Conflict & Justice

How David Petraeus changed the world


Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus meets soldiers on the flightline of Forward Base Wilson after he arrived for a brief visit October 7, 2010 west of Kandahar, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan


Chris Hondros

Former CIA Director David Petraeus' confession of having an affair may be making the headlines, but the former four-star general and one of America's most influential political leaders has left an indelible mark in the US miltary and foreign policy efforts.

John Moore/Getty Images.

1. Crafted the US counter-insurgency strategy for the post 9/11 world

In the 1990s, it was the Powell Doctrine. In the mid-2000s, it was the Petraeus doctrine. The military theory was less about force (the biggest gun wins) and more about protecting the lives of civilians (winning hearts and minds). This strategy has been largely credited for stabilizing Iraq in 2007, though critics argue other factors may have been just as important.


John Cantlie/Getty Images.

2. Created the military framework for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

As the face of America's military, he was the key strategist in the 2007 troop surge in Iraq as well as what has been viewed as its failed replication in Afghanistan three years later. Petraeus was also given the arduous task of training a new Iraqi army.


Rob Jensen/Getty Images.

3. Blurred the lines between the CIA and military

The CIA's long-standing and institutional suspicion of the military didn't stop Petraeus from putting his mark on the agency. CIA veteran Bruce Riedel called Petraeus' 14-months with the CIA swift but transformative: "He was beginning the transformation of the CIA. from counterterrorism only to counterterrorism plus China, plus the euro zone, plus what the world will look like in 15 years.”


Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

4. Built a cult of personality in military, government and mainstream media circles

From his meteoric rise during his 38 years of service in the military to his unanimously confirmed 94-0 vote to be director of the CIA, Petraeus has built up a generally favorable cult of personality. The media treatment has been no different. As CNN's Howard Kurtz put it, Petraeus had another love affair long before the most recent one that forced his resignation: the press.