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Georgetown Law Forum Hosts General David H.Petraeus
By Ann W. Parks
General David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, speaks to Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff, students, faculty members and others in Law Center’s Hart Auditorium on January 21
It’s not often that a student (or a professor, for that matter) gets the chance to converse with a four-star general, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, about the U.S. military’s presence around the world. But that’s what happened as Gen. David H. Petraeus arrived at Georgetown Law’s Hart Auditorium January 21 for a forum with students about CENTCOM’s efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
“General Petraeus … deals with issues ranging from Somali piracy to the Iranian nuclear threat,” said Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff, as he welcomed Petraeus.
Because Petraeus once wore the title of chief of operations of the United Nations Force in Haiti, it was only logical that Dean Aleinikoff (soon to be the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees) would open the discussion with the topic of Haiti’s reconstruction in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake.
“My hope is that something extraordinarily good can come out of something extraordinarily bad,” said Petraeus. “You have to start in all directions … I’m hoping that this can be a catalyst that can lead to yet another new opportunity for Haiti, but one in which the assistance is provided in a way so that it builds up Haitian capability and Haitian human capital and Haitian development, rather than creating additional dependencies.”
Aleinikoff then turned the microphone over to the audience, which questioned Petraeus on topics that included U.S. sentiment among countries in the Middle East; U.S. drone strikes against insurgents in Afghanistan; relations with Pakistan; causes of extremist behavior; and the role of the U.S. military.
“We don’t have any question about who the commander in chief is,” Petraeus said — countering an audience suggestion that the U.S. military has become so autonomous that it doesn’t matter who sits in the Oval Office. “Our job at the end of the day ... is to provide our best professional military advice,” he said.
Petraeus also dispelled any notions that he, himself, might make a run for the White House. “I’ve said no in about as many different ways as I possibly could, and I truly mean it…” he said. “I think there would be nothing more injurious to civil-military relations than to have some sense that the guy in uniform at the end of the ‘Sit Room’ table — the [White House] Situation Room, not Wolf Blitzer’s — is sizing up the opposition.”
A Webcast may be viewed here.