By Clifford Thies
It is not unusual for powerful men (and women) to develop romantic interests with younger persons with whom they work, in this case, Paula Broadwell, lead author of "All in: The Education of General David Petraeus." (Curious name, is it not?) On the one hand, these men are quite attractive and, on the other, they are often so consumed by their work as to neglect and be neglected by their wives. But, in this case, we wonder whether the person involved, Petraeus, was more than usually affected by his circumstances. We wonder whether he and his wife, like so many other soldiers and their families, are casualties of the "pace of operations" continuing now for more than a decade.
Before being named Director of the CIA, Petraeus had three 4-star positions in a row, none of which involved a cushy Pentagon desk job: Iraq, Central Command, and Afghanistan, for a total four years. Prior to these 4-star assignments, as a 2-star he commanded the 101st Airmobile Division during the invasion of Iraq, magnificently supporting the spearhead of the assault, the 4th Infantry Division commanded General Raymond Odierno. Following this, as a 3-star, he returned to Iraq as commander of the Multi-National Force responsible for equipping and training Iraq's security forces. He was then given a time out, during which he re-wrote the joint Army-Marine Field Manual on Counter-Insurgency.
With the situation in Iraq reaching a critical point, and having been promoted to 4-star, Petraeus returned to Iraq as part of "the surge." With additional U.S. forces, with the deployment of Iraqi Kurd regiments elsewhere within Iraq, with the rallying of the Sons of Iraq in the west, and with the blooding of the reconstructed Iraqi Army, the surge eventually proved to be successful. The new, democratically-elected government of Iraq and the U.S. entered into negotiations for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country. (This all occurred under the prior administration, but you wouldn't know this listening to the current President.)
At this point, Petraeus was assigned to be commander of U.S. Central Command, which has overall responsibility for U.S. forces in the Greater Middle East. Specific responsibilities included the phased withdrawal from Iraq and continuing operations in Afghanistan, including a surge in that country. But, the 3-star commanding coalition forces in Afghanistan grew impatient with aspects of U.S. policy there and, after he and members of his staff expressed themselves too freely about this, was relieved. At this point, Petraeus was re-assigned, in something of a demotion, in order to re-do the magic he had done during the surge in Iraq. But, this time, there was no magic, and a year later, Petraeus turned over command of the coalition forces and retired from the military.
We are exploring new territory in the "pace of operations." Soldiers, such as Petraeus, spending upwards of a decade rotating in and out of combat zones. Even the Guard and Reserve is taxed to the limit, again for long periods of time.
We entered the century with a peace dividend, and a significantly down-sized conventional force structure; and, we wound up with multiple, protracted wars. We have made only marginal changes to the size and composition of the force structure (e.g., reduced the organic indirect fire component of Army units). Now we have a QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review) that says we only need to have a force structure capable of fighting one war, when we are currently in "one plus" wars (Afghanistan and various engagements short of war in the Greater Middle East and in Africa).
The cumulative effects of the pace of operations has been devastating to our soldiers and their families. The number of fatalities hardly reflects the cost that they have had to bear. The severe wounds and the emotional scars, in addition to the fatalities, have made the wars in which we have been involved these past eleven years very costly to those who fight our wars.