Pre-Trump, Gen. James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis at Berkeley

Who is James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general newly installed as President Donald Trump’s secretary of defense?

In an hourlong 2014 conversation with UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler for “Conversations with History,” the man who is now the nation’s No. 2 military official — second only to the commander-in-chief himself — spoke of his formative years, his command philosophy, his battle experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, the contribution of the military to the policy debate and what students should think about as they prepare for the future, among other topics.

And while the nation was just gearing up for midterm elections — with hardly a thought for the 2016 White House race, much less the election of Donald Trump — Mattis offered some possibly prescient insights into how he may approach his new job, and his new boss. 

“I’ve signed a lot of next-of-kin letters, I have sent a lot of troops into fights, and it’s critical that we tell our civilian leaders what we think we can, or more importantly sometimes, what we cannot do with the military instrument,” Mattis said. “Especially as we get more and more political leaders who’ve had no military experience, some can have exaggerated views of what the military can do.”

Watch the entire conversation here