started an interesting bit of discussion with the suggestion that General David Petraeus be promoted to General of the Army:
By Pete Hegseth and Wade Zirkle
Like these great leaders, Gen. Petraeus’s breadth of experience and outstanding results deserve to be recognized and honored. His wartime tenure began as the Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, responsible for over 10,000 combat troops during the initial invasion of Iraq. He led the 101st in an airborne assault into northern Iraq and then quieted the city of Mosul.
Gen. Petraeus then oversaw the creation and training of the new Iraqi Army, a Herculean task that was accomplished amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation. By the time he was through, he had stood up, equipped and trained over 100,000 Iraqi soldiers. They would be crucial in winning the peace in the years to follow.
In 2005, Gen. Petraeus led the Army’s command responsible for education and doctrine at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. There he wrote the Army’s manual on counterinsurgency operations. His COIN manual was the blueprint for the upcoming troop “surge” that saved Iraq from the brink of calamity.
Well, I can think of one good reason to grant General Petraeus a fifth star: the way that four stars are worn on the black Army beret looks like crap! Enlisted men wear their branch insignia in the blue field on the beret, while officers wear their rank insignia there. For a Brigadier General and lower, it works, but as the stars get stretched out starting with Major Generals, it looks bad!
However, from the officer rank descriptions on the Army website:
GENERAL OF THE ARMY (GOA) :This is only used in time of War where the Commanding Officer must be equal or of higher rank than those commanding armies from other nations. The last officers to hold this rank served during and immediately following WWII.
That test isn’t met.
Now, at least one of the five-star ranks granted immediately after World War II didn’t meet that test either: there was no particular need to promote William Halsey to Fleet Admiral three months after the war.¹ In that case, the fifth star was awarded by the Congress pretty much in honor of Admiral Halsey’s service and reputation, and that’s what Messrs Hegseth and Zirkle would like to see done for General Petraeus.
Messrs Hegseth and Zirkle noted that General Petraeus has actually taken a step back down the career ladder, for the good of the war effort. After leading the “surge” which finally broke the back of the Iraqi insurgents, he was promoted to commander of Central Command, CENTCOM; when General Stanley McChrystal self-destructed, President Obama asked General Petraeus to take the theater command in Afghanistan.
Part of me likes the idea, and part does not. The part that likes the idea does so because it would be a great honor, both for General Petraeus and the soldiers serving under him in Afghanistan. The fact that it would tweak the anti-war idiots at MoveOn.org who called him “General Betray Us” doesn’t hurt in the slightest.
The part that doesn’t notes that the theater commanders who were awarded five stars (Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Hap Arnold and Chester Nimitz) were awarded those ranks after their service chiefs (George C Marshall and Ernest King) were promoted to five-star rank. If promoted, General of the Army Petraeus would outrank his commander, General James Mattis, the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey, and the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen and General James Cartwright (USMC).
It’s an honor he does deserve, but it might be more of a problem than it’s worth.
¹ – Admiral Halsey’s actions in the Battle of Leyte Gulf received serious criticism.