CIA Director Petraeus resigned today in light of the revelation that he’d been having an affair with a “reporter” (Paula Broadwell) who’d written a glowing bio of him (my brief review is here). Of course, the right-wingers see a conspiracy in this. But as far as I can tell, there is nothing there.
A few thoughts:
(1) The affair apparently came to light during an FBI investigation into Broadwell’s access to Petraeus’ email. For someone in his position, this is deadly as it raises the possibility of secrets being compromised.
(2) The affair itself, of course, also raises the possibility of Petraeus being personally compromised or blackmailed.
(3) More broadly, the affairs shines an unflattering light on the too-cozy relationship between reporters and Petraeus, whose press coverage has often had a hero-worship quality to it.
For all those reasons, Petraeus had to go.
Now, about Benghazi for a moment. I have no idea what people think Obama could or should have done about the situation. We can’t avoid every part of the world where violent radicals operate, nor would we want to allow them to chase our embassies and consulates out. The attack itself would be almost impossible to defend against.
Since 1998 we’ve done an effective job at hardening diplomatic posts against car and truck bombs, but the reality is that it is very, very, very difficult to defend against armed assaults. Diplomatic posts are not, and perhaps cannot, be militarized to the point necessary to prevent breaches by determined attackers. To do so would require, at a minimum, a much larger military contingent, but also cleared fields of fire, layers of obstacles, and so on. But even walls and barbed wire is easily outcome. Embassy guards are there to buy time, not defeat an armed attack.
Now, maybe we’ll get to that point in some places where posts are actually militarily defensible, but this isn’t standard practice, even in areas where terrorism is relatively common. In other words, there is likely nothing incriminating there. In short, Petraeus leaving has nothing to do with Benghazi, no matter how much the right-wingers scream about it.
That said, I do think it is worth discussing the Petraeus situation at some length as it exposes a particularly egregious example of how compromised members of the media often are in covering public figures.