Historians will likely judge General David Petraeus to be the most effective American military commander since Eisenhower.
David Petraeus, U.S. Army four-star retired, is the most celebrated soldier of his time. He had the rarest trifecta of military skills: the intellectual ability to marshal strategic concepts, the tactical insights to apply them on the battlefield, and the charisma and leadership savvy to organize a unity of effort by the motley coalitions he commanded.
Also known as the “Professor of War”, he oversaw the crafting of a treatise calling for a “hearts and minds” approach to winning supporters among the local populations by educating the U.S. military in the politico-military tangles of counterinsurgency. He had the moral courage to risk his career in the gambles he took to salvage the U.S. effort in Iraq. He accepted, without hesitation, President Obama’s request to step down from one of the supreme posts in the U.S. military—Commander of Central Command—to try to turn around the failing international effort in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, it’s arguable that no U.S. Commander could have overcome ground truths that so uncomfortably mirror Vietnam: a divided population; a governing circle whose ravenous corruption had cost it all legitimacy; and a cross-border safe haven for enemy forces. By force of will, Petraeus managed to turn things around, at least tactically.
Now, retired after 37 years in the military, Petraeus is a partner with the global financial investment firm KKR and the Chairman of the KKR Global Institute. He is also a visiting professor of Public Policy at the City University of New York’s Macaulay Honors College, a Judge Widney professor at the University of Southern California, a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
General Petraeus has received numerous U.S. military, State Department, NATO and United Nations awards and decorations. 13 foreign countries also have decorated him with highest recognitions and honors.