General David Petraeus spent an hour meeting with Trump on Monday at his offices in Trump Tower in Manhattan and has emerged as a top contender for Secretary of State, along with Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani.
He is praised as a politically astute military commander with extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, two hot spots that will immediately be facing the new president. His CIA experience gave him broad exposure to America’s clandestine operations around the world, and he already has an extensive network of connections with heads of state and foreign and defense ministers.
Under President Bush, Petraeus led the troop surge in Iraq and helped persuade Obama to pursue a similar strategy in Afghanistan. He is still frequently cited for his work as editor of “The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual,” which laid out the troop-intensive strategy used in these two operations.
However, during the presidential campaign, Trump declared his opposition to this kind of intensive engagement and said the United States should stop attempting to build other nations with its intensive interventions.
A Petraeus nomination would also be problematic because Petraeus was convicted of mishandling classified information in a scandal stemming from his extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. During the relationship, Petraeus turned over his confidential diary to Broadwell, leading the F.B.I. to recommend that he be charged with a felony. Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Considering Trump’s strong criticism of Hilary Clinton for her use of a private email address and server for classified information, a Petraeus nomination would raise charges of hypocrisy.
Questions have also been raised about Petraeus’s positions on Israel. In March, 2010, Petraeus, in a presentation to the Senate Armed Services Committee, blamed “insufficient progress” in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and he “perceived it as a significant obstacle to achieving U.S. goals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Iran and for encouraging “anti-American sentiment.” The statement was strongly criticized by the Anti-Defamation League’s Director, Abraham Foxman.
According to Foxman’s statement at the time, “Gen. Petraeus has simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived U.S. favoritism for Israel. This linkage is dangerous and counterproductive.”
However, Petraeus later retracted his statement, and in a January, 2016 interview with Haaretz, he stated, “I think it is increasingly clear that the old notion that the path to peace and stability in the Middle East runs through a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mistaken.”