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Linda Robinson, David Petraeus first female biographer who was charmed by the general

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Today it has emerged that former CIA chief David Petraeus charmed another female journalist, Linda Robinson, who was writing a book on him so successfully that she once praised him for “always poking, prodding, demanding”.

Linda Robinson was so impressed with the future head of the CIA that she called him a “whirling dervish” who had “tremendous energy”.

In interviews Linda Robinson also spoke of his “informality” and how he was so media savvy that he was “very proactive about his public relations”.

Linda Robinson wrote her take on David Petraeus and his war record in 2008 called Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq.

After the book came out she was rewarded with a post alongside David Petraeus at U.S. Central Command where she is thought to have provided strategic analysis for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Centre.

There is no suggestion at all that Linda Robinson and David Petraeus had an affair, but the similarities between her and Paula Broadwell – the brunette biographer who allegedly had an affair with Petraeus over the past year- are clear and her comments throw a spotlight on how Petraeus charmed those around him with almost cult-like qualities.

They spent time together under similar circumstances to the way he got to know mistress Paula Broadwell when she later wrote her biography of him.

Paula Broadwell spoke repeatedly at lectures about her book about how willing David Petraeus was to mentor young scholar-soldiers like herself, and one of his classic “moves” was to take them out for a jog to see how fit they were.

“Our first interview in person was on a run. And I had proposed this because I knew it was a rite of passage for many of his former aids, to kind of get in the inner circle you had to be a runner,” Paula Broadwell said at a lecture in October.

Linda Robinson, 58, is a respected former U.S. News and World Report correspondent who specializes in security and the military.

She is currently an adjunct senior fellow on foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and is a Nieman fellow at Harvard University.

Linda Robinson has also been a senior editor at the respected Foreign Affairs magazine and her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and a string of policy journals.

Over 18 months in 2007 and 2008 she conducted “extensive” interviews with David Petraeus to complete Tell Me How This Ends, so named after what Petraeus remarked when the war in Iraq turned into an insurgency.

At the time he was head of the Multi-National Force in Iraq and was credited for persuading former President George W. Bush to back the troop “surge”.

Linda Robinson writes that David Petraeus changed the military for the better from a “top-down” organization to a “bottom-up” approach.

Linda Robinson was so impressed with David Petraeus that she called him a whirling dervish who had tremendous energy

Linda Robinson was so impressed with David Petraeus that she called him a whirling dervish who had tremendous energy

In a series of interviews she also heaped praise on the man himself, including one in 2008 with NPR in which she expressed her affection for him.

Linda Robinson said: “And I think that’s probably sums up what he did do, a man with tremendous energy.

“So, he also communicated those ideas in the variety of ways in the daily briefings, which I sat in on and he was very active and contrasted with some of the previous generals.

“He was always poking, prodding, demanding. I mean he’s just ceaseless, kind of a whirling dervish.

“He goes out, runs with his battalion commanders, gets information from them, tells them what he thinks they need to be doing and just deals with hundreds and hundreds of emails a day and just you know, he’s really trying to be everywhere at once.”

In the book itself Linda Robinson notes David Petraeus’ “intellectual rigor” and how it meant he would “mount a sustained effort to understand the problem”.


In an interview with C-Span in 2008, Linda Robinson also told how she endured 125 F heat in Baghdad that left her “drenched and exhausted” in order to see David Petraeus and interview him.

She said: “I got to know him and watched him over this last 18 months, what really struck me was his informality and his approachability.”

Linda Robinson also defended David Petraeus’ love of the limelight and claimed that it was merely because he was “very proactive about his public relations”.

She said: “You know, he’s always willing to go out and talk. And a lot of, I would call them sort of <<old school Army>> officers are less comfortable and less willing to be proactive on that front.

“And you hear people who say, <<oh, he’s looking for attention>>, you know, sort of characterizing Petraeus as the attention-seeking general.

“But it’s really, for him, a way of trying to shape what he calls the <<information environment>>.

“He certainly does mind his career and his public profile. But I think there’s a real substantive purpose to why he does what he does.

“And there are, I think, people in the Army who have had some heartburn over that.”

Praise was high for Tell Me How This Ends, with the New York Times calling it “a first-rate piece of work, probing and conscientious”.

Its review says: “Robinson leaves the reader feeling that, however the war turns out, our country owes David Petraeus a debt of gratitude.”

According to the review, Linda Robinson brings an insider’s perspective to the subject whilst John Nagi in Army Magazine said it was “likely to remain the best analysis of General Petraeus’ role in the decisive years of the war in Iraq short of the general’s own memoirs”.

Since the revelations about David Petraeus emerged, critics have begun asking how questions about his cozy relationship with reporters.

Writing on Buzzfeed, Michael Hastings said that David Petraeus had been brilliant at “making the public think he was a man of great integrity and honor”.

He wrote: “How did Petraeus get away with all this for so long?

“Well, his first affair – and one that matters so much more than the fact that he was sleeping with a female or two – was with the media.”