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Mattis talks war and peace with high school paper
Joseph Nair / AP

Teddy Fischer, a sophomore from Mercer Island High School, called up Secretary of Defense James Mattis for an interview with his high school paper after Mattis' contact information was accidentally leaked by the Washington Post. To Fischer's surprise, Mattis not only called him back, but he also agreed to the interview. Some highlights:

  • Obama's vs. Trump on handling of Middle East: "I think the two administrations are more variations on a theme than they are dramatically different approaches... [Obama] unfortunately didn't always have the best advisors or he didn't listen to his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, so we missed some opportunities there."
  • Foreign diplomacy: "I do not believe that military issues should lead in foreign policy. I think that's where diplomats lead and the military then reinforces the diplomats."
  • Defeating ISIS: "[Y]ou don't have to have the Americans do it all. There are many nations that said, if you will lead, we will contribute... like it or not, we're part of a world."
  • Gaining trust of Arab nations, especially in Iran: "What you have to do eventually is what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did, which was to move sanctions, economic sanctions, against them and force them to the negotiating table because they want to stay in power."
  • "Iran is certainly the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East... But again, it's not Iran, it's the Iranian regime."
  • Syrian conflict: "The only reason that Assad is still in power is Russia's diplomatic veto, Iran's military power, and now Russia's military power... it's hard to say why but clearly it's not in their best interest and I think Russia realizes that."
  • How to counter an ideology: "I think ideologies can be countered by showing people a better education and hope for the future by learning how to get along with one another.""
  • Problem with war: "[I]f you have to go to war, then do everything you can not to go to war if at all possible. Then you've got to get the political end state right or you'll never figure out how to end it successfully."
  • Trump budget: "[T]he bottom line is that in some cases, we admit, there's been a large amount of waste... [But eventually] I think we'll see the right thing done on this."
  • The characterization of other Americans: "I get very very concerned when I hear people start characterizing their opponents as stupid... just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them crazy or evil."'

Read the full transcript here.