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David Mareuil / AP

James Mattis is carrying a monstrous political weight on his shoulders. He's the man — alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — whom America's treaty allies are looking toward to steer Trump's foreign policy in more conventional and reassuring directions.

Over the past week alone, Trump unsettled the following allies: Australia, Germany, and Mexico. And he's withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving China to become a more dominant trade player in Asia. And China-watchers are worried about Steve Bannon's hawkish views on the South China Sea.

In short: America's treaty allies are questioning whether Pax Americana is stable in the Trump Era.

Enter Mattis. He's well respected on both sides of the aisle, and seen as a moderating influence on Trump. Outgoing Obama Administration officials love him. He traveled first to South Korea and Japan to deliver a clarion message of American support.

I want there to be no misunderstanding during the transition in Washington that we stand firmly, 100 percent shoulder to shoulder with you and the Japanese people. — Mattis to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Why this matters: Trump thrives on instability. Applied to foreign affairs, however, Trump's bombast has unsettled every country that lives under the U.S. security umbrella. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are the best hopes these countries have to stabilize Trump. The earliest signs since their appointments — Mattis' Asia trip and Trump's unexpectedly conventional statement on Israeli settlements — may make America's allies cautiously hopeful.

Go deeper

12 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.

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