Call Sign Chaos Book Summary By Jim Mattis, Bing West

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Call Sign Chaos is an exploration into US foreign policy through the experiences of one of our nation's most respected and revered military leaders, General Jim Mattis.

Within its pages, readers will gain an intimate look at Mattis' legendary career - from the moment he chose to join the Marines to his command in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This book is an inspiring and frank account of General Mattis' journey which provides a profound insight into what it takes to be a successful strategic thinker in modern day warfare.

Call Sign Chaos Book

Book Name: Call Sign Chaos (Learning to Lead)

Author(s): Jim Mattis, Bing West

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 25 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Jim Mattis, the author of Call Sign Chaos, is a seasoned veteran in the military.

He's like an old-timer whose been in it for more than four decades now and has held several important posts.

As Commander of the US Joint Forces Command and Commander of the US Central Command to name a few, he has accomplished quite a lot already.

What's more, President Donald Trump even appointed him as Secretary of Defense in 2017 - a role he held with distinction for two whole years!

Nowadays though, you'll find him working as the Davies Family Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Exploring Jim Mattis’ Military Planning Strategies During The Us Invasions Of The Middle East And Central Asia

 Jim Mattis

Call Sign Chaos is an in-depth study of US military strategy.

Jim Mattis, a general who commanded Marines in all three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait) takes us back through history to look at the successes and failures of each campaign.

We get to see the the Amphibious boat plan that allowed for invasion of a landlocked country, find out why disbanding Iraqi Army was an error and understand how the 2011 withdraws created room for ISIS’ formation.

All of this knowledge is shared through story and provides useful insight that can be directly taken from recent conflicts.

Another unique feature is how Mattis’s nearly forty year long experience in Military as he grows from young lieutenant to U.S Secretary of Defense events are intertwined to present a complete picture on US Military plans over the last thirty years.

It Takes Iron Will And A Near-Death Experience To Become The Warrior Known As ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

Growing up in Richland, Washington, Jim Mattis was a carefree youth who enjoyed exploring the great outdoors and reading books from his parents’ library.

As a teenage boy, he spent his time hunting rabbits and hitchhiking across America’s western states.

In 1968, he enrolled at Central Washington State College but adopted an apathetic attitude to studying.

All that changed the summer of 1971 when Mattis attended Marines Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia.

Led by veterans just returning from Vietnam, this course pushed him to his limits and forced him to confront the fragility of life face to face – slipping and tumbling down a ravine only for him to escape unscathed with just a few cracked ribs.

This experience would prove to be a life-changing moment as it made Mattis realized that he wanted to spend his career around men like these – dedicated soldiers who stood for two things: duty and adventure – both of which gelled with Mattis’ upbringing back home in Richland where he grew up around civic-minded patriots.

It was that same sense of adventure and patriotism that motivated Jim Mattis onto becoming one of America’s most revered generals – making it clear that all carefree youths may find a sense of purpose when given the right opportunity!

The Art Of Effective Leadership: 3 Important Qualities For Military Officers

Effective Leadership

When General James Mattis began his career in the Marines in 1972, it was at a time of turbulence and great transition within the US military.

The Vietnam War had become deeply unpopular at home and in response, the government abolished conscription and introduced an all-volunteer army.

Mattis’s early mentor, Corporal Johnson, advised him that if he wanted to be respected by his men he had to be “harder than a petrified woodpecker’s lips.” And so Mattis learned what it takes to lead a group in times of despair – competence, care and conviction.

To lead Marines effectively, an officer has to get the simple things right – running three miles in 18 minutes, shooting straight or swiftly calling artillery support.

But beyond just demonstrating competence, effective leaders have to establish trust by showing they care about their team members and demonstrate their unwavering commitment by treating everyone fairly without favoritism.

It was during this turbulent period of the Vietnam War that Mattis learned true leadership as exemplified through these traits and it set him up for great success down the line.

The Legendary Military Leadership Of U.S. Marine General James Mattis In The First Gulf War

Lieutenant Colonel Mattis was placed in command of the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marine regiment when the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990.

President George H.W Bush had made clear that the US would not allow this act of aggression to stand and so Mattis was tasked with leading a force of 1,250 Marines and 18 tanks in an assault against Iraq’s defenses.

On February 24, 1991 Mattis and his unit launched their attack and quickly penetrated Iraq’s obstacle belt – a series of minefields reinforced with barbed wire, defensive trenches and bunkers – thus opening a corridor for US forces to sweep into Kuwait.

What had taken 21 minutes during war game rehearsals in the Saudi Arabian desert took only eleven minutes on this day; a result of Mattis’ precise preparation and drills.

By the end of the day over 20,000 US troops had advanced through Mattis’ men; only 11 days later Kuwait was liberated with few losses on behalf of US forces.

It is testament to Mattis’ leadership that his unit avoided any casualties throughout this campaign, setting an example for future wars to follow.

Opening A New Front In The War Against Terror With Long-Range Helicopters

When General James Mattis heard the news of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, he instantly guessed what had happened and knew that a war was brewing against Al Qaeda.

The problem was, America’s leading general at the time, Tommy Franks, believed that seaborne Marines didn’t have any part to play in this conflict as it was landlocked.

This outdated view kept Mattis on his base in Camp Pendleton, California.

Thankfully, Vice Admiral Willy Moore of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet had a different idea.

He knew that American airstrikes were pushing enemy forces south and argued that they should launch a quick attack before Kandahar could be fortified over winter.

Thus, a plan was hatched to fly 4,000 Marines over Pakistani airspace to establish a new front in the war against terror – dubbed “Operation Rhino”.

Thanks to this bold and innovative thinking from Moore (and Mattis’ dedication to push for it!), 1 MEF was able to join the fight against Al Qaeda sooner rather than later – making their heroic contributions to history known forever!

The Strategic Opportunity Of Camp Rhino And Its Role In The Overthrow Of The Taliban


It was November 2001 when General Mattis stood on the deck of a helicopter carrier in the Arabian Sea near Pakistan’s coast and watched as Marines test-fired their weapons and loaded CH-53 helicopters.

Centcom had given the green light: the mission to establish a bridgehead in southern Afghanistan was officially underway.

By dawn, 400 additional Marines equipped with gun trucks had joined those who had first landed into the amphibious assault.

This would become Camp Rhino, an invaluable base in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The success of Camp Rhino had devastating effects on the Taliban’s forces and their makeshift capital of Kandahar; hope had become hopeless for them overnight.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, led by Commander Hamid Karzai, were making advances towards Kandahar as they heard news of this success – soon enough they overthrew the Taliban’s rule altogether.

Though it was a major victory for General Mattis and his troops, his desire to have some role in capturing Osama bin Laden was not fulfilled; President Bush decided to go along with General Franks’ decision to stay in Camp Rhino rather than pursuing Bin Laden through Tora Bora cave complex due to potential of getting caught up in a guerilla war similar to what happened during Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Thus, despite helping topple the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, Mattis never got permission from his superiors to pursue enemy forces that led by Bin Laden; an opportunity that was ultimately lost for over another decade until bin Laden was taken out.

It Takes A True Leader To Prosper In Uncertain Times: The Story Of General James Mattis

General James Mattis had been in Pendleton, California since early 2002, actively leading his Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

But whose orders was he following? He was uneasy about the decision to invade Iraq, knowing that sanctions had crippled the country’s economy and the US already controlled its airspace.

Despite personal misgivings, Mattis knew his duty as a commanding military officer – to carry out the decisions made by elected politicians whatever they may be.

So he and his senior staff performed war games on a giant map of Iraq until their supplies were good and they were ready for battle.

And even with all those preparations, twenty-four days after Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Mattis led his beloved 1st Marine Division into Iraq with 81 deaths and injuries in one night being the heaviest fighting from that campaign.

Though Iraqi resistance put up a fight, it didn’t take them long to reach Baghdad April 12 of that same year and Saddam Hussein’s removal from power as US forces ruled most of Iraq shortly thereafter.

Lessons Unlearned – How Missteps In Iraq Led To Endless War

When the US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, its goal was to liberate the country from Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime.

In an effort to do this quickly and efficiently, some poor planning decisions were made that would ultimately prove disastrous.

For example, rather than reintegrating Iraqi soldiers into a new army, Paul Bremer, who led the provisional authority established by the US to oversee reconstruction of Iraq, decided to instead disband their entire force – including many innocent non-combatants like engineers and technocrats who joined only to further their careers.

This alienated countless Iraqis who saw themselves as serving their country honorably.

Likewise, military commanders such as Mattis were instructed to prepare for local elections in areas they held – but then the provisional authority suddenly informed them that these had to be held immediately.

They complied and urged tribal and local leaders accordingly – but received mixed responses when they had to inform them of yet another sudden policy change that postponed elections.

It Takes A Balancing Act Between Compassion And Force To Defeat Insurgencies: The Battle For Fallujah

Battle For Fallujah

The events following “Call Sign Chaos” illustrate how strategies of both force and de-escalation were abandoned prematurely in postwar Iraq.

The goal was to put an end to the attacks of Al Qaeda in Iraq, yet Mattis chose a strategy that involved prioritzing diplomacy and respect, something that would become uncommon post-invasion.

However, when a group of American contractors were attacked in Fallujah, there was pressure from Washington to take a hardline approach – one that did not win over the hearts of Iraqi citizens.

This reaction ultimately backfired, leading to a domino effect as fighting suddenly exploded throughout the country.

The consequences of this premature move towards militarisation impacted not just Iraqis but also the international community; whole representatives threatened to leave Iraq if 1st Marine Division did not stand down.

Mattis argued against it but had no decision making power – what could have been resolved through local dialogue had turned into a full-scale battle for control of Fallujah.

Here we see how ignoring strategies for de-escalation can have terrible repercussions for Iraq as well as international relations.

How General Mattis Tried To Save Iraq But Was Stopped By An Unwarranted Us Pullout

The withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in October 2011, ordered by President Obama, served as the catalyst for devastating consequences in the region.

The decision, to remove all US troops from the country by the end of the year, was made despite predictions from US intelligence that chaos and civil war would ensue if this was to happen.

AQI’s reign of terror in Anbar Province had placed many tribal leaders and citizens in danger, leading to collaboration between them and US battalions.

This resulted in the “Anbar Awakening” – a realignment of Sunni leaders fighting against AQI alongside American forces.

By December 2006, General Mattis was confident in his prediction that Iraq could be stabilized within five years.

However with American troops gone by late 2011, Iraq collapsed into violence shortly after.

A revolt occured among minorities against the Shiite-dominated central government and a new Islamist group named ISIS rose out of that chaos – prompting years of fighting to roll them back.

This tragedy could have been prevented if US troops stayed; they were an integral glue that kept Iraq together as predicted by General Mattis before leaving Iraq.

Wrap Up

Call Sign Chaos is a thought-provoking book that offers a unique look into the life and career of Jim Mattis.

As he rose to the highest levels of command within the United States Marine Corps, Mattis saw the military evolve from conscription to an all-volunteer force, navigating through both successful campaigns and failed attempts.

In conclusion, we see how Mattis used his years of experience leading Marines in peace and wartime to gain insight into what works and doesn’t work in military strategy as well as his views on US foreign policy.

This wasn’t only observed in Kuwait but also saw in Afghanistan and Iraq where outdated thinking and missteps led to a different outcome than intended.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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