Tag: David Petraeus

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

One of the interesting things about the Petraeus scandal is that it has brought about a re-evaluation of the man the press called “King David”. No one came out of the Iraq fiasco with as strong a reputation. Almost everyone was tarnished by it … except Petraeus. But now some in the media, eager to tear down the latest idol, are turning on him. Probably one of the most revealing articles came from Spencer Ackerman:

Like many in the press, nearly every national politician, and lots of members of Petraeus’ brain trust over the years, I played a role in the creation of the legend around David Petraeus. Yes, Paula Broadwell wrote the ultimate Petraeus hagiography, the now-unfortunately titled All In. But she was hardly alone (except maybe for the sleeping-with-Petraeus part). The biggest irony surrounding Petraeus’ unexpected downfall is that he became a casualty of the very publicity machine he cultivated to portray him as superhuman. I have some insight into how that machine worked.

It’s worth a read. Petraeus is not the first general to work hard on maintaining his public image. Grant, Eisenhower, Pershing — all of them were well aware of the public’s fascination with our generals. Indeed, once a general becomes famous, maintaining a solid public image becomes critical. The media are all too eager to tear down a military icon when it suits them. George Patton was one of our best generals but was constantly in trouble and losing commands because his public image, during the war at least, was awful.

But were the plaudits completely undeserved?

It won’t take you long to find harsh assessments, especially when it comes to Afghanistan. But I keep circling back to the early days of Iraq, when Petraeus seemed to be the only one who understood how to work with the Iraqis. I keep going back to the Iraq surge. His critics are saying the violence was ending anyway because the Iraqis were growing tired of it. I find that dubious in the extreme. People never really tire of violence. Petraeus laid out a strategy for reducing the violence, executed it and saw the violence reduce. It would be an amazing coincidence if he had nothing to do with the improvement in conditions on the ground.

That this strategy failed in Afghanistan is not surprising because Afghanistan was a different problem. In Iraq, we were dealing with sectarian violence and could intervene productively. In Afghanistan, we’re dealing with an active resistance to our very presence.

I do think Ackerman makes one very good point:

The uncomfortable truth is that a lot of us who’ve covered Petraeus over the years could have written that. It’s embarrassingly close to my piece on Petraeus’ legacy that @bitteranagram tweeted. And that’s not something you should fault Petraeus for. It’s something you should fault reporters like me for. Another irony that Petraeus’ downfall reveals is that some of us who egotistically thought our coverage of Petraeus and counterinsurgency was so sophisticated were perpetuating myths without fully realizing it.

None of this is to say that Petraeus was actually a crappy officer whom the press turned into a genius. That would be just as dumb and ultimately unfair as lionizing Petraeus, whose affair had nothing to do with his military leadership or achievements. ”David Petraeus will be remembered as the finest officer of his generation, and as the commander who turned the Iraq War around,” e-mails military scholar Mark Moyar. But it is to say that a lot of the journalism around Petraeus gave him a pass, and I wrote too much of it. Writing critically about a public figure you come to admire is a journalistic challenge.

I don’t think it’s just the media; all of us wanted him to be more than just a good general and an admirable man, which he still is. We wanted him to be something almost God-like; the man who could rescue Iraq, turn Afghanistan around, remake the CIA and (most likely) become a great President one day. It was an offshoot of the military being the most respected and beloved institution in the nation, with approval ratings that are usually several times that of politicians.

Petraeus’ downfall reminds us that he is human and has both professional and personal failings. But let’s not let it wipe away the good marks on his record, which are many.

How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes

I think we could save ourselves a lot of time with this Petraeus scandal if we just assumed everyone is sleeping with everyone, everyone is e-mailing everyone and everyone is sexting everyone:

The FBI probe into the sex scandal that prompted CIA Director David Petraeus to resign has expanded to ensnare Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced early Tuesday.

According to a senior U.S. defense official, the FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of documents — most of them e-mails — that contain “potentially inappropriate” communication between Allen and Jill Kelley, the 37-year-old Tampa woman whose report of harassment by a person who turned out to be Petraeus’s mistress ultimately led to Petraeus’s downfall.

Allen, a Marine, succeeded Petraeus as the top allied commander in Afghanistan in July 2011. He also served as Petraeus’s deputy when both generals led the military’s Tampa-based Central Command from 2008 until 2010.


A federal agent who launched the investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors’ concerns that he was personally involved in the case, according to officials familiar with the probe.

One official said the agent in question sent shirtless photos to Ms. Kelley well before the email investigation began, and FBI officials only became aware of them some time later. Eventually, supervisors told the agent he was to have nothing to do with the case, though he never had a formal role in the investigation, the official said.

It’s fun to wallow in the salacious details, I guess. And I know the media is having fun tearing down these men and women. But I actually think there may be a serious side to this, which is the uncontrolled and pretty much unsupervised explosion of the National Security State. Expect the media to ignore that side when their are shirtless photos and hot biographers around. But the rabbit hole is getting deeper each day.

Update: Oh good fucking grief.

Update: Our story, so far:

Jill Kelley, the woman who was (allegedly) threatened by Gen. Petraeus’s squeeze Paula Broadwell and who (apparently) started the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’ ouster, who went to the FBI for help after the threats and then (allegedly) had a relationship with the FBI agent in charge of her own case, who (allegedly) sent her shirtless pics of himself, also (apparently, allegedly) had “compromising” communications with Gen. John Allen, the Big Damn Commander of our war effort in Afghanistan.


FBI Better At Keeping CIA Director’s Affair Secret Than He Is

In my initial post on l’Affaire Petraeus, I expressed skepticism about whether there was something more sinister surrounding his resignation for broadening the well, if you will.  The timing, I did question, but I didn’t read much more into it than a guy getting stupid and certainly didn’t see or expect a Benghazi connection.

Well, here’s the twist: He didn’t get stupid and spill the beans.  The woman he was nailing did and went full bunny-boiler on another woman, which set off an FBI investigation.  USA Today reports that the FBI found Petraeus didn’t violate any confidentiality rules, though they did notify him of what they found out shortly before the election.  Or the political class is just protecting itself, as usual.   Either way, Petraeus now gets to do the Schwarzenegger to his family but he’s off the hook for any legal issues.

Is this a scandal?  I suppose so, but that was never in question.  It just further darkens Petraeus in my eyes, who didn’t come clean about what he had done and didn’t resign immediately when the jig was up.   Does the FBI deserve any criticism here?  I don’t think so.  Petraeus broke no laws, but I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the agents got to explain to a sitting CIA director that they knew what he was up to. 

Obama?  Yeah, I’m sure he was aware of this before the election and he probably begged Petraeus to keep his mouth shut until after Super Tuesday.   I’m not sure where you go with it from here.  This will be just one of many scandals that I expect are already piling up within the Administration, given how undisciplined and opportunistic everyone in it is. 

Shit, if even Petraeus went bad…

Petraeus Quits: Cites Unauthorized Surge into Unknown Woman

Alright, he appears to have forgotten that he’s working for a Democratic Administration, so I don’t know why he felt that he had to resign.

I’ve seen some murmurings that there may have been something else to this. Me personally, I don’t see a lead here. He failed to follow the First Law of Having an Affair: Shut. Up. This just appears to be something a guy like Petraeus would do when he’s done something that he knows is dishonorable and is going to hurt his boss.

Sure, the timing is strange coming after the election and before the Benghazi investigation FINALLY gets some lift. But I mean, if he’s was going to resign, why in the world would he do it in a way that publicly shames himself and his family in such a way? He was a GOP favorite for 2016, not so much now. He could have taken the heat for Benghazi and STILL been a contender.

Fire off with your best conspiracy theories, but this just looks like an episode of one man’s bad judgement to me. Damn pity. I have long admired his service.