Conservative writer Max Boot, whom Petraeus respected, was outraged by the speech. He told Petraeus that if he wanted to quit and run for president, he would work on his campaign. Petraeus told him quitting was not the answer. He certainly didn’t intend to run for president, either. As a student and practitioner of civil-military relations, Petraeus had thought at length about the subject of resignation in protest, turning it over in his mind many times. He was well steeped in the theory and practice and pitfalls of civil-military relations. Military decision making and the use of force as they related to civil-military relations had been foundations of his doctoral research.

Petraeus strongly believed that “military leaders should provide advice that is informed by important nonmilitary and military factors beyond their strict purview, but is driven by the situation on the ground and military considerations.” In other words, a military leader’s advice was premised first and foremost on his or her areas of expertise — military affairs, not political ones.

Petraeus fully subscribed to the oath of office, including obeying “the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me.” Obama’s decision to draw down forces faster than he had recommended did not, in his mind, begin to approach the threshold for such an extraordinary action as resignation. He thought it would have been a selfish, grandstanding move with huge political ramifications. He had had ample opportunity to provide input and give his best advice, and now it was time to salute and carry on.