Central Intelligence Agency Director and retired four-star General David Petraeus says strategic counter-insurgency won out over brute force in the Iraq war.
Petraeus spoke at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center on Monday, where he discussed different leadership styles. He was invited to speakby Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who praised Petraeus as one of the country’s best leaders.
The address bypassed partisan politics and noticeablly avoided security issues on the eve of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Instead, Petraeus offered insights into the U.S. military’s surge in Iraq that many credit with quelling much of the violence in 2007.
Petraeus says the amount of force that was used was less important than the larger idea behind the new strategy to win the conflict.
“Indeed with violence threatening to tear apart the very fabric of Iraqi society no surge of forces—no matter how large—would have succeeded if we had not also changed our overarching approach,” he says.
According to Petraeus, the key to the surge’s success were relationships formed with civilians and alliances with those willing to lay down their weapons. The military stationed soldiers in Iraqi communities and negotiated with insurgents who were willing to reconcile.
But Petraeus told the audience that military force still played a role in the surge’s success.
“Now to be sure, we did have to do a good bit of killing and capturing. Make no mistake about it,” he says. “In our focus on securing and serving the people, and on promoting reconciliation had to be accompanied by the relentless, tenacious pursuit of those who rejected reconciliation and who continued to threaten our forces and our Iraqi counterparts and Iraqi people with violence.”
Despite avoiding any comment on this year’s presidential election that hasn’t stopped speculation that the former four-star general will run for president one day. Last month, Petraeus was rumored to be on Governor Mitt Romney’s short list of potential VP candidates.
“I certainly hope so,” says former Kentucky Adjutant General Donald Storm, who attended the speech. “He has what it takes and understands the complex problems in the world. He understands the world situation. He’s the absolute greatest authority on counter-insurgency.”
Petraeus has told numerous media outlets that he has no political ambitions.