When Ray Odierno took over the top military post in Iraq from General David Petraeus in September, there was a lot of hand-wringing among folk at defense think tanks in Washington worried that he was the wrong man for the job. They pointed to Odierno's reputation from his first tour in Iraq, in 2003, as a heavy-handed division commander who had neither a grasp of the subtleties of fighting an insurgency nor the political acumen to sell his ideas back home. Some correspondents who covered Iraq in the months after the fall of Saddam Hussein also came away with that opinion.
But rightly spends the bulk of his article discussing the remarkable outcomes
from the in-stride transformation of an agile, adaptable leader. The Anbar
Awakening is not the only amazing 180 of this operation writ large, and we're
glad to be on the same team as great leaders of principle, vision, and open
But the doubters didn't take into account the evolution of Odierno's thinking during his second tour in Iraq, in 2006, when he helped develop the military's surge strategy--which contributed hugely to the reduction of violence in much of the country. Petraeus sold Washington on the surge, but it was Odierno who gave him something to sell. "It is clear that by late 2006, he was as important as Petraeus, if not more important, because he was the guy on the ground," says Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
The success of the surge has led to a reassessment of Odierno, 54. Retired General Jack Keane, who consulted closely with Odierno on the surge in late 2006, was so impressed that he later used his powerful connections in the Administration to push for promoting Odierno to Petraeus' job. "He went through a complete metamorphosis," says Keane. "He educated himself and became the pre-eminent operational commander we have in conducting irregular warfare."...
Much more at Time.