"King David" Petraeus And The Counterinsurgency

05/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

While commanding the 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, David H. Petraeus famously mused to journalist Rick Atkinson, "Tell me how this ends." Asked today by The Washington Independent how he would answer that if one of his own division commanders posed it, Petraeus replied by phone from Baghdad's Camp Victory, "I would just reiterate what our objectives are, and that is what we're trying to help the Iraqis achieve. And that is: an Iraq that is at peace with itself and with its neighbors; and can defend itself; that is a democracy in Iraqi fashion -- I would also say a government that is represent of and responsive to all its citizens."

But would that answer have satisfied Maj. Gen. Petraeus in 2003? "What I was asking was 'How?' in a couple respects," he said. "What that was about was, I think, very early on a recognition of how complex and challenging this was going be." He mentioned Amb. Ryan Crocker's comment to the Senate, that Iraq was "just plain hard," adding, "I think that's a very clear-eyed and, in a sense, coldly realistic appraisal of where we are, and how difficult it is."

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