Canadian Defence and Security Network has two basic parts: a headquarters that is running all kinds of activities to train, connect, and amplify (the website/twitter account/podcast are the first visible/audible efforts there with much more to come) and five research themes--personnel, procurement, operations, civil-military relations, and security.  Those five themes/nodes/groups/whatever will have workshops and other efforts each year that will hopefully build to five distinct research programs over the first three years of the grant, and then we will re-set and then have five new research programs over the last three years of the grant.

Yesterday, we had our first workshop, and it was within the procurement theme, organized by Philippe Lagassé--a fun irony that procurement moved most quickly.  It brought together individuals (rather senior ones) from the relevant agencies/divisions within the government, from academia, and from civil society.  We did not have any folks from industry, i.e., defence contractors, because that would have impacted what the government officials could say.  That plus Chatham House rules helped to produce a very robust conversation of the challenges facing those trying to get the "kit" to the Canadian Armed Forces, and the efforts they have made to overcome a variety of obstacles.

As someone who does not study procurement--I was there mostly in my capacity as the Director of the CDSN and not as a researcher--I was very much drinking from the firehose.  I didn't understand many of the acronyms, and it took me half of the day to figure out why the "colour of money" mattered (or perhaps not)--whether it comes from operational funds or capital funds.  I learned a great deal and so here are some of the things I picked up along the way.
  1. It works!!  That is, the CDSN is an effort to get academics and military and government folks together so that we can understand each other.  The officials gave up a significant hunk of time, which is a precious commodity, to hang out with the academics yesterday, and the exchanges were quite forthright.  So, the efforts over the past five or six years to build this network paid off, and, yes, I am very pleased by that.  
  2. The Defence Policy Review that produced the Stronger, Secure, Engaged report has been pretty meaningful.  While the exercise might have been aimed at producing certain results, it did lead to a greater focus and more resources on improving procurement.  The various pieces of that document have become signposts for policy-makers.  While procurement is hardly fixed, the SSE seems to have led to a variety of improvements that make spending more predictable, that have empowered folks at lower levels, and so on.
  3. A key aspect of this is that Treasury Board, which holds the money in Canada essentially, and DND have overcome much earned distrust from the past and have figured out ways to move projects, especially less risky ones, along faster.  
  4. I have a new favorite acronym: SNICR (pronounced like either the candy bar or a kind of laugh) or Snow and Ice Capability Recapitalization.  It refers to snow removal systems--snow blowers--that the military needs and procures.  
  5. Betterment is not just something advertised on podcasts, but language used by Treasury Board to refer to efforts to improve an existing system rather than procure a new one (I think).  I asked why not use "Improvement", but the folks in the room just go along with TB jargon.
  6. Talking about risk in this kind of setting is strange.  Why?  Because we can think of at least three kinds of risk--wasting money on a failed program, getting unwanted political attention, and people being at risk of losing their lives.  So, we need to be clear about what we mean by risk as some kinds of risk aversion make more sense than others and some kinds of risk acceptance might be necessary to move more quickly. 
  7. The politicization of procurement, as analyzed by Kim Nossal, who was at this workshop, is a real impediment to improving stuff.  Why? Because it creates an environment of risk aversion.  Innovation requires failure--you have to try a bunch of stuff and then keep the stuff that works and accept the wasted money on failed efforts.  But if there are politicians and parties out there willing and eager to blow up any mistake into a major political issue, it deters folks from taking risks and thus stunting innovation.  
  8. One way to handle this is to be far more transparent.  That most news stories gain traction after those in office deny that there are problems.  If the parties could agree (holy collective action problem) not to take every bit of procurement bad news and make it a talking point for the most simplistic soundbite in Question Period, we might create an environment where the folks doing procurement take reasonable risks that allow stuff to move faster.
  9. Oh, and why do we need to be more agile, moving faster?  Because defence procurement is ultimately about getting better stuff to our troops in the field, in the skies, and at sea so that they are not outclassed by our potential adversaries who are also innovating.  I am not so certain autocrats do procurement better/faster as in such systems, taking risks and then having failures can mean more than political embarrassment--people can get killed.  But still, moving slowly in a high tech environment is not a good way to keep up with one's allies and stay ahead of one's adversaries.
  10. Which leads to one conclusion.  We need to discriminate.  That is, we need to develop different procedures and different rules for different kinds of projects.  Stuff involving info technology probably needs a different set of procedures than boots or tanks.  One size fits all does not work, so the question is can we come up with procedures that vary, depending on not just the size of the project but the nature of the thing being procured.  Maybe sole sourced projects (no or little competition) makes sense under certain circumstances rather than being an excuse for one party to crap on another?  
Again, I don't know much about this stuff, but I feel like I have a much better idea of some of the big questions and challenges.  My hope and our plan is for this workshop to lead to not just another one in year two and another one in year three, but a pattern of sustained interactions so that we academics get better data, get a clearer idea of the questions, and that when we start to develop some evidence-based research and policy implications, that we have a receptive audience.  That is one way in which the CDSN research themes will work.  There will be other models in the other themes, where it is less your turn, my turn, your turn, and more co-creation.  The key is that there is a productive conversation going on, and I am so very pleased.  That Phil did a great job bring folks from various realms together, that the government/military folks put in much thought and were quite open about the challenges they faced, that there were great conversations not just between government types and academics but among the government folks themselves.  And that the students (MA and PhD) involved got a great deal out of it.

Money for value, indeed. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

If Justin Trudeau and the Liberals lose this election, they will have only themselves to blame.  Of course, they would have required a time machine to avoid one of the big scandals--Trudeau's awful behavior that got in the news this week.  Blackface/brownface has been wrong forever.  Emmett Macfarlane pointed out that a pivotal cultural moment was a 1975 All in the Family episode where a noted bigot, Archie, felt awkward about being in blackface, teaching a lesson about what was and was not acceptable more than forty years ago.

So, JT has done it three times at least at the time I am writing this.  There has been lots of coverage today, but I was in a workshop (see blog post tomorrow) so I am writing this without having read most of the coverage.  The news suggests a level of cluelessness and privilege that is both breathtaking and unsurprising.  How dumb, immature, and insensitive must you be to keep on doing this?  He said he likes to dress up to a fault, essentially.  WTF?!

Other folks can explain this better than I can, but obviously being a privileged pretty boy meant not thinking too hard about stuff even when much of society had agreed that blackface/brownface is damned offensive.  And before folks say that this is an American problem--that Canadians don't have the same racial politics--please.  Canadians get enough American cultural products, and Canada has had enough of its own history of racial discrimination (remember, JT admitted Canada committed genocide against its First Nations) that, yeah, any semi-aware person would know not just now but way back in 2001 that blackface is wrong.

I will move onto whether this matters.  Well, it already has.  That is, JT's bad judgment in this area affected the trip to India, where he dressed up Bollywood-style, embarrassing Canada and giving fodder to those who wanted Canada to look bad (that would be Prime Minister Modi).  Back at home, the bigger scandal, seeking to protect scandal-ridden SNC-Laval meant pressuring the Attorney General, who happened to be an Indigenous woman.  Which then undermined his rep as being a feminist and being better on the treatment of First Nations.  So, we have a pattern of JT taking for granted the feelings of non-white folks, not just in the past but in the present.  Yes, he did some good stuff for First Nations peoples, including the commission to look into the missing women and improvements in access to drinkable water.  But it does seem to be the case that whenever it gets mildly inconvenient for the Liberals to do right by the First Nations, they go the other way.  It is easy to apologize (although I don't want to trivialize some of the meaningful apologies Trudeau has given over his term in office), but harder to do stuff when it conflicts with other interests.

That the talk and the action do not match up, as Hasan Minhaj pointed out on his show, is not that new (Stefanie VH and I discuss JT on that show on this week's podcast).  Folks are profoundly disappointed.  Are they still going to vote for the Liberals?  Probably, but perhaps not as much turnout and some party switchers, which then means that, yes, the Liberals, who had an easy election due to the other major parties having lousy leaders, may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

How will I vote in my first election in Canada?  Kind of like I have in some elections in the past: holding my nose. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Paper Tigers, Liars, and the Next War

So much happened this weekend that we don't understand.  We don't know if it was Iran that attacked Saudi Arabia's production facilities, we don't know why they would do so, we don't know if the Houthis did it, etc.

What do we know? 
  1. Well, we know that the Trump Administration has no credibility--it has lied about a great many things, so even if they come out with some evidence of either Iranian complicity (and Iran is almost certainly at least complicit) or Iran guilt, it will be easy for folks to dismiss these claims.  After all, Trump is currently lying about saying that saying that he would meet the Iranians without preconditions.  
  2. We know that observers have taken to seeing Trump as a paper tiger--that he makes threats that he will not back up.  Which then encourages them to push harder and harder, expecting Trump to back down.  And they will be right to do so until ... they are wrong and find that even paper tigers eventually push back.  So, if Iran did take a risk, it might have been encouraged by Trump's previous bluffs and blustering.
  3. Saudi Arabia is a crappy friend of the US.  Maybe the Trumps love the Saudis for their entangled financial ties, but Saudi Arabia has benefited far more from American help than vice versa.  This, of course, is ironic, given Trump's criticism of NATO allies, as they have bled for the US.  Have the Saudis?  No, but the US has bled for them.  And because of them.  Oh, and another contrast: the US is not obligated to defend Saudi Arabia.  There is no mutual defense treaty between the US and Saudi Arabia.  The US has acted in Saudi Arabia's defense, most notably in 1990 when Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, but I can't find anything but an agreement to sell arms. 
  4. John Bolton was not the only guy in the Trump Administration who sought a war with Iran.  Pompeo is still around, and I am sure there are others.
While there must be work done to determine what happened and who is responsible, and Iran should face significant punishment by the international community, the US does not really need a war right now.  And Iran has plenty of ways to escalate in the region to make things hurt.  I am not sure a pinprick strike against Iran will not escalate. 

People have been wondering how the Trump Administration will do once it faces a real crisis, one that it didn't make.  Well, this is one that they only partly made, so, yeah, we are there now.  And I am very, very worried.  There are not too many good policy options, and I have confidence that Trump will pick a bad one AND will not do the necessary work to get allies and other countries to support the US course of action. 

I wish we could expect cooler heads to prevail, but none of those are in government these days.  So, what next?  Damned if I know.  Maybe the paper tiger will roar and then not bite, maybe Trump will overreact?  Maybe the Saudis will push for caution?  The key is the White House is dominated by the uncertainty engine in chief so no reason to be certain about any of this.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

9/11 After 18 Years

Yes, after this date, we can have US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan who were born after the date that triggered that mission.  For me, this particular anniversary is notable for being the first time I am teaching undergrads who have no memory of that day.  This year is the first time in eight years I am teaching undergrads, so I have gone from those whose first major IR memory was 9/11 to those who cannot have a memory of that day. 

I am not sure how that is going to change how I teach today.  I do know that the general sentiments in my previous 9/11 posts are particularly intensified, as I am angry and sad that whatever unity that could have been gained from the common experience of that day has been wasted.  More than that, we have kids in cages, we have Puerto Rico never getting the assistance it should have been, we have alienated allies who bled for the US in Afghanistan, and so on. 

9/11 will always be a pivot point in US history, where things could have gone in a number of directions.  Same is true for the 2016 election.  It didn't have to be this way.  But it is, and it is so very, very frustrating how much effort has been wasted, how many unforced errors have been committed, how much unnecessary pain is being inflicted. 

As I do need to teach today, I will leave it there for now.  For those who lost people on that day or in the responses to it, I am so very sorry. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ranking Movies? Sure. People? Not So Sure

Sunday mornings are for tenure reviews.  Huh?  I am reading stuff to evaluate a scholar for whether he/she is worthy of tenure.  This is a standard part of the tenure process--to have outside scholars read a bunch of a candidate's work and then indicate whether they have made a significant contribution and whether they are likely to continue to do so.  As I have written elsewhere, this is a fair amount of work, almost always unpaid.  So, I have gotten a bit cranky when I do it these days.

What makes me really cranky?  Being asked to compare a tenure/promotion candidate to the top scholars in the field.  I don't even like comparing people to others who are at the same point in their career.  Why?  Because in my mind, tenure is not about whether you are the most cited person (probably what administrators think of as "best"), but whether one has made a contribution and whether one is likely to continue to do so.  When I consider a tenure candidate, my basic question is whether they have done enough interesting, well-executed research and whether they are likely to continue to do so.  That latter part is mostly a guess based on whether the person's research has moved beyond the dissertation--if they keep asking new questions and managing to publish their answers to such stuff, that suggests a good trajectory.

Asking folks to be ranked is problematic unless I have very good knowledge of the support they receive.  Person x may have five more publications, but they may also have a much lower teaching load, free research assistants, and ample funding compared to person y.  How does one rank different scholars if one does not know how much support they have received from their schools?  It would seem to be unfair to penalize with lower rankings those who got a lot of good work done despite limited resources if there are other folks who got as much or more work but with far more resources. Given that there are all kinds of problems that breed path dependencies that lead to people getting less support (discrimination due to race, gender, first generation-ness, etc), it would also seem that ranking, rather than focusing on contribution to knowledge, would be replicating or intensifying the legacies of the past.

I decided to include this text in letters I write from now on:
I got have gotten much support on twitter for this stance, and folks have asked if they could borrow this text.  Of course, because if we all agree not to rank candidates, then the universities that ask for it will have to drop their focus on that question.  I understand this is a collective action problem, and, as the text above indicates, I am worried that by not following the instructions given to me by some of the folks wanting letters, I might be hurting the candidate.  Hence, I am explicit about it and want more company.

It would be a minor revolution, but it would also perhaps reduce that whole "comparison is the thief of joy" envy/jealousy/competition dynamic and return our business back to where it should be--fostering better understanding.  And, yes, sometimes I get idealistic.  Perhaps I get more idealistic when it makes it easier for me to dodge work, as ranking candidates is not only unpleasant but requires more research.

Afghanistan Shenanigans

There is always temptation to mock Donald Trump, so let's try to put into perspective this whole "hey, let's bring the Taliban to Camp David* a few days before 9/11 anniversary to make the Deal of the Century; oops, let's not!" thing.

First, some basics:
  • No, the Taliban didn't organize the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and target #3 which became a hole in Pennsylvania farmland.  Nope, that was Al Qaeda, which the Taliban government of the time permitted to run around their country, organizing terrorist campaigns against the West.  
  • It is ok to negotiate with the opponents in a civil war (Afghanistan has long had a civil war, so folks who say that one will start anytime soon are missing the cold, hard reality) as civil wars end either by one side defeating the other or by negotiation.  Victory by the Afghan government and the NATO folks was never very likely, and we all gave up on that with the withdrawals in and around 2014.  A bargain would potentially stave off the defeat of the Afghan government, as its troops and its civilians are facing a very high price every day to continue the war.
  • But the war continues in part because of international support and in part because folks remember how the Taliban ruled before.
  • Which makes any deal pretty difficult to arrange, since there is no trust for the Taliban.  Again, this is mostly normal--that it is hard to negotiate these days and they usually need some kind of third party guarantor to punish those who cheat.  Who would that be in this case?
  • Didn't Jimmy Carter bring the Israelis and the Egyptians to Camp David to negotiate an agreement which stands to this day, despite assassinations, coups, and other political unrest in Egypt?  Yeah.  But Trump ain't Jimmy, and it is not clear there would be a Sadat in the room.
  • Sometimes, violence continues while the bargaining goes on.  I can't recall situations where the violence escalates in the final stages, but it might make sense from a Taliban perspective to get Trump to sign any deal.  Given that Trump often indicates he will take any deal, just to get a deal (see negotiations with North Korea, ultimately the revision of NAFTA fits in this category as well), the Taliban may have pushed a bit too hard.  But that is what happens when one develops a reputation for being a paper tiger.

Ok, with that out of the way, how do we make sense of the tweet about cancelling the meeting of Taliban officials, the President of Afghanistan, and Trump at Camp David?  The stories in the past few weeks focused mostly on the phased withdrawal of American (and maybe NATO?) troops from Afghanistan in exchange for ..... um .... Not clear.  There was definitely a sense of a "decent interval" which refers to the way the US got out of Vietnam--by Kissinger making a deal that doomed South Vietnam, but would have a bit of time--a decent interval--between departure of the US and collapse of South Vietnam.  The pics from the fall of Saigon make that interval look not so decent AND the Nobel Peace Prize that Kissinger earned (and that Trump may covet) quite tainted since it was less a treaty and more a surrender.

So, excuse the Afghans who are thrilled this thing didn't happen.
 “A lot of Afghans are happy about Trump’s tweets because they may stop a bad deal with the Taliban, but they ignore the fact that there is a fundamental lack of strategy in Afghanistan that could prolong and exacerbate the bloody conflict,” tweeted Haroun Rahaimi, a law instructor at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. “I fear for what may come next!”

They know what Kissinger did for South Vietnam, and they have long been suspicious of being sold out.  And, yes, Trump is not the most credible of negotiators or third party guarantors.  President Ashraf Ghani was not involved in the talks, so he and his supporters worried about what the deal would mean.

Again, the discussions did not seem to focus on power-sharing, on how to include the Taliban's armed forces in the Afghan military or how to demobilize them, or any of the usual topics of an effort to end a civil war.

The big problem here is not bargaining with the Taliban, but doing the work to make this happen.  That is, it requires a significant amount of expertise, discipline, and planning to figure out how to use whatever declining leverage the US has left (signaling one is leaving ASAP is not great for leverage, as Obama found out) to get a deal that at least has some pretense to guaranteeing that the side the US/NATO have been supporting is not betrayed.  All the stories about these negotiations indicate that the US "process" is a shitshow as the National Security Adviser has been left out of it (the schadenfreude about John Bolton being sidelined is offset by empathy for the Afghans), that it is run by an agent (Zalmay Khalizad) who may not be coordinating with anyone, and with Trump thinking he can go with his gut once he gets in the room with the Taliban officials.

Mostly, this tweet was about Trump's ego--that he tried to make a big deal because he thinks he can make big deals even though he didn't do any of the work to make a big deal likely and then he got upset when the Taliban continued to keep up the pressure.

I guess people have been thinking all along that things could be worse because he hasn't screwed up everything.  Maybe not, but I'd say he is working on it except that Trump doesn't work.  He is too damned lazy.

*  Camp David is on the same mountain/hill in Maryland as the summer camp I went to for all of my teens, and there is a reunion going on there this weekend that I could not attend.  I wonder how the folks who are attending are feeling about the turmoil over on the other side.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Taking Advice from Republicans: Um, No Thanks

I am really tired of Republicans telling the Democrats how to run for office.  For an example:

First, y'all lost control of your party, stop trying to control the other one. 
Second, and, most importantly, primaries and general elections are different beasts.

20 or 10 or 5 or 2 candidates in a primary have to engage in product differentiation.  Saying one is opposed to Trump is not going to cause folks to pick one candidate over another.  Saying one is the best, most electable candidate to defeat Trump?  Sure, but they are all going to say that, and it will be hard to discern who really is more electable since the test is ... wait for it ... winning elections.  In the  winter, we will have primary elections which will serve a few purposes:
  1. The outcomes will determine who wins the right to confront Vader Trump. 
  2. The early outcomes will also suggest who is better at campaigning, who is better at running, and, maybe, provide hints of who is more electable.  
The debates and all the rest right now don't really tell us much about electability.  What they do actually do is differentiate the candidates as each tries to appeal to folks who vote in Democratic primaries (hint: Republicans don't vote in Democratic primaries except in a few strange places).  So, they are outbidding each other on the issues they think will play to their base, like medicare for all, for a green deal of some kind, etc.  That is, they think Democratic voters care about these issues (they do), and they are playing to the crowd.  Kind of like when Trump outbid all of the Republicans on how best to be a racist, but on policy issues and not just resentment (Yeah, I am smug that the Democratic base, for the most part, is not vile like a certain hunk of those who showed up in the GOP primaries).

Anyhow, the old pattern of US politics is to swing to the extremes in the primaries because only the most passionate folks show up in big numbers, and, yes, extremists are more passionate than moderates.  That is why the GOP establishment failed in 2016--they couldn't get the pro-diversity Jeb voters out (if they existed).   And then the candidates swing to the middle after that.  Although to be clear, on some of the issues that Wilson mentions--guns, abortion, health care, the middle of the American electorate is actually much, much closer to the middle of the Dems. 

BUT, yes, things are different now.  According to Rachel Bitecofer (whom I chatted with at APSA) and others who actually study elections and electoral behavior (unlike Rick Wilson), the key in 2018 was not winning GOP moderates but the Dems turned out.  The GOP turned out, too, but there are more Dems than GOP so the Dems just have to turn out to win.  And they will turn out because Trump is so very awful.

The Democratic nominee will spend the summer and fall of 2020 discussing how awful Trump is to turn out the Dems and the Dem-leaning independents (the GOP-leaners will go back to the GOP because that is what they do)  Hillary for all of her policy videos also did a pretty good job of documenting how awful Trump was, but the Dems were complacent, thinking that Trump might not be so bad.  He is now proven to be so bad.

I am not saying the Dems will win (Bitecofer is) as I am not sure the supporters of the losing Democratic candidates will support the nominee.  That, for me, is the key variable. 

All I am saying is that the Dems don't need advice from Republicans on how to attract Democratic voters next year OR how to win the primaries.  Disaffected Republicans are not going to swing in a bit way to the Dems.  We just need them to stay home.  Rick Wilson and his ilk can keep talking about what the Dems should do, and that is their right.  But we don't have to listen.  Instead, listen to Bitecofer. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Mattis Redux: Former SecDef Forever

I criticized the choice of Mattis ever since it was broached in 2016.  I found it very problematic to have a very recently retired 4 star officer, especially a Marine, serve as SecDef.  As I go around the world, asking folks about their civilian-military relations, I always find it problematic when the Ministry of Defense is occupied by former/active military officers.  Why?  Because civilian control of the military requires ... civilians to control the military.

Recently retired officers are far less likely to see their job as overseeing the armed forces and more likely to see their jobs as protecting the military from civilian interference.  When Congress initially created the position, they required a ten year gap, which got reduced to seven, but let it all get waived if Congress felt like it.  And, alas, they felt like it.

Folks might say that Mattis did a good job while he was in office.  And I simply don't know if he did.  What proof do we have?  Trump's defense policy was awful before and since.  People forget that Trump was risking war with North Korea in the spring of 2018, and this stopped not due to Mattis's interference but because Trump decided he could make a great deal (kind of like today's news where Trump takes credit for a deal the Taliban says does not exist).  Folks could point to the continued investment in defending Europe, and that might be a Mattis initiative that avoided Trump's radar screen, but I really don't know if he should get credit.

I do know that Mattis was by Trump's shoulder when he signed the Muslim ban while visiting the Pentagon.  I do know that Mattis went along with various policies aimed at kicking transgender folks out of the military, that turned away interpreters who risked their lives in American wars, and so on.

I think there was a whole lot of wishful thinking going on--that people were hoping that Trump's worst instincts were being blocked by Mattis.

And that is kind of awful.  Because people were hoping a military man was defying the President or manipulating the President.  That is horrible from the standpoint of civilian control of the military and from the standpoint of good civil-military relations.  This erodes norms and encourages resistance and defiance and disobedience.  I am not worried about coups, but I am worried about the military following orders.  They don't always obey in the best of times (yes, sorry, but principal-agent problems are a thing).

Who has been making defense policy for the past three years?  The Joint Staff, as Mattis found more common cause with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and Marine) Joseph Dunford.  As someone who worked for a year on the Joint Staff, I have lots of respect for those folks, but I don't think they should be in charge.  I now have to re-think how I felt about the Joint Staff making policy during Rumsfeld's first year or two....

About the Marine thing, I tend to have a sore spot there.  Why?  Because their desperate desire for autonomy and keeping their units together meant that they subverted the President's intent and disrupted the efforts to develop unity of command in Afghanistan--better to be on their own in Helmand than working with others in Kandahar despite the latter being far more relevant for population-centric counter-insurgency.

Anyhow, what irks me know is that Mattis wants to have it both ways: to be a retired general who is apolitical but to do book tours to promote his book.  Would he be getting so much press coverage for his book about his life as a Marine (it does not cover his time as SecDef)?  I don't think so.

Mattis's first mistake was not taking off his uniform when he became SecDef (I mean in terms of his own views/identity/etc).
Matti's second mistake is thinking he can take off the coat of SecDef that cloaked his uniform now.  It is tainted and tattered, but it is on him for life.  I will never refer to him as Gen (ret.) Mattis--he will always be former SecDef Mattis.

PS I didn't even mention his time shilling for Theranos.