General of the Army?

by Leveret

Okay, so one weird thing quitely bouncing around the news at the moment is the debate as to whether Gen. Petraeus should be given a 5th star – the American equivalent of being promoted to Field Marshall. See this WSJ op-ed by two of his 101st Airborne veterans.

This is an exceedingly rare honour in the American military – there have only been nine 5-star officers in US History, including such greats as ‘Generals of the Army’ Washington, Grant, MacArthur, Pershing, Bradley and ‘Fleet Admiral’ Nimitz.

Petraeus has rescued America from defeat in one war, and is currently working to turn around the Afghan theatre of the War on Terror, but is a fifth-star really merited. His veterans make the case thusly:

His wartime tenure began as the Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, responsible for over 10,000 combat troops during the initial invasion of Iraq. He led the 101st in an airborne assault into northern Iraq and then quieted the city of Mosul.

Gen. Petraeus then oversaw the creation and training of the new Iraqi Army, a Herculean task that was accomplished amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation. By the time he was through, he had stood up, equipped and trained over 100,000 Iraqi soldiers. They would be crucial in winning the peace in the years to follow.

In 2005, Gen. Petraeus led the Army’s command responsible for education and doctrine at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. There he wrote the Army’s manual on counterinsurgency operations. His COIN manual was the blueprint for the upcoming troop “surge” that saved Iraq from the brink of calamity.

Gen. Petraeus left Fort Leavenworth in 2007 to take his new playbook to Iraq, where he became commander of coalition forces. He engineered one of the most stunning turnarounds in the history of modern warfare. Within 18 months, the general and his troops defeated al Qaeda in Anbar, ended a civil war in Baghdad, sealed porous borders with Iran and Syria, and created a sense of normalcy in Iraq.

After succeeding in the face of near-unanimous doubt, Gen. Petraeus was promoted to commander of Central Command (Centcom) in 2008, where he would oversee a two-front war in Iraq and Afghanistan. His tour at Centcom was cut short, however, when President Barack Obama asked him to replace the dismissed Gen. Stanley McCrystal in Afghanistan. It was a step down on the career ladder for Gen. Petraeus— but he was the president’s last hope to turn around Afghanistan. Demonstrating classic statesmanship, Gen. Petraeus relinquished his more prestigious post at Centcom.

I must confess that it would delight me to see Petraeus gain more prestige vis-a-vis his Commander in Chief.


One response to “General of the Army?

  1. Two points: Washington and Pershing hold the ambiguous rank of General of the Armies of the United States, which is supposed to out rank a five star General but isn’t quite a six star rank (which doesn’t exist but has been proposed several times). As for Petraeus, bumping him up may produce some chain of command problems as he would then out rank the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and all of the Heads of Service. I don’t think it is likely while he is still a theater commander.

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