The Quick, and Sad, Decline of Gen. Petraeus

[I know this is weird coming right after my anniversary post, but I can’t control other people’s consciences!]

I’ve written many times before about how much I respect and admire General David Petraeus. I think it sad that probably the most innovative civil-military officer and COIN strategist — a true citizen-soldier-scholar — in recent history is being laid low by an extramarital affair. A man who could lead the turnaround of a war, but defeat himself so easily at home. (Isn’t this true of so many soldiers returning home from these conflicts?) But I know there are many reasons he must resign.

One is that this is a personal matter that is so difficult to work through it would be impossible for him to effectively execute in his highly important position as director of Central Intelligence while simultaneously doing the work that needs to be done to repair his family.

Another reason for his resignation is, undoubtedly, the media’s fascination with (only because the American public is fascinated by) the personal foibles of even our most noble public servants.

Most important, though, is what he said himself when addressing CIA employees in a memo:

After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.

You can’t keep secrets from your wife and dishonor your marriage and at the same time be the figurehead for those who guard our nation’s secrets. He recognizes that.

I hope President Obama rejected his resignation the first time he offered it as an expression of his importance to our nation, but accepted it the second time with understanding of the work the general has ahead of him with his family — work more difficult than he ever confronted in his career.

His service is a sad loss to our nation. We can only hope that once he has his family affairs in order he may return to public life.

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