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New commander has aggressive reputation

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno assumed command as the new number two general in Iraq at a ceremony in the capital yesterday, vowing to use more than combat to resolve the conflict .

"This is not just a military solution only," he said to the crowd assembled outside one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces near the US military headquarters. "It is a combination of diplomatic, economic, and military programs."

But those who know Odierno say the hard-charging general, who plotted Hussein's capture and anti-insurgency combat operations, may put more effort toward securing, rather than rebuilding, Iraq.

Odierno gained a reputation as an aggressive commander while leading the Fourth Infantry Division in Sunni Arab-dominated parts of the country in 2003 and 2004. Some military analysts have contended that the region's continued unrest can be traced to Odierno's heavy handed methods.

Odierno took command of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq from Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, who, in contrast, emerged as a champion of more comprehensive strategies aimed at winning over local populations, including large-scale public works programs and restrained firepower in the face of sectarian warfare.

Despite sporadic violent uprisings against his forces, Chiarelli, a former West Point professor, eventually was able to stabilize the volatile Shi'ite Muslim slums of Sadr City by putting locals to work on a large sewage system and posting some of his top soldiers to nascent Iraqi security forces.

Chiarelli also is popular in Washington, where he is in contention to replace his commander, General George W. Casey Jr., who may leave before summer.

At yesterday's ceremony, Casey praised Chiarelli's approach to securing Iraq.

"I will always remember your personal passion for building a better life for the Iraqi people," Casey told the crowd, which included US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and several regional US military commanders.

Chiarelli spoke about working side-by-side with Iraqis the past year to rebuild the country, in a speech with quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt and 19th century liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill.

Odierno sat nearby, surveying the crowd of about 300 soldiers, sailors, and Marines. He cut an imposing figure, still looking like the tight end he played at the US Army War College: head shaved, jaw squared, brown eyes piercing. Raised by a World War II Army sergeant, Odierno saw his son enter the military and lose an arm after being wounded by insurgents in Baghdad.

When Odierno spoke he quoted World War II General Douglas MacArthur, the hawkish commander who advocated the use of nuclear weapons against the Chinese during the Korean War : "No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he is vigilant in their protections."

People close to Odierno maintain his characterization as an overly aggressive commander with a style antithetical to Chiarelli's is unwarranted. They say he's become more attuned to the importance of soft power during his last two years as an assistant to Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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