Petraeus: Hero, REMF, or Model Proconsul?

Reading this rabidly negative deconstruction of Gen. Petraeus's fruit salad (the tabs and medals on an officer's dress uniform), I was struck by the extent to which it remained open to a counter-narrative. It may be that Patraeus is the antithesis of a fighting General, but it may also be that he is a very good administrator (even if he's also a man who married well and is very good at ascending in environments studded with greasy poles).

It is possible to distrust, even despise, the bootlicking of superiors — evident in the General's public and obsequious support of the Bush administration's political objectives — traits alleged in that article to be long-running hallmarks of a career, and yet admire the ability to motivate subordinates and manipulate the media. Even if one discounts for the besotted reporter factor, it seems pretty clear that the areas of Iraq that General Petraeus's troops occupied were more peaceful and stayed bought longer than other non-Kurdish areas under US control. That was an achievement, exactly the sort we hope for from our modern military Proconsuls, although not one that can easily be replicated on a larger scale now that he's starting from a worse position.

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2 Responses to Petraeus: Hero, REMF, or Model Proconsul?

  1. stormin normin says:

    Very insightful, would love to hear more about your thoughts on leadership and all things martial. Remind us once again on your expert qualifications for such matters? Would love to hear about your experiences as a leader, and all your martial training. Perhaps over cigars and scotch.

  2. Michael says:

    I don’t blog to brag, but since you ask, among others, an M.Phil in International Relations, a course of study which included a study of several “things martial” and indeed had military officers among the students. And an interest in how the US deploys its military might, and organizes procurement and other things military, that started with growing up in DC during the Vietnam War.

    No one serious disputes that experience commanding troops can be (but isn’t inevitably) a source of insight into things military. Some of our best writers on war (and peacetime armies too) have been serving or former officers (and, sometimes, former soldiers, sailors or airmen). And, similarly, no one serious argues that lived experience is the only way to have insight into things, whether military or not.

    Which leads to the obvious question: are you serious?

    On the whole, I and, I suspect, most readers, would be vastly more interested in comments on the substance of what I (or others) post. But do what you will. Since it’s directed at me, I do not see the above as a violation of the blog’s civility policy.

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