By Leon Panetta with Jim Newton
That summer, however, I sat down in my office with our Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral Jim Stavridis. Jim was a modern warrior-intellectual. He’d commanded an aircraft carrier strike group and served as senior military assistant to Don Rumsfeld, and was now on his second tour as a combatant commander. He also held a PhD, was a prolific author, and would go on to become dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts. Well spoken and geostrategically sophisticated, he was universally admired by the leaders of European governments. Moreover, the Libyan war was a NATO campaign, and Stavridis was responsible for it. And he turned my head that day. My worry that Libya was headed in a bad direction was based on our intelligence from the country, most of which indicated that the opposition was not strong enough to make a move on Tripoli. To my surprise, Stavridis thought differently. He told me he thought Qaddafi’s regime was splintering and that the rebels were stronger and more determined than they appeared. I admit I was skeptical, but I recognized that Stav, as I called him, had a clear view of the situation and was smart enough to analyze it well. I left our meeting thinking there was hope after all. It turned out that Stav was absolutely right, and soon proven so.