The Spectator

Letters | 22 November 2012

For and against Petraeus

Sir: The attack on General David Petraeus (17 November) by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos of was mean-minded, trivial and wrong. After the overthrow of Saddam in 2003, Petraeus garrisoned Northern Iraq, where his determination to improve services as well as security diminished resistance to the US-led occupation. In 2007, Iraq was sliding into ever more horrible sectarian civil war. As the new commander in Iraq, Petraeus, with President Bush’s backing, devised and deployed a surge of 30,000 troops to stem to the horrific Sunni-Shia bloodletting. By stationing his troops in small units amongst the population he provided constant security from brutal intimidation by al-Qa’eda and other murderous groups. Violence fell and a democratically elected government emerged. The record of that government has now deteriorated, particularly since US troops were withdrawn by President Obama. But that is not Petraeus’s fault.

Petraeus behaved honourably by resigning immediately his affair was discovered. But the loss of his unique experience to the United States government is incalculable. His record in Iraq alone shows him to be one of the finest US generals since the second world war.
William Shawcross
London W2

Sir: Congratulations to The Spectator for publishing the brilliant article by Kelley Vlahos about General Petraeus (‘The fall of Petraeus’, 17 November).

I saluted General Douglas MacArthur at Camp Majestic, Japan, and exchanged a few words with Audie Murphy at Fort Lewis (Washington State). Murphy was the most decorated soldier in modern US history, but the ribbons on his chest, plus those of MacArthur, did not amount to half the ornaments on Petraeus’s uniform. The question is, how could a man of Petraeus’s intelligence and education think that other soldiers and veterans with a similar intelligence could be impressed by a man with ribbons from his shoulder to his navel, but no experience of what Vlahos called ‘direct fire combat’?
Professor Ferdinand E.

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