John Batiste was commissioned as an infantry officer from West Point (Class of 1974) and served in five US Army heavy divisions over the next 31 years. He is a two-time combat veteran in both the 1st Gulf War (brigade operations officer/S3, 24th Infantry Division) and Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 (commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division). Previously, he commanded the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division from 1991–1993, served as the operations officer/G3 of the 3rd Infantry Division from 1994–1995, and commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division from 1995 to 1997, during which time the brigade was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina as one of the two US brigades during the IFOR mission to implement the terms of the Dayton Peace Accords from December 1995 through November 1996. Following brigade command, he was promoted to brigadier general in 1997 and served as the plans officer for NATO's Southern Region (1997–1999), assistant division commander-maneuver of the 1st Cavalry Division (1999–2000), Joint Staff/J8 Deputy Director for Joint Warfighting Capability Assessment (2000–2001), and as the senior military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (2001–2002). While working for the Deputy Secretary of Defense, he was involved in the early planning stages of the Afghanistan war and Iraq war. He was promoted to major general in 2002 and in the spring of 2002 General Eric Shinseki chose Batiste to be commander of the First Infantry Division of the United States Army, which was deployed to Iraq from February 2004 to March 2005, during the war.
After retiring from the Army as a major general in November, 2005, Batiste entered into the private sector. He is president and CEO of Buffalo Armory, in Buffalo, New York. As of June 2011, he is a member of the board of advisors of the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, a board and executive committee member of the Metals Service Center Institute, a board member of the Rochester-based Veterans Outreach Center, the president of the Rochester Regional Veterans Business Council, and chair of the Warrior Salute Advisory Board (a non-profit focused on treating veterans with PTSD).
Batiste co-founded Level Five Associates, a leadership consulting company specializing in change management, in 2009 with his long-time friend and former West Point classmate Robert W. Mixon, Jr. Batiste and Mixon would also co-write the best-selling book, Cows in the Living Room: Developing an Effective Strategic Plan and Sustaining It. He is an active public speaker.
Iraq War views
In 2006, Batiste before the U.S. Senate testified to the lack of leadership by Donald H. Rumsfeld, the failure of the US Government to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with worldwide Islamic extremism, and a failure to mobilize the country after 9-11 to accomplish the important work ahead. He has never been anti-war, but rather committed to doing things right. He asserts that the root cause for our disconnected ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our failure to properly care for our Veterans returning from war, is that America went to war in 2001 without a national strategy to deal with global Islamic extremism with clearly defined ends, ways, and means. Such a strategy does not exist today. His recommendation is that either the president fix his executive branch problem, or Congress enacts legislation as a matter of priority to force upon the executive branch and interagency what the Goldwater Nichols Act did for the Department of Defense in 1986. Congress can compel the administration to organize for success with clearly defined responsibilities and a strategic planning process with trained planners in every department and agency. We expect and deserve a government that is capable of developing and executing a national strategy. Short of this, we will continue to spin our wheels in responding to natural disasters, leaking oil wells, financial crisis, border control, and global extremism. Rumsfeld surrounded himself with like-minded, compliant subordinates who violated basic principles of war and sound military planning in the mission to change the regime in Iraq. The nation rushed to war without exhausting all diplomatic, political and economic options.
The Associated Press reported Batiste said, on CBS's The Early Show: "...we went to war with a flawed plan that didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime. We also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, and who didn't build a strong team."
Regarding the idea of a "war-czar" post in president Bush's U.S. government cabinet, Batiste commented: "Standing up a war czar is just throwing in another layer of bureaucracy. Excuse me, but we have a chain of command already and it's time for our leaders to step up and take charge."
Batiste appeared on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in April 2006. When asked about his proposed strategy for Iraq, he said, "Well, to begin with, I think we must complete the mission in Iraq. We have no option; we need to be successful and protect our strategic interests in the region; we need to set the Iraqi people up for self-reliance with their form of representative government that takes into account tribal, religious and ethnic complexity that has always defined Iraq. The Brits had a difficult time with that in the '10s and '20s of the last century; nothing new at all. And we must set the people of Iraq up for self-reliance so they can go on it on their own. I think we're going to be successful. There's nothing this country can't do, if we put our mind to it, but we need to do it right. We need to mobilize this country and employ a comprehensive regional and global strategy." 
In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2007, Batiste said, "Secondary interests are that our withdrawal cannot create a humanitarian disaster or an Iraq dominated by another state(s) in the region. This may require a residual force of up to 30,000 US troops for decades to protect the US mission, train and advise the Iraqi security forces, provide a counter balance to unintended consequences of Iran and a greater “Kurdistan”, and take direct action against residual Al Qaeda in Iraq. We cannot walk away from our strategic interests."
In late 2007, he asserted that the military alone would not be successful in Iraq. On December 8, 2007, Batiste co-wrote an editorial in the Washington Post stating, "Third, the counterinsurgency campaign led by Gen. David Petraeus is the correct approach in Iraq. It is showing promise of success and, if continued, will provide the Iraqi government the opportunities it desperately needs to stabilize its country. Ultimately, however, these military gains must be cemented with regional and global diplomacy, political reconciliation, and economic recover—tools yet sufficiently utilized. Today's tactical gains in Iraq—while a necessary pre-condition for political reconciliation—will crumble without a deliberate and comprehensive strategy". He argues that at the moment, such a strategy does not exist.
- David Margolick: "The Night of the Generals" Vanity Fair, April 2007
- More Retired Generals Call for Rumsfeld's Resignation, New York Times, April 13, 2006 - mirror
- Level Five Associates
- Bush gives Rumsfeld vote of confidence, Houston Chronicle, April 14, 2006
- Cows in the Living Room: Developing an Effective Strategic Plan and Sustaining It
- Video on YouTube
- A chorus of dissent against the defense secretary, The Oregonian April 15, 2006
- "In White House Plan, War 'Czar' Would Cut Through Bureaucracy", Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks, Friday, April 13, 2007; Page A13
- Getting Beyond Stalemate to Win a War
- FCC Examining TV Networks, Military Analysts, Marine Corps Times, October 10, 2008
- Gen. Batiste’s Op-Ed That The WSJ And The Washington Times Didn’t Want You To See
- Wide-ranging one-hour interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!
- Division Commanders Express Optimism in Iraq, US Department of Defense, November 15, 2004
- US Officials: Iraqi Forces Improving, But Coalition to Stay, Voice of America, January 14, 2005
- 1st Infantry Division Pre-Deployment Dinner, US Department of Defense, January 31, 2004