President-elect Donald Trump has tapped a general for his national security advisor and is considering several generals for the job of Pentagon chief. But ensconcing yet another general at the State Department — even one who was once the most celebrated of his generation — may be too brassy for America’s diplomatic corps.
A person familiar with Trump’s vetting process confirmed to Foreign Policy that retired Army Gen. David Petraeus is among the top finalists for secretary of state — the highest-ranking cabinet position after the vice president.
“Petraeus is definitely in the mix, and I believe you’ll have a decision by the weekend,” the person with knowledge of the vetting told FP on condition of anonymity.
On Tuesday, Trump met for the second time with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a top contender for the post despite sharp pushback by conservative Republicans and Trump’s closest political advisors who bristle at Romney’s criticism of the president-elect during the campaign. Trump also met Tuesday with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, and is also believed to be considering former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The president-elect met Monday with Petraeus and afterward declared himself “very impressed” with the former general.
But at least some career diplomats are less than enthused. Petraeus didn’t always give diplomats in war zones as much respect as military personnel — even when the troops were of lower rank, said one current U.S. Foreign Service officer. “A suit’s a suit,” Petraeus used to say dismissively, said the diplomat who worked with him in Iraq.
Thomas Pickering, a retired ambassador who spent four decades in the Foreign Service, said U.S. foreign policy can run afoul when members of the military dominate the leadership ranks.
“If every problem looks like it’s solvable with a hammer, we make a mistake by always pounding on the nail,” he told FP.
Another retired four-star who moved to the State Department after leaving the Pentagon — Marine Gen. John Allen — said Petraeus would “have to change a little bit” to get used to a slower-moving bureaucracy at Foggy Bottom.