AURORA – Last week, retired Gen. David Petraeus appeared on the ABC program “This Week” and shared his belief that the most dangerous threat to the U.S. isn’t from a country, but within the 50 states.
On Oct. 24, Petraeus made a special speaking appearance at the Crimi Auditorium in the Institute for Collaboration on the campus of Aurora University in front of a near-capacity crowd.
He addressed the most significant global challenges facing the U.S. today, including ongoing international security issues, macroeconomic trends and the tasks of strategic leadership in the 21st century.
David Dial, assistant professor and chairman of criminal justice at Aurora University, moderated the session. Dial teaches about homeland security, terrorism and counterterrorism. He asked Petraeus what is the largest threat to U.S. national security.
“As you heard, he had an interesting response, and it was something I wanted to hear and I wanted my students to hear,” Dial said. “He said you have to divide it into sections. There’s the ongoing extremist threat in America and beyond that, and the threats of certain countries in the world, such as North Korea, Russia and Iran, and then cyber crimes that can come from a state or individuals or a government agency.
“But he said the biggest threat is the extreme partisanship in America and the inability of the government to compromise. And we’re such a divided nation now, and we’re not meeting some of the challenges we face very well.”
Petraeus changed the course of two wars; he helped halt the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and he reduced the violence in Iraq, Dial said.
“It was very interesting to hear about his experiences,” Plainfield resident Holly Swanson said. “You hear so much on the news, but it’s not the same as hearing it directly from someone who has experienced as much as he has in Iraq and Afghanistan or wherever else he went.”
Dial was interested in learning more about Petraeus’ third tour in Iraq from nearly 10 years ago. That was a horrific time when about 90 people were killed each day, close to 3,000 civilians were killed each month, and it was pure chaos.
“He had the responsibility of going back over there and bringing order to that area,” Dial said. “He used a completely different strategy than what had been done prior to that time and within 19 months he had reduced violence by almost 90 percent.”
Such amazing success stories during such difficult times made for an interesting presentation.
“It was well worth checking out,” Wheaton resident Ian Hagerdy said.
“I’ve always been sort of a history buff, but most of the time I’m reading old history books. I liked hearing from someone like him. It made me think about what he’s helped us overcome and the difficult challenges our country continues to face today.”