(Photo by Beverly Schaefer)
Less than a month ago, shortly after Princeton’s Commencement ceremony, Gen. David Petraeus *85 *87 walked to the podium in Nassau Hall’s Faculty Room to address five soon-to-be-commissioned Army ROTC graduates, two from Princeton and three from The College of New Jersey. It was Petraeus’ second trip to campus in five months — he also accepted the University’s James Madison Medal at February’s Alumni Day celebration — and his commissioning remarks touched on his affection for Princeton. But the bulk of the general’s speech was devoted to leadership advice for the new officers.
“Everything you do will be scrutinized intently, emulated, and commented on by those you are privileged to lead,” Petraeus said. “If you continue to lean forward, your troopers will, too. … But if you slack off, if you let down and blow off the standard, they’ll do the same unless great noncommissioned officers prevent it. In short, your attitude will echo and re-echo throughout your unit.”
Petraeus, selected last week to lead the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, understands what it means to lead — and to be “scrutinized intently.” Dubbed the “Ph.D. warrior” (a nod to his doctorate from the Woodrow Wilson School), he used his expertise in counterinsurgency to reshape the conflict in Iraq. And with his new appointment, he’ll be expected to do the same in Afghanistan. But as Stars and Stripes (and others) reported last week, the new job, which requires senate confirmation, brings different challenges, including a rural insurgency and a plan to begin drawing down U.S. troops in 12 months.
On the issue of President Barack Obama’s stated deadline, Petraeus has consistently downplayed the date’s impact. “It is important that July 2011 be seen for what it is: the date when a process begins, based on conditions; not the date when the US heads for the exits,” Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee June 16, speaking as the head of U.S. Central Command. “Moreover, my agreement with the president’s decisions was based on projections of conditions in July 2011. And needless to say, we’re doing all that is humanly possible to achieve those conditions.”
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