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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.

Go deeper

"No-code" miracle for startups

Expand chart
Data: Interactive Advertising Bureau; Table: Axios Visuals

The U.S. has reached a tipping point in its shift from the industrial economy — one that relied on the buildout of hardware — to an information economy that relies on the transfer, storage and implementation of data, according to a new report.

Why it matters: This shift towards a data and information-based economy has allowed more businesses to establish themselves and scale quickly and at a very low cost. As such, the number of jobs created by the commercial internet has more than tripled since 2012.

Amazon's small business shield

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon is touting the success of small sellers on its platform through the pandemic — and warning that antitrust legislation could jeopardize that success and blow up its open-marketplace model.

Why it matters: As online shopping became a lifeline for both businesses and consumers during the pandemic, Amazon reaped big benefits, but also saw its regulatory risk grow.

The new cold war panic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The world has seen a power struggle between nuclear powers before, and has seen those countries inch closer to military conflict. But it's never before seen a cold war between two countries as interconnected — with each other and with the rest of the globe — as the U.S. and China.

Why it matters: Escalating antagonism between the world's two superpowers is likely to hinder global cooperation to fight climate change, divert resources to costly arms and tech races, complicate diplomacy for U.S. allies, and victimize Chinese and American citizens living in each other's countries.