Another Perspective

The Timely Tragedy of David Petraeus 


Why was it convenient to have him resign now?

By 11.13.12

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By January 1938, Adolf Hitler was planning to launch major military campaigns to achieve German hegemony in Western Europe. The Führer and other Nazi leaders, however, regarded War Minister, Gen. Werner von Blomberg as too hesitant toward war preparations and an impediment to extending Nazi control over the Wehrmacht. Hitler didn't yet feel powerful enough to take on Blomberg and the traditional Prussian leadership, but fate turned the tables the Führer's way.

In early January, Blomberg married Erna Gruhn. Prior to the marriage, Blomberg confided to Hitler that his fiancée had a shady past due to economic desperation during the depression years of the Weimar Republic. Hitler, assuring the general of National Socialist understanding, not only approved the marriage, he attended the ceremony where Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goring served as best man. Within days the Gestapo fed incriminating information on Mrs. Blomberg to the press. Blomberg resigned rather than accede to Hitler's demands that he annul the marriage. The Führer then moved to place the Wehrmacht more firmly under his personal control.

The sad end of Gen. David Petraeus has a similar stench to it. First, there is no regulation against Central Intelligence Agency personnel having extra-marital affairs. If, however, those affairs are with foreigners or involve exotic matters like kinky sex, particularly with prostitutes, then those cases would be problematic, particularly for top leadership. A straight affair, with a U.S. national, married or not, would be a matter of poor judgment on the part of a director, but not especially troubling. If, however, as is reported, Director Petraeus pursued the woman in question, Paula Broadwell, after she terminated the affair, this could reveal an obsession that might betray a major character flaw or some kind of libido connected instability. In any event, Mrs. Broadwell, a graduate student at the John F. Kennedy School, West Point graduate, and formerly an Army reservist, was not subject to Petraeus' chain of command either while he was a serving officer or directing the CIA.

And please spare us the self-righteous breast beating about adultery on the part of a serving Army officer being grounds for disciplinary action. Technically, marital infidelity can provide grounds for punishment, but it has rarely been used against officers, particularly flag officers, especially in cases where there is no involvement with the chain of command. While in recent years using one's rank to obtain sexual favors through harassment has been more vigorously prosecuted, that was not the issue in this instance.

Conduct unbecoming? Maybe, but again spare us the self-righteous indignation. Just last June, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta effusively praised the initial celebration of "Gay Pride Month." The Obama administration has hardly set the bar high when it comes to sexual conduct.

How likely is it that the FBI suddenly discovered this affair after last Tuesday's election? Certainly an affair concerning the director of the CIA would have been briefed to the attorney general and then taken to the president, supposedly quicker than one can say, "Attack underway on a U.S. consulate in Libya." It's more likely that this investigation was underway for quite some time and that David Petraeus knew it. Again, scandal lurks outside a door marked, "What did the President know, and when did he know it?"

More to the point, why is that within a week of the director's absolutely crucial testimony before a closed congressional session looking into the Benghazi affair, is David Petraeus gone and no longer available for testimony? If President Obama really wants to get to the essence of the truth as to what happened in Benghazi, why did he not insist that Petraeus remain at his post until after his testimony clears the air? Certainly the president and his advisors understand that the Petraeus resignation at this critical time will only fan the flames of speculation concerning a Benghazi cover-up.

The Petraeus testimony is crucial to understanding what was known about Benghazi and when it was known. Congress, which has subpoenaed Mafia dons, Ku Klux Klan leaders, and yes, CIA officials in the past, can also bring in a retired general and former CIA director and put him under oath. To do anything less, is to sell out a Republic that has already been sold short by too many in top leadership positions.

The Petraeus affair reminds us that government is an aggregate of men and women with all the flaws innate to humans, but government itself is of the people, by the people, and for the people -- not of, for, and by individuals, whatever their position or status. Therein lays the foundation of the American Republic.

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About the Author
Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.