David Petraeus, wearing his superhero outfit. Wearing it doesn't make him one of course, nor even something as simple as a good husband.
David Petraeus, less a man than an all-purpose meme for presidents who have too much war on their hands, is now being stripped naked in more ways than one.
For one thing, allegedly, his family is being ripped to pieces by the news Petraeus is a first-rate bastard, who cheated on his wife of 37 years (37 military wife years), with a woman, Paula Broadwell, whose claim to journalistic and academic integrity turned out to be firmly rooted in her willingness to fuck the topic.
I say Petraeus' family is allegedly being torn to pieces, because we would have to believe that Petraeus' wife, Holly, never had any suspicions before now that her husband was cheating on her. And we would have to believe, and do we, that Petraeus' affair with Broadwell, was his only marital indiscretion. And maybe we're not that dumb.
But, presumably, "King David" Petraeus isn't exactly having the best week of his life over this.
Now, as the Petraeus-Broadwell-Kelley tsunami keeps spreading out from Tampa, we discover today that US General John Allen, Commander of ISAF (Nato Afghanistan mission), has exchanged "thousands of inappropriate communications"with Jill Kelley, the woman whose complaints in May to the FBI about harassing emails she was receiving, led to Petraeus resigning.
Allen, perhaps learning from Petraeus' ready willingness to admit having an affair, has so far denied he has had any illicit relationship with Kelley. However, if it is true that he has exchanged thousands of inappropriate communications with the married mom in Tampa, Allen is going to have a LOT of explaining to do about how that constitutes conducting himself like an officer and a gentleman. Indeed, one might ask how it is General Allen has much time to do his job at all if he's spending all his time chatting or something more risque with Jill Kelley.
Doesn't John Allen have a war to run or something?
Didn't David Petraeus have a dangerous world to be monitoring for national security?
Yet, both these jerks decided to play some kind of stupid game with somebody else's wife.
This is leading to an extraordinary challenge, in the media critique of the matter, to the prevailing worshipful attitude of all things US military.
At Politico, the title of a scathingly, sarcastically, critical report on the basic ineptitude or sloppiness respecting security practiced by the lead players in the Petraeus-Broadwell scandal is entitled Gen. David Petraeus is dumb, she’s dumber. Instead of bemoaning the loss of an important military and intelligence asset to a scandal over a "private matter", the article's writer, Roger Simon, Politico's chief political columnist, concludes this:
"David Petraeus never should have resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency because he was involved in a sex scandal. Petraeus should have resigned because if he were any more dimwitted, you would have had to water him."Meanwhile, over at the New Yorker, the critique is not quite as insulting. Jon Lee Anderson allows that Petraeus is "an exceptional soldier", for what that's worth, but he says a lot of the Petraeus mystique was the creation of the George W. Bush regime, which was so desperate to invent some hero who "saved" Iraq. As Anderson says:
"[Petraeus'] lionization by admiring and opportunistic politicians and fawning journalists and biographers—such as Paula Broadwell, the woman he was involved with—has been craven and boundless: Petraeus as America’s Prometheus. This derived in part from our habit of turning flesh-and-blood men into Paul Bunyans, but it was also the product of a gigantic official spin campaign in which the Bush Administration sought, through Petraeus, to retell the U.S. war in Iraq as a success story."In a more general, and remarkable, critique of the ethics of the officers of the US military, the New York Times concludes (and this should really wake up and concern everyone, including the military worshippers):
"[A] worrisomely large number of senior [American] officers have been investigated and even fired for poor judgment, malfeasance and sexual improprieties or sexual violence—and that is just in the last year."Additionally, the article offers what seems a strong warning of a critical moral rot in the culture of the officer corps of the US military services:
"[N]ational security experts warn that a decade of conflict shouldered by an all-volunteer force has separated those in uniform—about 1 percent of society—from the rest of the citizenry. Such a “military apart” is not healthy for the nation because the fighting force may begin to believe it operates under rules that are different from those the rest of civilian society follows, and perhaps with a separate set of benefits, as well."Then the Times quotes Kori N. Schake, described as "an associate professor at West Point", who explains US military culture is creating an exceedingly dangerous attitude:
"Sometimes military people talk about being a Praetorian Guard at our national bacchanal. That’s actually quite dangerous for them to consider themselves different and better."And it is insanely dangerous for what's left of the American republic if the nation's military is using the Praetorian Guard as a model or worse an ideal of what the American military should be about.
This argues, in part, for an immediate, indeed an emergency, intervention by the federal government to infuse the inbred military culture, and especially the officers, with a more democratic sensibility. At the same time, the American people need to foster a return of the earlier and traditional American skepticism towards the military, which was respected as an occasionally necessary instrument of war, but also, and quite reasonably given the history of long-standing armies, was held in suspicion as a potential threat to the republic.
The down-sizing of the generals seems a good first step towards returning the nation to a saner attitude about the purpose, value, and danger of its military.