"The Petraeus Generation"


10-Year Member
Jul 9, 2006
Cover of the March 24th issue of Newsweek:


"You can't kill your way out of an insurgency," General David Petraeus
told Newsweek in an interview in his Baghdad headquarters. He has moved
soldiers out of their secure megabases and into small outposts deep inside
once alien and hostile neighborhoods, and he has ordered his men out of
their armored convoys. "Walk ... Stop by, don't drive by," says Petraeus,
reading from a "guidance" he is drafting for his soldiers, Newsweek reports
in the March 24 issue "The Petraeus Generation" (on newsstands Monday,
March 17). The objective is no longer to take a hill or storm a citadel,
but to win over the people.

But this new way of war needs a new kind of warrior, Newsweek reports.
Five years into the longest conflict the U.S. military has fought since
Vietnam, young officers have been blooded by multiple tours in Iraq and
Afghanistan. They have learned, often on their own, operating with
unprecedented independence, the intricacies of Muslim cultures. Brought up
in rigid, flag-waving warrior cultures that taught right from wrong, black
from white, they had to learn to operate amid moral ambiguity. Most
recently, and hardest of all, they've had to reach out and ally themselves
with men who have tried and often succeeded in killing their own soldiers.
It is hard to overstate the achievement of this Petraeus Generation of
officers, but their success, is terribly fragile. And while the skills
these American officers have gained aren't critical in murky conflicts like
Iraq, they are not universally valued or trusted within the Pentagon.

The link to the Newsweek article:
This is a pretty interesting article. I'm not sure why counterinsurgency fell out of favor as a serious subject for thought in the 80s and 90s (although they obviously did- I can't recall giving more than a passing nod to the subject in CGSC or in the Navy War College) but clearly Petraeous tactics are classic counterinsurgency ops and they seem to be working.Gen Petraeous correctly recognized that stability is the key to success in this insurgency and tailored his efforts to getting boots on the ground in the right place. Tough challenge for a young Infantry captain to suddenly become a combination of relatively impartial arbiter of justice, civil works coordinator, intelligence analyst as well as Infantry commander. While it's understandable that coopting the enemy may have a sour taste, it's also undeniable that the level of violence is way down in Baghdad. So- if the Iraqi Government can use this respite in the cycle of violence to start gaining some traction they can gain legitimacy- which is what we need to have in place in order to come home. It's too bad that it took multiple years for the leadership to recognize that we were not in a conventional war where the biggest gun barrels carry the day- but it is fortunate that Gen Petraeous came along before things became completely irretrievable. Should be a lesson here for all of those in love with thoughts about the "Revolution" in military affairs that technology promised- but I doubt it. Too many cool gizmos out there that "great military thinkers embrace- remember "netcentric" warfare of a few years ago? Again and again we overvalue gadgets and capabilities and undervalue the soldier on the ground like this young Company Commander.