Friday, June 29, 2007

The Scholar, the Warrior, the Savior?

He has a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy, Class of 1974. He was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College - class of 1983. He then earned a Master of Public Administration (1985) and a Ph.D. (1987) in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. His last teaching positions were serving as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the U.S. Military Academy, a fellowship at Georgetown University. Who is this pointy headed, Ivy League educated academic?

He is Major General David H. Petraeus, Commander, Multinational Force - Iraq.

His publications include:

  • The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam, 1987. (doctoral thesis)
  • The Legacy of Vietnam for the US Military" in Democracy, Strategy, and Vietnam: Implications for American Policymaking (with William J. Taylor), 1987.
  • Military Influence and the Post-Vietnam Use of Force, Armed Forces & Society, 1989.

  • Why We Need FISTs-Never Send a Man When You Can Send a Bullet, Field Artillery Journal, 1997.
  • Learning Counterinsurgency: Observations from Soldiering in Iraq, Military Review, 2006.

His scholarly qualifications are good, but his warrior qualifications are better. In 2003, Petraeus led the 101st Airborne on one of the biggest airborne assaults in military history. The operation was textbook perfection. With a rifle in one hand and a scroll in the other, Dr. General Petraeus was credited with finding a Zen-like balance between hardass and softheart. He steadfastly prosecuted searches and raids to root out Ba'athist supporters of the failed regime in 2003, but balanced those actions with face-to-face meetings in the houses of tribal Sheikhs in northern Iraq. This led to the intelligence that ultimately led to a wild shootout between members of the 101st and Saddam's two cornered sons, Uday and Qusay.

When Petraeus returned from Iraq in 2005, he served as the Commanding General of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the US Army's Combined Arms Center. As Commander, he was given oversight of the Command and General Staff College and 17 other facilities and programs. These included development of the Army's "doctrinal manuals," which form the basis of how the Army sees itself and what it does. Critical within his time at Leavenworth was the oversight of two seminal changes aimed at improving Army performance in Iraq. The first was the complete overhaul of 1st Infantry Division's advisory team training. The second was co-authoring Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency. The first change was significant in that it would refocus how the Army trained Iraqi military and police units. The second was significant in that it would refocus how the United States would conduct the counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and any future counterinsurgeny operations the United States may be called upon to conduct.

Petraeus was nominated by President George Bush to replace MG William Casey as Commander MNF-Iraq. He was confirmed unanimously by the US Senate in January 2007, and assumed command of MNF-Iraq on February 10, 2007. Many in the Administration believe Petraeus to be "Bush's Ulysses S. Grant," referring to Abraham Lincoln's appointment of Grant as commander of the Army of the Potomac after several frustrating Union defeats in the United States' Civil War. Grant's military strategies are credited with the Union turning the tables in the war and finally defeating the Confederacy. However, comparing Petraeus to Grant is an insult to Petraeus' credentials. Grant graduated 21st out of a class of 39 from the US Military Academy, published nothing but his memoirs, and was generally regarded as a damned good warrior but a lousy student. That said, Grant's appointment did make the difference in the Civil War, and Lincoln, facing badly flagging public support for the war, stuck by his General and the war itself, even to the point where he was certain he would lose reelection in 1864. The political and military parallels between Grant and Petraeus are striking, as may well be the historical parallel. The question is, will Petraeus be given the time he needs to do the job he seems to have prepared his entire life for?