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Gen. David Petraeus was in Washington last night to accept the American Enterprise Institute’s Irving Kristol award. AEI has posted the speech online, and it offers a glimpse into the late 2005 through 2006 period, when he led a team from a wide range of backgrounds to develop to reshape the army around a series of principles that would manifest themselves in the surge in Iraq.
It’s a good talk, both as an historical capsule into how the surge strategy developed, but also as a study of how ideas are developed and can translate into action. “The truth is that ideas are all-important,” Petraeus quoted Kristol as observing over three decades ago. “The massive and seemingly-solid institutions of any society are always at the mercy of the ideas in the heads of the people who populate these institutions.”
Petreaus recounts that:
As I saw it then—and as I still see it now—there are four steps to institutional change. First, you have to get the big ideas right—you have to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings. Second, you have to communicate the big ideas effectively throughout the breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have to oversee implementation of the big ideas—in this case, first at our combat training centers and then in actual operations. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessons from implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refine the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.
Meanwhile, Dave Weigel draws our attention to this quote at the end of the speech:
Our first president once captured very eloquently the feelings of those who serve our nation: “I was summoned by my country,” he said, “whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.”
I explored the prospect of a Petreaeus presidential run in the May issue of our print edition. You can read it here.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?