David Petraeus is a career military man who exchanged the uniform of the U.S. Army he has served long and honorably for civilian attire appropriate to the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He didn’t have to. No law says he can’t remain in military service while performing his new duties as CIA director.
But Petraeus said he didn’t want to give the impression that the American intelligence community is being militarized. ...
This is a soldier’s soldier who clearly understands, both instinctively and intellectually, the core American principle that our military answers to civilian authority, and not the other way around. And he obviously believes that if he is to lead the nation’s intelligence community, then leaders of other nations — allies and adversaries alike — need to understand it as well.
Robert Burns of The Associated Press calls Petraeus “the wartime model of a soldier-scholar-statesman,” and the description appears to fit. His skills as a military leader and tactician, combined with diplomatic talent and obvious media savvy, would seem to make him almost uniquely qualified for the post President Barack Obama has asked him to fill, that of a different kind of warrior.
If his performance at Langley comes even close to his career in uniform, he could prove to be a historically important CIA director as well. ...
He served in the Army for 37 years and six command assignments, four of them in combat zones. He is widely credited with turning the tide of the war in Iraq, from a seemingly hopeless quagmire marked by increasingly violent sectarian insurgency toward a situation stable enough to allow planning of U.S. troop withdrawals. He has said that turnaround was as much about a “surge of ideas” as a surge of soldiers.
Now, as Leon Panetta becomes defense secretary replacing Robert Gates, Petraeus will take over the CIA helm within days of the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks. The general’s parting admonition as a soldier was simple and to the point: U.S. civilian leaders must not allow the budget conflict to undermine American defense.
Biographers David Cloud and Greg Jaffe called Petraeus “the most cogent thinker about the deepest strategic and tactical questions the country was facing.”
Was facing then, and is still facing now.