Our friend COL David Maxwell sends a piece from The Times of London:
...The American commander in Iraq has made history already. Which is why I'm in such a hurry to see him write it. On his watch, Iraq has turned a corner, with a dramatic decrease in violence, the pacification of provinces where al-Qaeda once held sway and the retreat of foreign-backed militias before a newly resurgent Iraqi national Army. Iraq is now on course to join Turkey and Israel as one of the Middle East's few functioning democracies.
Petraeus is an intellectual in battledress, a standing rebuke to the caricature of the American military as dumb Cowboy Colonels and dumber Imperial Storm Troopers. There's a proud tradition of scholars in the British Army, from Basil Liddell Hart to Rupert Smith, distinguished authors both. But a tradition of condescension towards America has blinded many Britons to the intellectual quality of the US military.
The British shouldn't feel bad -- this is a blind side shared by many, even in Amerca. I've met a few "cowboy Colonels," but no dumb ones.
One of the great secrets of the US military is just how much time its officers and enlisted spend in school, both internal, professional schools and traditional academia. An intellectual bent is often found among combat commanders, like Marine Corps General Mattis. I happen to know the aforementioned Colonel Maxwell, a Special Forces officer, is another who loves to read and think as well as to command men in the field. I value the readings he sends, and our occasional discussions.
Because it is knowledge put to practical purpose in the world, military officers less often have time to write the monographs that are the meat of academia. They often are focused on passing problems of the moment, the business of keeping the world together, and cannot spend the time they would prefer on examining a question of history. They are nevertheless keenly aware of our history.
America is fortunate that citizens who are both intelligent and courageous choose to serve her in this way. They, more than any technology, are the strength of the military -- and the country.