July 22, 2024

In Time of War, Petraeus Affair Did More Damage To U.S. Leadership Than Anything al-Qaeda Has Done

The president’s commanders are falling. Bob Gates at left, David Petraeus at right with President Obama.

Have we forgotten that the United States is at war?  Well, we just lost one commander at the Central Intelligence Agency for being unfaithful to his spouse. And we are damaging the credibility of a second general, who actually is Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, for the suspicion of being unfaithful to his spouse. And we’re doing this at a time when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leaving and other members of our national security team are in flux.

An al-Qaeda attack on intelligence and military command centers would not have been more damaging to our national security than the high-level, harrassing accusations that prompted David Petraeus to submit his resignation the very day after President Obama was re-elected. And now this same tactic is damaging General John Allen’s position at the helm of a nasty war that is killing and maiming young Americans who are risking their lives to free the world of terrorists.

So dare we investigate, what is producing this scenario? Why are we allowing the toppling of two top commanders at a time of war? What was their crime? Having sex with women who are not their wives?  It doesn’t add up. Granted, long marriages and the lives of women and children are regrettably affected. And there is the erosion of trust and discipline expected from men in command positions, the pain felt by families and friends.  But that’s all personal.

Petraeus’ resignation is a terrible outcome not merited by the crime. Moreover, the President, the military, the nation and the world are made to bear the punishment of our latest national insecurity.

And if you really want to be concerned about what may be going on, let’s review the circumstances.

  1. One woman emails threatening messages (how “threatening” were they?) to another woman that largely focus on the affections of a general.
  2. Second woman turns over emails to an acquaintance who works for the FBI. An FBI investigation launches.
  3. The FBI discovers and confirms with both parties an affair between the first woman and the director of the CIA. CIA director is absolved by investigators of any breaches of security and no crime.
  4. FBI leadership mulls what to do with investigative findings that appear to be a personal matter.
  5. As FBI leadership weighs next steps, the FBI agent who initiated the investigation and is a Republican opponent of the president, calls a Republican congressman to alert him to the probe of the CIA chief.
  6. The FBI agent’s whistle blowing reaches Representative Eric Cantor, Republican House Majority Leader, among the most zealous political opponents of President Obama, who alerts FBI Director Robert Mueller.
  7. The affair, no longer secret at the top levels of the American government, topples the CIA chief.
  8. The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is caught in the riptide because of email exchanges he’s had with the second woman, whose own story has some interesting twists.

Now, that is some strange stuff and begs some uncomfortable questions. What really is going on here? Why did the incident go from no breach of security/no crime to one where Petraeus had to resign? Who has Barack Obama’s back now that his top intelligence commander is gone? Who has our back?

I think about this and I worry. This is likely unrelated, but I recall that in April ten U.S. Secret Service agents and at least eight members of the U.S. military picked up and had sex with prostitutes at Cartagena nightclubs on the eve of President Obama’s visit to that Colombian city. These were guys actually charged with protecting a president who has taken on very big issues and just swept to election victory against a major party willing to lie repeatedly, spend money without limit, and say and do whatever they thought might stick to beat him. Several of those security agents are still working for the agency and the military. Prostitutes weakened what is supposed to be the stout perimeter of the president’s security force.

Now, with David Petraeus and John Allen, sex has weakened the command structure. A giant of a man who only weeks ago was considering the presidency of Princeton University,  a U.S. commander at the height of his career in service to the country, is brought down. Rather than being All In, he is taken all out. Not by a lethal drone, not by terrorists, but by having an extramarital affair with his biographer.

The reporter in me senses something more is at play here. For the safety of our president and our country, let’s pray it isn’t too much more.

– Keith Schneider

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