Retired Marine general James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who hung up his uniform three years ago, has fervent supporters who want him to run for President.

Mattis—call sign “Chaos”—will be giving a talk Friday in Washington. If he takes questions, one of them is sure to be about the boomlet pushing him to seek the Oval Office. The 65-year-old—who retired from the corps after serving as chief of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013—has no interest in the job, associates say. Mattis (who is also known as the “Warrior Monk” for his ascetic intellect) has remained mum on the topic.

His silence is atypical. During his 44 years in uniform, part of his attraction was his willingness to offer his unvarnished, and sometimes, impolitic, opinions. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway,” Mattis said in 2005. “So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

What is it about military leaders that has led so many voters to champion them for the Presidency? After all, it’s not like the nation has emerged victorious from its recent wars. But it actually may have more to do with the personal qualities Americans sense in their military leaders, rather than the battles they were ordered to fight.