The author offers an insider's sometimes shocking account of how Defense Secretary James Mattis led the U.S. military through global challenges while serving as a crucial check on the Trump Administration.
For all of you who've been waiting for a tell-all account of James Mattis' 710 days as President Trump's first Pentagon chief, that book has now been written. It is not Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, the book Mattis published in September...Mattis maddeningly refuses in that tome to go into his time serving a president who's still in office. Instead, Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon With Secretary Mattis essentially picks up the story where the former defense secretary left off ... This is not, it would seem, a book the Defense Department was eager to see published. It took a lawsuit to spring Snodgrass' memoir in September from the Department of Defense, where it had languished for months in a mandatory prepublication review ... an insider's account of how Mattis dealt with the conundrum of how to stay in good graces with Trump while at the same time trying to shore up the very international alliances Trump detested ... The accuracy and veracity of many...quotes are difficult, if not impossible, to check ... The book is also not without errors ... while Mattis may be blowing a gasket over this geyser of a leak, he might also appreciate how the man once in charge of putting words in his mouth has — for the most part — painted a flattering verbal picture of him: a military man turned civilian, holding the line when he could.
Snodgrass, a former Navy fighter pilot who worked in Mattis’s office from the spring of 2017 until the summer of 2018, has stepped forward to fill some of the vacuum created by Mattis’s silence. To be sure, his vantage point was limited...But Snodgrass saw more than enough for his memoir to take its place in the growing annals of government dysfunction ... Snodgrass, who eventually quit after clashing with a top Mattis aide, clearly admires his former boss but does not canonize him.
For all of its unique behind-the-scenes insights, Holding the Line is not, at its core, a Trump-era tell-all ... is actually a story of the unintended consequences of a subordinate’s attempts to maintain loyalty to a superior whose own honor and character is being tested in a way that his career to date, including combat experience, never demanded ... And that’s what makes Holding the Line a must-read (if not a cautionary tale) for any professionals – military or otherwise – who desire access to the biggest levers of power. Like Icarus from Greek mythology, those who try to fly closer to the sun sometimes have their wings melt.