Nov 14 2012

The real Petreaus problem.

"The issue at Tailhook is not that we took a few liberties with our female party guests. We did."

Just have to do one more Petraeus post.

And its not to condemn him for slicing off what appears to be a fine hunk of tuna. I don't condemn him for that at all. Actually applaud him for getting laid. And laid well-by all appearances. If American sexual mores were not all screwed up-he'd be getting a pat on the back instead of a kick in the ass.

As my Canadian Counterpart points out:

But there's one important fact that I think everyone is overlooking in this tawdry tale. Paula Broadwell is pretty fucking hot, especially for a 40-year-old Army chick. I'd most assuredly hit it, and I think that's really the most important thing to remember here.

Except…………..

The real problem with Petreaus is not his sexual proclivities. I think I have made it clear that I think there are two sides to every story and until I know the other side I will reserve any judgment on that. However-and long time followers of this blog will know this-I am no fan of King David. The real crimes of General Petreaus happened long before he joined the CIA.

What I’d like to propose, I guess, is that none of these perspectives quite captures reality. That’s the thing about Petraeus. He isn’t some sort of paragon of virtue as people on the right want to claim, nor is he just business as usual in his abuse of power and position as some on the left seem to believe. There is something unique about him and what he’s done, and I just wish people would look at the situation essentially sui generis rather than as confirmation of one worldview or another.

Let me make one more note on the seksytime issue. There is a perception, I think, that general officers are  swinging dick, alpha-males, screwing, boozing, and brawling their way through life. And sure, there are some like that, but in my experience, general officers are about as far from that stereotype as possible. They are usually driven, hard-working, introspective, and bookish. Whether they went to the service academies or ROTC, they rarely had time to party even as undergrads. They often marry young, have kids young, and spend much of their time either deployed or struggling to pay attention to their families when they are home.  They are, in short, often nerds (in a good way), and they are not always well-equipped emotionally to deal with the kind of attention they begin to attract as they rise in rank, and particularly as they pin on stars. General Allen, for instance, has a reputation as a serious, bookish guy. Now maybe he’s a serial cheater, and Jill Kelley was just another actual or potential conquest, but more likely, in my estimation, is that he just didn’t quite know how to handle her attention. I dunno, but I think it worth keeping in mind that possibility.

A good point and it reinforces my current opinion of Navy flags too. The daring do-the guys who led from the front in the cockpit and the bar-those guys have been thrown on the scrap heap a long time ago. What's left is not so great.

But that's not what makes the story of Petreaus so sad. Not at all. What the real problem is with Petreaus started in 2004 if not sooner:

But the warning signs about Petraeus’ core dishonesty have been around for years. Here's a brief summary: We can start with the persistent questions critics have raised about his Bronze Star for Valor. Or that, in 2004, during the middle of a presidential election, Petraeus wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting President Bush and saying that the Iraq policy was working. The policy wasn’t working, but Bush repaid the general’s political advocacy by giving him the top job in the war three years later.

There’s his war record in Iraq, starting when he headed up the Iraqi security force training program in 2004. He’s more or less skated on that, including all the weapons he lost, the insane corruption, and the fact that he essentially armed and trained what later became known as “Iraqi death squads.” On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called "surge," he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.

He did it by papering over what the surge actually was: We took the Shiites' side in a civil war, armed them to the teeth, and suckered the Sunnis into thinking we’d help them out too. It was a brutal enterprise — over 800 Americans died during the surge, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives during a sectarian conflict that Petraeus’ policies fueled. Then he popped smoke and left the members of the Sunni Awakening to fend for themselves. A journalist friend told me a story of an Awakening member, exiled in Amman, whom Petraeus personally assured he would never abandon. The former insurgent had a picture of Petraeus on his wall, but was a little hurt that the general no longer returned his calls.

MoveOn may have been ill-advised to attack the general as "Betray Us" in Washington, but there was little doubt that many in the Awakening felt betrayed.

Petraeus was so convincing on Baghdad that he manipulated President Obama into trying the same thing in Kabul. In Afghanistan, he first underhandedly pushed the White House into escalating the war in September 2009 (calling up columnists to “box” the president in) and waged a full-on leak campaign to undermine the White House policy process. Petraeus famously warned his staff that the White House was “fucking” with the wrong guy.

The doomed Afghanistan surge would come back to bite him in the ass, however. A year after getting the war he wanted, P4 got stuck having to fight it himself. After Petraeus frenemy General Stanley McChrystal got fired for trashing the White House in a story I published in Rolling Stone, the warrior-scholar had to deploy yet again.

The Afghan war was a loser, always was, and always would be — Petraeus made horrible deals with guys like Abdul Razzik and the other Afghan gangsters and killed a bunch of people who didn’t need to be killed. And none of it mattered, or made a dent in his reputation. This was the tour where Broadwell joined him at headquarters, and it’s not so shocking that he’d need to find some solace, somewhere, to get that daily horror show out of his mind.

Basically, a 21'st century version of MacArthur. A General who also became a political force. He became the icon of the surge-a holics in 2007, leading the country into an even greater butcher's bill and accomplishing very little for the United States in the long run-except for prolonging our agony in Iraq by almost 5 years.

But Petraeus’ crash is more significant than the latest nonsense sex scandal. As President Obama says, our decade of war is coming to an end. The reputations of the men who were intimately involved in these years of foreign misadventure, where we tortured and supported torture, armed death squads, conducted nightly assassinations, killed innocents, and enabled corruption on an unbelievable scale, lie in tatters. McChrystal, Caldwell, and now Petraeus — the era of the celebrity general is over. Everyone is paying for their sins. (And before we should shed too many tears for the plight of King David and his men, remember, they’ll be taken care of with speaking fees and corporate board memberships, rewarded as instant millionaires by the same defense establishment they served so well.)

 Before Dave fell for Paula, we fell for Dave. He tried to convince us that heroes aren’t human. They are human, like us, and sometimes worse.

An end to the celebrity general? Who can talk an entire nation into a pointless conflict based on a concept that has been adequately discredited? That may be the best service David Petreaus performed for his country.  That we might be able to return to the more normal civil military relationship-along with a long overdue acknowledgement that wars without end are no way to run a foreign policy-the United States might actually start down a long road to recovery.

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “The real Petreaus problem.”

  1. chefantwonon 14 Nov 2012 at 7:35 pm

    The former Director's conduct wasn't the best move he could have made, however I do give him credit for at least banging a good looking woman.
    It's not even the fact he was screwing around, it's just the position he was filling. Director of the CIA. I mean these guys (lower grade types) are put through the ringer for even the slightest bit of bad conduct and the head guy is getting away with this? Just another double standard runing around at the very top levels of our intelligence agencies.
     
     

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  2. Richardon 15 Nov 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Ah yes the "boys will be boys" defense.
    when one takes an oath to god, country and/or spouse one should be expected to abide by such a oath or why bother to take it all?
    His sin was that he allowed a "want" to turn into a "need"
    a Buddhist would have understood.

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  3. Skippy-sanon 16 Nov 2012 at 8:04 am

    "Why bother to take it at all?"
    On that I agree. Marriage is a worthless institution-and BTW oaths are supposed to cut both ways-e.g. the spousal unit is supposed to do her part.

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  4. Foggyon 18 Nov 2012 at 8:48 am

    See
    http://seattletimes.com/html/books/2019691809_br16generals.htm
    and
    http://seattletimes.com/html/books/2019691809_br16generals.html
     
    Have not read but seems to validate Skippy's perception of serious problems at flag levels.

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