A response to: Premature 5th Star for Petraeus? | Jamie McIntyre

I haven’t fully decided myself, but I tend to favor the idea.  I also find the arguments presented by Mr. McIntyre to be less then persuasive:

With Iraq in serious danger of backsliding once the U.S. leaves at the end of this year, and Afghanistan teetering on the brink of becoming a endless quagmire, it may be just a little too soon to be planning a coronation for “King David.”

I have little quarrel with those who believe David Petreaus to be an outstanding general, one who seems to be uniquely suited to wrestle with the challenges of the post-Sept 11th world, but for now four stars on each shoulder seems plenty.

Little quarrel, yet we’ll refer to him by the, less than charitable, nickname of “King David” in the first paragraph?

I haven’t talked to Petraeus, but I’m sure he’d brush aside any notion that he ought to be promoted to General of the Army, a wartime rank that would, at least nominally, put him ahead of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Which is not the problem that many might assume, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is not in GEN Petraeus’ chain of command.  Neither the Army Chief of Staff nor the Joint Chiefs’ Chairman are. They are advisors to the President and to the Combatant Commanders and while they may make policies that impact the roles of Combatant Commanders and their subordinates, they do not have command authority over them.

Advancing an argument regarding outranking the CENTCOM commander would have merit, but that’s not an insurmountable obstacle either. At least one way to resolve this would be to elevate the Afghanistan/ISAF mission to a Specified Command, changing the CENTCOM Commander’s relationship with him to one much like the ACoS and CJCS.

If President Obama wants to reward Petraeus’ exemplary service, and the general wants to continue to serve his country once his tour of duty in Afghanistan ends, Joint Chiefs Chairman would be the next logical, appropriate move.

Gen. Petraeas (sic) is a winner and a great military thinker, no doubt, but the wars he is fighting have not yet been won. Let’s not let our admiration for his undeniable accomplishments overrule the cold hard facts.

A 5th star is not a reward for missions accomplished–we elevated the 7 WWII 5 stars during the fight well before they were won, based on merit certainly, but GEN Petraeus is not lacking in that department.

I remember when there was a lot of talk around Washington about awarding Gen. Colin Powell a fifth star, after the 1991 Persian Gulf, as everyone in the Pentagon was basking in the glow and patting themselves on the back for how well war went.

But Gen. Powell went on the make a number of dubious decisions, including okaying manhunt for Somali Warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid, which resulting the so-called “Black Hawk Down” debacle.  Turns out allowing Powell to retire with four stars was the right call.  And Powell himself never sought such an honor.

As for GEN Powell’s post-Gulf War actions somehow justifying not elevating him, does that mean that having decided not to elevate MacArthur would have been justified in light of his eventual sacking by Truman? Not knowing the future then, you create a standard by which it would be impossible to ever again elevate a General Officer to 5-star.

If there were a measure by which I’d definitively deny a 5th star, it would be if they sought the elevation themselves. Humility is a by-product of Selfless Service, the value we expect of our service members regardless of rank. Humility in an individual who has achieved so much is a an argument in favor, not against.

Pete Hegseth and Wade Zirkle, directors at Vets for Freedom, make the case for Petraeus’s elevation in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, and have started a Facebook campaign.

The pair of combat veterans argue that as “a soldier-statesmen who works with foreign diplomats and generals in hot spots across the globe.” Petraeus could us (sic) the “prestige that would come with a fifth star.”  It would help the United States they say, “in its negotiations with neighboring states—and show the enemies of freedom that we are fully committed to the war against terrorism.”

One of the reason Congress instituted the five star rank is so that during World War II, U.S. commanders would not be outranked by their British counterparts.

That is not the case today.

Quite true, but there’s a trade off between the mass of forces commanded by those WWII Generals and the complex environment of today’s fight, not to mention the tempo of operations.  Part of that complexity is cited by Hegseth and Zirkle, in that a modern General, more than ever before, is both a military and a civil leader, both commanding his forces and coordinaing NGOs and conducting negotiations alongside the State Department and at levels well below where State will go.

It may well be that Petraeus ends up as the first general since Omar Bradley to merit a fifth star, but it’s too soon to make that judgment.

I think this is only true, that its too soon, if we accept the impossibly high standards to which Mr. McIntyre would hold all future candidates for that 5th star which not only make it “too soon” but, effectively, never, or perhaps only as was done for George Washington, posthumously.

Premature 5th Star for Petraeus? | Jamie McIntyre#IDComment122095586#IDComment122095586#IDComment122095586#IDComment122095586


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