Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

What lessons will the Army take away from Petraeus? My fear is, the wrong ones

The lessons of the Petraeus mess, are I think, that people have a breaking point, and that he hit his after four combat tours and many years of stress. Also, I think that retiring from the military after 40 years of service and earning 4 stars is more disorienting than we realize. But I fear ...

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

The lessons of the Petraeus mess, are I think, that people have a breaking point, and that he hit his after four combat tours and many years of stress. Also, I think that retiring from the military after 40 years of service and earning 4 stars is more disorienting than we realize.

But I fear that the Army — especially its generals — will conclude that:

–Petraeus was too smart for his own good. So don’t try for a PhD in a good civilian university,  see where it leads? Thinking critically is overrated.

–So are new ideas.

–Talking to reporters always will cost you down the road. So hold the media at arm’s length. Or more. Don’t engage unless ordered to do so.

–You can be mediocre as long as you keep your pants on.

The lessons of the Petraeus mess, are I think, that people have a breaking point, and that he hit his after four combat tours and many years of stress. Also, I think that retiring from the military after 40 years of service and earning 4 stars is more disorienting than we realize.

But I fear that the Army — especially its generals — will conclude that:

–Petraeus was too smart for his own good. So don’t try for a PhD in a good civilian university,  see where it leads? Thinking critically is overrated.

–So are new ideas.

–Talking to reporters always will cost you down the road. So hold the media at arm’s length. Or more. Don’t engage unless ordered to do so.

–You can be mediocre as long as you keep your pants on.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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