Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thoughts from an Extraordinary Leader

Guy Sorman has written an absorbing portrait of General David Petraeus for City Journal. An excerpt:

“My ideas are drawn from our historical memory,” Petraeus says. “At one time, the American army combined the art of war and that of administration”—during the “Indian wars” of the nineteenth century, for example. (The Army retains a positive view of the civilizing purposes of those wars, very different from how Hollywood portrays them.) And when the Army repressed the rebellion in the Philippines in 1900, Petraeus points out, it “fought extremists and, at the same time, built schools, hospitals, and roads.” Another of Petraeus’s inspirations is the French army in Algeria. It is important, he says, not to repeat its errors: torture and attacks on the local population. But it is also important to emulate what Petraeus considers its successes: “bringing security to the people, benefiting them in concrete ways, and living among them.” Petraeus has written the preface to the American edition of Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (by David Galula, a French officer in Algeria in 1958) and made the book required reading for all officers. He never tires of watching Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers, a cult film he shows to all his visitors.

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