Saturday, July 10, 2010


This has not really been a slow week, but it is one in which many of my thoughts about music seem to have taken priority over my thoughts of chutzpah. Thus, in reviewing the week, I realize that I probably could have assigned my Chutzpah of the Week award on Thursday in conjunction with the BBC News report that Marine Corps General James Mattis was nominated to replace General David Petraeus as head of US Central Command. Mattis' name should resonate with anyone who either read Generation Kill or saw the HBO miniseries based on Evan Wright's book. We never saw Mattis in the HBO version, but his name hovered over the Marine First Reconnaissance Battalion in which Wright was embedded rather the way the ghost of King Hamlet hovers over his son.

Reviewing Wright's text, I discovered that Mattis had a motto:

Doctrine is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

Also, his call sign in battle was "Chaos." From a realistic point of view, this may square well with the assessment of Defense Secretary Robert Gates given in the BBC report, even if Gates does not realize this:

He described Gen Mattis as one of the US military's "outstanding combat leaders and strategic thinkers".

One wonders if Gates knew about Mattis' motto before releasing this statement, but all signs point to Mattis having a personal disposition towards leading with chutzpah. Whether the connotation of that chutzpah turns out to be positive or negative remains to be seen, but he seems to be the sort of leader who sees innovation emerging from chaos. It takes chutzpah to bring that kind of thinking to Central Command, which traditionally tries to serve as a stabilizing force; so, under the assumption that he will not get much positive recognition for his new assignment, it seems proper to let him enjoy a Chutzpah of the Week award.

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