DBU’s Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) Hosts General Petraeus

General Petraeus speaking in Dallas

On December 5, the Institute for Global Engagement at DBU was honored to welcome General Petraeus to the campus to share from his distinguished 37-year military career and to comment on his recent book, co-authored with historian Andrew Roberts, Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine (Harper, 2023).

The special event opened with a warm welcome from Dr. Adam C. Wright, DBU President, who recognized current and retired military, followed by Liz Brailsford, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, which served as a co-sponsor. Brailsford introduced General Petraeus and the moderator for the evening, Meredith M. Walker, a renowned author and commentator on politics, economics, and technology.

The discussion centered on strategic leadership as General Petraeus walked guests through his first-hand viewpoint of commanding the U.S. campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan and added perspective to the more recent war in Ukraine and the conflict in Israel. Petraeus stressed that winning or losing, whether in military operations, business, or academics, depends on strategic leadership, which begins with "big ideas" cast from the top. These decisions are critical to ensure a strong foundation. From there, it becomes a matter of communicating effectively and overseeing the implementation through "the organizational architecture" of the most qualified personnel, all while making the best use of the time. As circumstances come about and setbacks are experienced, however, adaptations to operational strategy must be made, which is a continual process of learning. By way of example, Petraeus referred to the "big idea" of President George H. W. Bush for the surge in Iraq, which necessitated a strategy change in light of the outbreak of civil war between Sunni and Shia in Baghdad in 2006.

The conversation later turned to current events in Ukraine and Israel. Petraeus spoke admirably of the strategic leadership of President Zelensky, whose impressive "big idea" involved remaining in Kyiv, addressing the people each night, comforting grieving widows, and even visiting the front lines. In the current conflict in Israel, Petraeus expressed the importance of strategic leadership in reconciling Palestinian citizens in Gaza (and the West Bank) to the Israel-U.S. "big idea" of eliminating the evil of Hamas, similar in the past to persuading the Iraqi people to support American-backed efforts to defeat Al Qaeda. Petraeus recognized that other world leaders and conflict regions scrutinize how the U.S. responds to these crises.

General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.), is a Partner with the global investment firm KKR and the Chairman of the KKR Global Institute, which he established in June 2013. He is also a personal venture capitalist and serves on the boards of KKR companies OneStream and Optiv. Before joining KKR, he served in government for 38-1/2 years, culminating his 37-year military career with six consecutive commands as a general officer, five of which were in combat – including the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and US/Coalition Forces in Afghanistan – and then serving as Director of the CIA. He graduated with distinction from the US Military Academy in 1974 and later earned a Ph.D. at Princeton University. His many awards include four Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, and two NATO Meritorious Service Medals.

Written by University Communications