Sunday, August 15, 2010

Surprising Choices on Petraeus Reading List

Among the titles on Gen. David Petraeus's summer reading list are books about the Ulysses S. Grant presidency and Rudyard Kipling’s years in India, Petraeus revealed on today’s Meet the Press episode, surprising insights with connections to the Civil War on the one hand, and British legacy in Asia, on the other.
Both subjects for the yet-unnamed books and authors are rooted in the past. Grant and Kipling were complex individuals who were seen over many decades through the prism of history -- in a different light at different times. Gen. Grant, who once said, “I am not a politician, never was, I hope never to be,” has proven to be an evolving enigma for historians.

On today’s special edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, General Petraeus spoke to host David Gregory about the military and civilian team serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He addressed questions about public frustration, the Taliban threat, the Karzai government, recent leaks of documents, and timeline for leaving Afghanistan after nine years.

He speaks about President Bush’s “courageous” decision to call for the surge of troops in Iraq, and some of the similarities and differences for the approach in Afghanistan.

“Over the last 18 months or so, what we’ve sought to do in Afghanistan is to get the inputs right for the first time,” Petraeus said. “We needed to refine the concepts — to build, in some cases, concepts that didn’t exist” seven years after the Afghanistan war began in October 2001.

Gen. Petraeus studies historiography, where he can learn from others’ experiences -- different conflicts, different times, similar complex situations with potential long-term consequences.
He’s already generating interest in reading more about the life and times of Grant and Kipling, as contemporary historians write about this century.

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