O'Hanlon: Don't misread Petraeus
December 29th, 2011
10:45 AM ET

O'Hanlon: Don't misread Petraeus

Michael E. O'HanlonEditor's Note: Michael O’Hanlon was in Afghanistan earlier this month and is the author of the new ebook, The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity. You can read more from him on the Global Public Square.

By Michael O'Hanlon – Special to CNN

In recent days two reputable news organizations, Politico and the AP, have both made major mistakes in how they described a new book called All In about retired General David Petraeus by former Army officer Paula Broadwell. They have incorrectly stated that he considered resignation last June, when President Obama accelerated the schedule for drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan while Petraeus was still commander there.

Petraeus considered no such thing. I know this from personal conversations with him at the time, from studying his Congressional testimony the day following Obama’s Afghanistan speech back in June - and by reading Broadwell’s book.

There is a line in the book about how “Petraeus pondered resignation.” But as is immediately clear to anyone reading the ensuing passages, he pondered it only in the sense that he had, over the years, given great thought to civil-military relations issues, including the question of when in extreme circumstances an officer should consider resignation; and, in this case, he pondered the idea only because others raised it with him - and he immediately, categorically and firmly rebutted their suggestions and dismissed the option

Petraeus did not agree with the president’s decision. But he understood it and thought he, as well as his successor, could work effectively within its parameters. It was a disagreement, but a polite and professional one, not anywhere near the kind of thing that would have made the general, now CIA director, consider a step like resignation that he clearly considers appropriate only in the most extreme of circumstances.

The AP and Politico should have resisted the temptation for a juicy but completely misleading headline and been more careful. We have enough real debates in Washington; we don’t need invented scandals.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Michael O'Hanlon.

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Topics: Military

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Of course David Petraeus considered no such thing as retiring. The former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced in August 2010 that he would retire in 2011. In April 2011 Petraeus was appointed by Obama to replace Leon Panetta at the CIA, who would be the successor to Gates.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Sorry, please read – no such thing as RESIGNING.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  2. Robert Postuma

    Is it possible theat Gen.Patraeus was right?

    January 2, 2012 at 5:55 am | Reply
  3. Scott Clark

    Thank you Michael. Well done.

    January 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  4. kabuli

    Once again O'Hanlon the Petraeus spokesperson – you call this objective reporting? They give him a helo ride and some lollipops and he becomes an apologist! You need to up your game CNN!

    January 3, 2012 at 3:10 am | Reply
  5. joaquin de palanyag

    General Petraeus is a genuine modern day Knight Templar whose service is priceless to the United States and the entire world, no one knows that better than the General himself. World order before self. Carry on General.

    January 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  6. Dave

    Didn't appear to be any conflict between the General and President. If there was, I don't think he would have been appointed as the CIA Director.

    January 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  7. Bob

    Could it be that he was appointed CIA chief to keep him from running for President, almost certainly as a Republican, where he would have likely cleaned everyone's clock.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:45 am | Reply
  8. Adnan Khan

    General Petraeus was a good man. During the Iraq war, unlike the stupid 4th infantry division, Petreaus's 101st airborne division treated the locals with respect and dignity. He did not throw any guy with a beard into jail and Petreaus knew how to take care of an insurgency.

    January 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Reply

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