The Atlantic

America, Meet Your (Acting) Secretary of Defense

With no military experience and just a year and a half in government, the former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan has yet to develop a foreign-policy vision of his own.
Source: Leah Millis / Reuters

It hasn’t received much attention, what with Donald Trump suddenly declaring victory against ISIS, ordering U.S. troops out of Syria, and provoking James Mattis to resign in protest.

But the man who is now the president’s principal adviser on the nation’s defense, tasked with leading the largest employer in the world and managing the fallout from Trump’s military retrenchment, has less experience in government (a year and a half) or the military (none) than any defense secretary since an oil magnate served as the acting head of the Pentagon for several weeks during Watergate 45 years ago.

The man’s name is Patrick Shanahan. He’s a relative enigma in American politics. And while he’s only temporarily assuming the top posting at the Defense Department for now, he may be sticking around for a while.

Focus solely on the policy positions Shanahan has staked out, and you’ll hear echoes of his . They’re a reminder of the difficulty Trump will have in finding a new Pentagon chief whose views, as Mattis put it in his , “are better aligned” with the president’s. In his disdain for traditional American allies, disregard for the authoritarian threat from Russia and China, and dismissal of the U.S.-led international system as a boondoggle, the commander in chief of the United States’s military largely stands alone.

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