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In Surprise Interview, U.S. Defense Chief Stresses U.S. Global Leadership

U.S. Secretary for Defense Jim Mattis (file photo)

A resourceful U.S. high school student scored a 45-minute interview with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after seeing the official's private telephone number inadvertently exposed in a newspaper photograph.

Student Teddy Fischer, 16, saw the telephone number in May and called it, leaving a message for Mattis asking for an interview, U.S. media reported on July 10.

Mattis -- who, like Fischer, is from Washington state -- called back and the two spoke for 45 minutes. Fischer posted the complete interview online in late June.

In the interview, Mattis emphasizes U.S. international engagement, saying that it was U.S. leadership that brought postwar stability through institutions and initiatives like the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, the Bretton Woods conference, the International Monetary Fund, and NATO.

"All of that grew out of that great World War II generation that, like it or not, were part of a world," Mattis said. "We can't just be isolationist like we were after World War I."

Asked how the United States can best overcome the terrorist ideologies of groups like Islamic State, Mattis proposed a massive program to bring foreign students to the United States for extended stays.

"I sometimes wonder how much better the world would be if we funded for nations where they have ideology problems, where the ideologies are hateful, full of hatred," Mattis said. "I wonder what would happen if we turned around and we helped pay for high school students, a boy and girl at each high school in that country to come to America for one year – and don't just do it once, but do it 10 years in a row."

Mattis specifically said such a program should include "every high school whether it be in Afghanistan or Syria or wherever."

Mattis's statements run counter to the spirit of many statements and policies of the administration of President Donald Trump, which has emphasized prioritizing narrow U.S. interests.

The administration has at various times pushed to sharply restrict immigration and travel from many Muslim countries, including Syria.

Earlier this month, a group of six female students from Afghanistan were denied visas to travel to the United States to participate in an international robotic competition.

With reporting by AP and the New York Post
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