No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy: The Life of General James Mattis

This review first appeared on Future Female Leaders

General James Mattis is one of the most highly regarded members of the Trump administration and was confirmed as Secretary of Defense in a 98-1 vote in the Senate. In his new book, No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy: The Life of General James Mattis, author Jim Proser explores just why that is. He traces Mattis’ sixty-seven years on this earth from his childhood in Washington state to his numerous wartime appointments and his eventual rise to be the 26th US Secretary of State. With an eye for writing about military movements and an interest in the broader political moment, Jim Proser’s biography of Jim Mattis is a must-read for people who are interested in the military and the making of a man everyone admires.

The vast majority of No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy takes place on various fields of engagement in the Middle East. It’s only fitting, since Mad Dog Mattis spent so much of his life in the military, serving from the Persian Gulf War to 2013, when he became commander of United States Central Commander before retiring in 2013. Though I can appreciate our military, I don’t have much of a background so a lot of the detailed descriptions of military movements didn’t hook me into the book. If you like military strategy though, you’ll love this book. However, even if I wasn’t intrigued by the intricacies of the military component, I did love seeing the little facets of Mattis’ personality and lifestyle come out not only through his actions but his words and the words of those around him. As you’ll find out, Jim Mattis lived a pretty Spartan lifestyle in the military. He never saw himself as higher than the men serving with him and if they were sleeping on the ground, so was he. If they were eating meagerly, so was he. Mattis also lived a lifestyle Marie Ko would be proud of and had very few possessions, though he liked to unwind by reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.  I also realized while reading this book, though I must have known it somewhere in my mind, that Jim Mattis is not married and has never been married. However, in this book, you’ll get the story of the woman he ALMOST married and why that never came about. It’s an eye-opening read about Mattis’ dedication to his country and told well and in a non-gossip rag type way.
Though a good 2/3 of this book are very military heavy, as in detailed descriptions of fights and engagements and discussions among marines, this book is also set largely against a backdrop of the war on terror. Proser goes into detail on the decisions made after 9/11 to go into Afghanistan and what role Mattis and his experience played in the decisions. Then, we go back into the field with Mattis and see him really coming into his own as a leader, pushing back against decisions he doesn’t agree with before they officially come down and putting his full force into every action he and his men must take. I really enjoyed the stories about Mattis speaking a bit..uncouthly about killing and the act of war and how other officials and the media tried to reign him in, pretty much to no effect. One of the interviews featured in the books is the infamous one where Jim Mattis said, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” That really sums up the Jim Mattis you’ll get to know through Proser’s prose. He’s an incredibly principled man but he also takes no crap from anyone. A great addition to this book was one of Mattis’ papers on command and his detailed description of how he earns respect and what he thinks the most important aspects of Marine life are. Even as someone with no military history, I found it both interesting and inspiring on a leadership level.
Jim Matis is one of the only Trump cabinet officials who has successfully avoided scandal or press coverage and he’s quietly annihilating ISIS and revamping the US military.  Since you won’t get his life story out of his own mouth anytime soon, check out Jim Proser’s biography, on sale everyone August 7th.


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