The Real Sin in the Petraeus Case

As you can imagine, the entire national security community is going wild with examining every salacious detail of David Petraeus’ affair. Yesterday’s buzz was about the possibility that his paramour, Paula Broadwell, leaked classified information that she may have received from her lover.

The whole thing is a mess. But I want to focus on something other than the affair. The reality is that even before Petraeus and Broadwell slept together, their relationship was a tangled web of conflicts of interest. He was one of her dissertation advisors, and her dissertation was largely about him! He managed to get her access as a “reporter” in Afghanistan, even though she has no journalism background, and in reality was more of a personal publicist for Petraeus. But she was also a reserve officer in the Army, making her, at least sometimes, his subordinate.

But here is the thing. Broadwell wasn’t/isn’t the only one in this boat. Petraeus promoted his agenda by gathering around him a group of people who, in many cases, were united more by the fact that their ambition exceeded their integrity than by any professional qualifications or intellectual heft. I’d name names… but frankly I’ve burned enough bridges on this score in the past. (If you really want, you can search my website bernardfinel.com for “Petraeus” and “COIN” for more details.)

Now, the generous interpretation is that Petraeus is just a vain man, who likes surrounding himself with attractive and pliable sycophants. I think that is part of it. But I also think much of this was planned, an information operation if you will.

Petraeus deliberately sought to woo a range of folks, compromising them with access, and using them in ways that blurred lines of professional integrity. Just as it isn’t clear what Broadwell was in this — a grad student? Reporter? Publicist? Officer? Public intellectual? — it isn’t clear what, say, Tom Ricks is. Well, that’s not true… we know that Ricks is an ignorant blowhard, but I mean aside from that. But this blurring of lines, this use of “reporters” and “independent analysts” to promote Petraeus personally and his policy preferences, was a key factor in both the Iraqi and Afghan “surges.”

Spencer Ackerman writes honestly about the issue here (How I Was Drawn Into the Cult of David Petraeus):

When it came out that CIA Director David Petraeus had an affair with his hagiographer, I got punked. “It seems so obvious in retrospect. How could you @attackerman?” tweeted @bitteranagram, complete with a link to a florid piece I wrote for this blog when Petraeus retired from the Army last year. (“The gold standard for wartime command” is one of the harsher judgments in the piece.) I was so blind to Petraeus, and my role in the mythmaking that surrounded his career, that I initially missed @bitteranagram’s joke.

But it’s a good burn. 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.

Ackerman is a good man. I wish others had his level of honesty and introspection.

I know this all seems “inside baseball.” But it had real consequences. Thousands dead and billions wasted. Careers promoted and destroyed in ways that will affect national security deliberations for decades.

Worse, Petraeus’ legacy on civil-military relations is likely to endure. He showed how easy it is for a military leader to act as a policy maker, to wage a deliberate campaign of manipulation and propaganda against the American public.

Petraeus’ conduct since 2004 has been profoundly anti-democratic. He’s been a cancer on civil-military relations. My main hope now is that instead of focusing on salacious details, we can instead shine a harsh light on the “age of Petraeus” and its destructive legacy.

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166 replies
  1. 1
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    My main hope now is that instead of focusing on salacious details, we can instead shine a harsh light on the “age of Petraeus” and its destructive legacy.

    Good luck with that. If it weren’t for the sex, this wouldn’t make the back page.

  2. 2
    different-church-lady says:

    Shiny object election is out. Shiny object sex scandal is in.

  3. 3
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Good post, Nard Dog. :-)

    I haven’t decided if we should set aside all worship of military leaders but I definitely think we should question this habit. Even people we truly admire should be examined before, during, and after they have power.

  4. 4

    […] (c)  Brilliant analysis by Bernard Finel (Assoc Prof, National War College): “The Real Sin in the Petraeus Case”. […]

  5. 5
    MattF says:

    Good old David Gergen:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/11/1.....e_affairs/

    I’ll bet he wasn’t so forgiving about Bill Clinton. And, oh, by the way, Gergen slips in a bit of propaganda, but FYI, ex-General Petraeus is not a great man– not by any standard.

  6. 6
    c u n d gulag says:

    I wonder how long it will be until Newt calls for Issa to start impeaching President Obama for a BJ Petreaus got?

  7. 7
    Josh G. says:

    I knew I had heard the name of Paula Broadwell somewhere else before all this stuff came out. Now I found the article in question:
    http://registan.net/2011/01/13.....ge-razing/
    Looks like she’s a nasty piece of work for reasons that have nothing to do with the affair.

  8. 8
    donovong says:

    This is hardly the first time a general with an ego and great publicists was elevated to the point Petreaus was, only to find they have feet of clay. McArthur, anybody? McClellan?

    No lessons will be learned from this.

  9. 9
    debbie says:

    Unsurprisingly, Glenn Beck says Petreaus was forced to retire — with the threat of humiliation of his children — to cover up Benghazi.

    I had tuned in to hear him call Kristol a traitor, but this was a bonus listening moment.

  10. 10
    Suffern ACE says:

    @MattF: I would be surprised if he wasn’t forgiving of David Gergen. He was a paid staff member of that administration.

  11. 11
    Josh G. says:

    And there was a very interesting comment in Broadwell’s original article:

    I am just trying to figure out in what capacity is Ms Broadwell writing:

    as a scholar
    as a think tank analyst
    as an embedded reporter with a us unit
    as an operational scribe
    some combination of all of the above

    what?

    Well, I guess we know the answer now…

  12. 12
    fuzz says:

    Question Mr. Finel, why do you and Carl Prine (and Gian Gentile) hate Ricks so much on a personal level? I get Gentile, he claims that after he came out as an anti COIN guy Ricks said his unit the 10th Cav had performed badly in Baghdad in 06 but didn’t say that during an embed in 06, but as far as I know Ricks didn’t push the Afghan surge nearly to the extent that someone like Andrew Exum did. He’s definitely a surge triumph scribe when it comes to Iraq but even that is tempered with saying that it never solved the political issues. He’s actually had a running section on his blog called “Iraq the unraveling” for months. It just seems like Ricks gets absolutely hammered for supporting the surge narrative in Iraq in a way others don’t. Other than that good article. And as another poster pointed out, Broadwell wasn’t a reporter, she actually had some articles about embedding with the 1-320 FA in the Arghandab last year on Rick’s site, and she made it sound like some kind of Boy Scout trip. It was even called “Travels with Paula” if Im not mistaken.

  13. 13
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    My main hope now is that instead of focusing on salacious details, we can instead shine a harsh light on the “age of Petraeus” and its destructive legacy.

    Won’t happen.

    Our utterly corrupt media, always looking for superstars to attract eyeballs, and then, when the feet of clay are discovered, going nuts about that, ESPECIALLY if it involves sex in any way (see Sanford, Mark) will ignore everything you’ve talked about, because it says waaaaaaay too much about the rot in our media establishment. They’re active players in the cult of Petreaus.

    As with Sanford, the real issue, which I think you’ve articulated well, is totally lost in the salacious details. In this case, pretty much on purpose, because our media is fully bought into the myth-making process, and such self examination is totally off the reservation.

  14. 14
    schrodinger's cat says:

    How could he have been on her thesis committee when he was the subject of the dissertation. That is screwed up.

    ETA: I remember the Broadwell interview with Jon Stewart, I came away with the feeling that something was seriously off with Paula, she was dressed for the interview like she was going clubbing or something. Extremely inappropriate, Jon Stewart seemed quite taken by her as well.

  15. 15
    Mandalay says:

    Here is a good article by Michael Hastings on the downfall of Petraeus:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/mhasti.....d-petraeus

    The ensuing discussion by others on whether he should have resigned at all is astounding, implicitly arguing that the security risks presented by his conduct could be overlooked in his oh-so-very-special case.

    We have to take our shoes off and empty our pockets at the airport in the name of national security, but the director of the CIA can have an affair and it’s OK?

  16. 16
    MattF says:

    @Suffern ACE: What Digby says:

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com.....-nest.html

    Having two simultaneous adulterous affairs doesn’t foul the nest, in the Gergen-universe– the mortal sin is offending the Villagers.

  17. 17
    Bernard Finel says:

    @donovong: I dunno. We seemed to learn the MacArthur lesson pretty well. Norms largely held from 1951 to 2001.

  18. 18
    Eruch says:

    I’m not sold on the “destructive legacy” of Petraeus, if by that you mean he somehow wreaked death and destruction in excess of what would have been without him. Maybe it’s true, but Iraq and Afganistan were train wrecks before his advent. He could be a press manipulator, a political operator, and a great general all three.

  19. 19
    Eruch says:

    I’m not sold on the “destructive legacy” of Petraeus, if by that you mean he somehow wreaked death and destruction in excess of what would have been without him. Maybe it’s true, but Iraq and Afganistan were train wrecks before his advent. He could be a press manipulator, a political operator, and a great general all three.

  20. 20
    Mandalay says:

    @MattF:

    I’ll bet he wasn’t so forgiving about Bill Clinton.

    Of course he wasn’t. Digby has the details…

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com.....-nest.html

  21. 21
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MattF:

    Well, after all, David Petraeus didn’t trash the Village, like that damn hillbilly did, offending David Broder and Sally Quinn.

  22. 22
    Bernard Finel says:

    @fuzz: Ricks is a glib, incurious fraud. He is a Villager through and through, content to promote the views of people who give him access. His arguments are almost always ill-informed and often dangerous. He’s also on a personal level a class-A arrogant ass.

    There are two types of people who know Ricks: People who detest him in public, and those who do so in private. He’s essentially the dictionary definition of a “useful idiot.”

    In terms of “Travels with Paula”… yes, a Boy Scout trip, complete with whitewashing “destroy a village to save it” tactics… literally.

  23. 23

    “… woo a range of folks, compromising them with access, and using them in ways that blurred lines of professional integrity…”
    Pentagon press corps, meet White House press corps. :-)

  24. 24
    wrb says:

    Doubtless Hillary will shortly kill Broadwell and bury the secrets of Benghazi.

  25. 25
    Alex S. says:

    @MattF:

    Sad. It’s basically that the rules don’t apply to ‘great men’.

  26. 26
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: ah. But if we were to say “this Petraus thing proves how naive y’all are. You aren’t savvy at all and we shouldn’t trust you. You’re just rubes like us”, they might turn on him.

  27. 27
    Baud says:

    He showed how easy it is for a military leader to act as a policy maker

    I may be missing something, but when did Petraeus inappropriately act as “policy maker.” The only thing you mention is the surge, but that is quintessentially a military action where his input should have been sought. Obviously, his military advice has an impact on “policy,” but I’m not clear as to what specific action he took that was improper.

  28. 28
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Ricks’ The Gamble was mostly hagiography for Petraeus and his clique. Seriously, they are all described in glowing terms since they are all lean and athletic, and possessing graduate degrees in fields like IR that have nothing to do with Middle East culture and history. The book was an attempt to sell the surge and the cult

  29. 29
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Ricks’ The Gamble was mostly hagiography for Petraeus and his clique. Seriously, they are all described in glowing terms since they are all lean and athletic, and possessing graduate degrees in fields like IR that have nothing to do with Middle East culture and history. The book was an attempt to sell the surge and the cult Of Petraeus

  30. 30
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I remember the Broadwell interview with Jon Stewart

    My wife remembered it too. When the news came out that Petraeus was resigning because of an affair, she immediately said, “I bet it was that reporter who wrote the book about him.” And within 24 hours, that was the story.

  31. 31
    Judge Crater says:

    Petraeus is America’s Lord Kitchener. His fingerprints are everywhere in the glorious global war on terrorism. He personifies the militarism and jingoism that has infected the soul of our nation. Disgraced or not, he’ll follow his protege, Stanley McChrystal, into the corporate side of our military/industrial complex.

  32. 32
    mikefromArlington says:

    Idk…this article seems to just be jumping on the bandwagon of the week. The guys a patriot that helped get us out of a crappy situation Bush’s dopes got us into that just made a dumb decision.

  33. 33
    Bernard Finel says:

    @mikefromArlington: Oh, I’ve been on this particular “bandwagon” for years now.

    He may be a patriot, and yet also been a scoundrel who violated civil-military norms on a regular basis. In a democracy, process is also important, and a general who wades in policy decisions and deliberately wages a propaganda campaign against the American public should be condemned, no matter how pure his motives.

  34. 34
    Bernard Finel says:

    @Baud: No, it is more than the “surge.” The surge was the operational consequence of a doctrine of thinly veiled neo-imperalism, the idea that the United States could and should address security challenges by occupying and transforming regions where threats occur. That is policy at the highest level.

    I don’t mind narrow military advice. And indeed, senior military leaders have a duty to provide elected officials with their best judgment, even when this goes beyond narrow military advice.

    However, engaged in partisan politics (as with his Sept 2004 op-ed), or building an apparatus to manipulate public opinion goes far, far beyond the legitimate exercise of this advisory function.

  35. 35
    El Cid says:

    The cult of the SURGE was one of the biggest propaganda campaigns directed against the US public and the big money media since the campaign to invade Iraq.

    And the cult figure of worship at the center was the supposed savior of “COIN” expertise — because we’ve demonstrated such skill around the world at causing stability and happiness through our counter-insurgency skills — himself, David Antonius Gaius Julius Caesar Petreaus.

  36. 36
    double nickel says:

    If they were both in the Armed Forces, shouldn’t someone be going to jail eventually?

  37. 37
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    I dunno. We seemed to learn the MacArthur lesson pretty well. Norms largely held from 1951 to 2001.

    This may have had more to do with a lack of popular and successful wars, which help greatly in creating apparently “charismatic” (quotes intentional and meaningful) military leaders than because institutional firewalls between the press and Pentagon were holding up well. I also remember something of a cult which developed around Norman Schwarzkopf after the Gulf War, but that sort of fizzled after a while, partly because Norman didn’t seem very interested in pursuing it any farther than it went at the time.

    In other words, I think we may have been vulnerable to this problem the whole time, but our wars were failing our generals.

  38. 38
    fuzz says:

    I thought what Ricks did to Col. Gentile was pretty bush league but I still read his blog because a lot of his readers and the people in the comments section are pretty interesting.

    To the extent that he could, the commander of the BN that destroyed the villages did an ok job defending his actions (I think his name was LTC Flynn). Basically it came down to either choosing to save the Afghan homes and lose what he estimated would be dozens of guys wounded and probably a bunch killed, or losing the houses and saving his soldiers. I get the feeling that even though his actions didn’t play well over here, his guys appreciated that he was looking out for them.

  39. 39
    Bernard Finel says:

    @double nickel: Supposedly he did not begin to actually penis her until after he retired. But either way, given that I don’t think she was ever directly in his chain of command, it wouldn’t be considered a serious breach. At most you’d get a letter of reprimand for adultery.

  40. 40
    patrick II says:

    I scrolled down at ackerman’s site and found a post that seven of the navy seals involved in the Osama Bin Laden raid are being given letters of reprimand — essentially ending their chances of promotion and thus their career — for giving away secrets by helping design a video game about the raid.
    What a 21st century way to lose a career. Real military heroes brought down by a first person shooter game.

  41. 41
    Mandalay says:

    @mikefromArlington:

    The guys a patriot…

    You encapsulate the problem right there. Aren’t 99.99% of the population patriots? It is hardly a reason not to dig deeper, and give Petraeus a free pass.

    And of course, if a journalist with access tried to dig deeper while Petraeus was still in a position of power, how do you think that would work out?

  42. 42
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    The disastrous occupation of Iraq and the ongoing train wreck that was Afghanistan put the Bush administration in the position of needing a general who at least looked like he knew what he was doing. Petraeus was tailor made for that job. It didn’t hurt that those in Congress who supported both wars needed cover. Most helpful of all was Petraeus’ lionization by a media whose credibility was in shreds after being suckered in by everything from Iraq’s WMDs, to Jessica Lynch, to the Pat Tillmman cover up.

    A con only works when you have willing marks. When the marks are the entities mentioned above and they’re downright enthusiastic you get a Petraeus.

  43. 43
    Bernard Finel says:

    @fuzz: The issue is not whether it was narrowly militarily defensible. The issue was Broadwell’s mocking tone about villagers who’d had their homes destroyed. Zero empathy. She basically called them a bunch of whiners engaged in theatric.

    That said, if your goal is to win “hearts and minds,” destroying a village to save it seems, um, counter-productive.

  44. 44
    Steeplejack says:

    @Baud:

    For starters:

    [. . .] 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.

  45. 45
    handsmile says:

    @MattF:

    To her immense credit and prescience (a quality characteristic of her writing), Digby has been raising the alarm on “The Man Called Petraeus” for years:

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com.....raeus.html

    Clicking on the link in that post will bring up her many posts on the subject. Once more, vindication of the phrase “What Digby said” as shorthand for astute, often courageous, analysis.

    @Bernard Finel:

    A keen and clinical post of your own. I would have to imagine though that it could make for some empty chairs around you in the faculty lounge.

  46. 46
    GregB says:

    On the bright side. Pastor Jeffress tells us that President Obama isn’t the anti-Christ because his poll numbers are not high enough.

    We dodged a bullet here.

    http://www.christianpost.com/n.....ist-84639/

  47. 47
    maya says:

    @Josh G.:

    I am just trying to figure out in what capacity is Ms Broadwell writing:

    Until recent developments – covert concubine.

    At the very least, congress, and, particularly, Diane Feinstein, owe MoveOn dot Org a full pardon.

  48. 48
    PeakVT says:

    I started reading Ricks’ Fiasco a while back and put it down halfway through because it was so depressing. Was that the right thing to do?

  49. 49
    WereBear says:

    @Mandalay: We have to take our shoes off and empty our pockets at the airport in the name of national security, but the director of the CIA can have an affair and it’s OK?

    We are mere serfs, humble tillers of the soil. Our Betters decide, who are we to judge?

    /wingnut

  50. 50
    wenchacha says:

    Not being sarcastic, but do we have great 4-star generals? Some of what they do is PR. Clark and Schwarzkopf gave good tv when they addressed the public. Shinseki was better than we deserved. Who is in that role, now? Tommy Franks impresses me less than Mittens. Petraeus was so revered by everybody in DC, and none of it came through to me when I saw him on-screen.

    My suspicion is that too many men who reach the rank are various combos of Greg Marmalard and Doug Neidermeyer.

    I have no great knowledge of the upper echelons of our military, and I know I’m being glib, but seriously, I’d like to see people who are a cut above the rest.

  51. 51
    WereBear says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: I also remember something of a cult which developed around Norman Schwarzkopf after the Gulf War, but that sort of fizzled after a while, partly because Norman didn’t seem very interested in pursuing it any farther than it went at the time.

    Darned true. Made me like Norman a bit more because that is kind of rare in the upper ranks of human endeavor.

    For a good look at what such a cult did in the Korean War, David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War is fantastic. (Be sure to use the Balloon Juice Amazon link to look it up…)

  52. 52
    geg6 says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    THIS.

    Gawd, how can anyone read about this kind of shit and still have an ounce of respect for that man? He was, in his own mind and that of his fawning fan club, the next American Caesar.

    Another bullet dodged, IMHO.

  53. 53
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @mikefromArlington:

    This isn’t a question of patriotism, it’s a question of judgement. As fuckups go, this is a major league, class-A, do-not-pass-Go-do-not-collect-$200 doozy. If Broadwell really did leak classified information obtained through her affair with Petreaus, then they both need to go to prison for the next decade.

    This one indiscretion would be enough to destroy any other analyst or officer forever. Petraeus should not be immune to the same fate just because he’s a patriot.

    I’ll let Bernard speak to Petraeus’ overall influence, but this is something I kind of get worked up about since I’ve had to work under those same rules for a good chunk of my career.

  54. 54
    Mandalay says:

    @patrick II:

    Real military heroes brought down by a first person shooter game.

    No!

    Those SEALs were punished because they were getting paid for disclosing classified information. Some fine heroes.

  55. 55
    beltane says:

    @wenchacha: It takes a major war to reveal who is and who isn’t a great general.

  56. 56
    aimai says:

    @Judge Crater:
    Lord Kitchener is a good comparison. The point is that no General should be in the position to write his own ticket–determine what the perks of his office are, set the policy, control the policymakers anymore than you should hire a contractor for your house and give him your checkbook, your wife, your dogs and just say “get back to me when you are finished.” The interests of a General are not, obviously, the interests of either “his” men or the country as a whole. When did we forget that martial glory is wasteful and profligate of men, blood, treasure and national reputation? A man who seeks power within and through control of the military, by rising through the ranks or through self promotion, is by definition a “lean and hungry man” and not to be trusted.

    aimai

  57. 57
    rachel says:

    Wasn’t Petraeus one of those fellows that David Hackworth used to call “perfumed princes”?

  58. 58
    different-church-lady says:

    @debbie: Who is this Glenn Beck person? I seem to have some distant memory of that name…

  59. 59
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @wenchacha:

    My Father-in-law is a Korea vet, and his take is that all generals lie all the time.

    We probably do have good to great flag officers who aren’t well-known outside the military, and frankly I think that’s the way it should be.

  60. 60
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey: No wonder you are grumpy!

  61. 61
    aimai says:

    Also, lest we forget, this shit happens all the time to “important people” viz John Deutche (this is just from the Wiki which cleans up what happened quite a bit).

    In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed him Director of Central Intelligence (cabinet rank in the Clinton administration). However, Deutch was initially reluctant to accept the appointment. As head of the CIA, Deutch continued the policy of his predecessor R. James Woolsey to declassify records pertaining to U.S. covert operations during the Cold War.[4] He put restraints on what he considered to be politically incorrect agent recruitment and sought to encourage more diversity at the Agency in order to include more women and minorities in its ranks.[5]__
    On November 15, 1996, Deutch was at Locke High School in Los Angeles at a town hall meeting on the topic of drug dealing. He was visibly taken aback by the confrontational testimony from an LAPD narcotics officer, Michael Ruppert, that he had seen evidence of CIA complicity in drug dealing for a long time.[6]__
    Deutch left the CIA on December 15, 1996[1] and later that year it was revealed that several of his laptop computers contained classified materials designated as unclassified. In January 1997, the CIA began a formal security investigation of the matter. Senior management at CIA declined to fully pursue the security breach. Over two years after his departure, the matter was referred to the Department of Justice, where Attorney General Janet Reno declined prosecution. She did, however, recommend an investigation to determine whether Deutch should retain his security clearance.[7] President Clinton pardoned Deutch on his last day in office.[8]

  62. 62
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @aimai:

    When did we forget that martial glory is wasteful and profligate of men, blood, treasure and national reputation?

    Not that this lesson isn’t something which seemingly each generation has to learn the hard way, but the feeling I get is that we passed a moral tipping point when World War II was branded as the Good War and the generation which fought it was branded and marketed as the Greatest Generation. Hagiography is a moral and intellectual toxin if taken in more than very small doses.

  63. 63
    patrick II says:

    @Mandalay:
    I said they were giving away secrets in my comment. But what makes it so “21st Century” is that they weren’t giving away secrets to a traditional receiver of information such as a reporter, or to an enemy spy, or to a sexual partner, — but to a game company.

  64. 64
    rachel says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey: Respect for the brass among the general public rose considerably after the draft ended and the average citizen was no longer forced to be exposed to them.

    Yet another good reason to bring back the draft.

  65. 65
    different-church-lady says:

    @MattF: Fouling the nest is indeed one of the finer and under-appreciated points of Village Calvinball.

  66. 66
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    I also remember something of a cult which developed around Norman Schwarzkopf after the Gulf War, but that sort of fizzled after a while

    Roughly the same time, I also remember something of a cult developing around Colin Powell. Whatever happened to that guy? :P

  67. 67
    different-church-lady says:

    I know this all seems “inside baseball.” But it had real consequences. Thousands dead and billions wasted.

    So, what you’re saying is that if Petraeus hadn’t dipped his stick in an engine that wasn’t his in 2011, we wouldn’t have had these two wars that started roughly a decade before?

  68. 68
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Bernard Finel, top:

    Worse, Petraeus’ legacy on civil-military relations is likely to endure. He showed how easy it is for a military leader to act as a policy maker, to wage a deliberate campaign of manipulation and propaganda against the American public.

    Petraeus’ conduct since 2004 has been profoundly anti-democratic. He’s been a cancer on civil-military relations. My main hope now is that instead of focusing on salacious details, we can instead shine a harsh light on the “age of Petraeus” and its destructive legacy.

    I respectfully submit to you, Sir, that the real authors of that phenomenon were Cheney and Rumsfeld, with their “we’re going to defer to the Generals” and “we’re going to trust the commanders on the ground” rhetoric, accompanied by the insinuations (and occasional outright statements) that to do otherwise or to disagree was to impugn the integrity and competence of those men instead of the what disagreement really was, which was to (rightly) impugn the integrity and competence of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

    David Patraeus is possessed of things, including some rather darker personal traits, not the least of which is hyper-ambition, but the blame for the damage to civil-military relations is rightly placed at the feet of the men who actually did the damage.

  69. 69
    Eric U. says:

    @Mandalay: some asshole from Brookings (but I repeat myself) was interviewed on NPR. The part of the interview that NPR chose to air had him saying that it was horrible that Petraeus had to resign because he was an American Patriot and we don’t have too many of those left. I had to turn the channel after that.

  70. 70
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: And that was very much the doing of Big Media and their feelings of guilt for Vietnam (both their not going and their complicity in not “winning”). To make up for negativity towards Vietnam, they swung way positively towards WWII.

  71. 71
    aimai says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Yes, thank you! Schwartzkopf and Powell were both iterations of different models of the “great man” who is going to save us. The public is doomed to forget, each time they are offered a new great man, just how flawed the previous one was. I remember when Powell’s claim to fame was the whole bogus “powell doctrine” which just said, basically, “have enough troops.” I couldn’t believe how excited everyone got about that little insight.

    aimai

  72. 72
    different-church-lady says:

    @aimai:

    I couldn’t believe how excited everyone got about that little insight.

    The political porn always gets as big as its tank.

  73. 73
    Legalize says:

    No no no. The wingers, who are never wrong, are telling me that this is all about silencing St. Petreaus over Benghazi.

  74. 74
    Mandalay says:

    An article in the Times today suggests that if a “frustrated” FBI agent had not gone to Eric Cantor, we would not know a thing about this:

    Meanwhile, the F.B.I. agent who had helped get a preliminary inquiry started, and learned of Mr. Petraeus’s affair and the initial concerns about security breaches, became frustrated. Apparently unaware that those concerns were largely resolved, the agent alerted the office of Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, the House majority leader, about the inquiry in late October. Mr. Cantor passed on the agent’s concerns to Mr. Mueller.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11.....&_r=0

    So on being presented with a warm turd, Cantor duly ran to teacher and the beans got spilled.

  75. 75

    […] Bernard Finel and Kevin Drum has some interesting observations, if you want to explore the topic further. Tweet Spotlight No Comments […]

  76. 76
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Mandalay:

    So on being presented with a warm turd, Cantor duly ran to teacher and the beans got spilled.

    Politically speaking we have a lot to thank Cantor and his rogue FBI contact for. Because if Cantor hadn’t been informed at the early date he was, and sat on the news as long as he did, then right now we’d be treated to the media screaming “What did the President know, and when did he know it!?” 24×7. Watergate comparisons, impeachment hearings in the House, the whole clown circus would be coming to town. As it is, Cantor may have fucked it up for them.

  77. 77
    LanceThruster says:

    The reality is that even before Petraeus and Broadwell slept together, their relationship was a tangled web of conflicts

    These are important points that I hadn’t yet considered. As I was listening to the news radio flog the story on the drive in , I was wondering what is it about our society that considers the rubbing together of squishy parts the most defining act of our behavior virtually above all else?

  78. 78
    Soonergrunt says:

    @aimai: That isn’t even the beginning of the Powell Doctrine, which is a lot more about “Don’t go to war without actual public support and a plan to win and then leave” but yeah, it was somewhat obvious.

    “Have enough troops” is what we call basic common sense.

  79. 79
    JPL says:

    @Legalize: A friend mentioned the fact that he doesn’t have to testify now and I simply asked whether or not Congress had to right to subpoena.

  80. 80
    Chris says:

    I don’t know why, but there’s always been something about Petraeus that struck me as sleazy – the kind of slickness that usually goes with politicians or pundits rather than generals. Never had that impression with McChrystal but I did with this guy. Guess it was for good reason.

  81. 81
    Taylor says:

    @aimai: Petraeus’ use of personal email struck me as a the real story here, as stupid a breach of security as what Deutch was doing. If he was only accessing his personal email on a machine that never saw classified material loaded onto it (including internal emails), in other words he had a Chinese Wall between his personal and professional computing, then perhaps this is defensible. In the age of ubiquitous laptops and tablets, I doubt it. The fact that he conducted a clandestine affair via email is telling. My guess is that they will quietly sweep this part of the scandal under the carpet….

  82. 82
    Soonergrunt says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: That’s as may be, but there’s still political hay to be made over Cantor clearly politicizing an investigation for his own ends, and the fact that the Director of the FBI is a Bush appointee.

  83. 83
    Legalize says:

    @JPL: Of course Congress can subpoena him. He just can’t testify on behalf of the agency.

  84. 84
    Felonius Monk says:

    I guess we now know who the Rs will run in 2016. By then any tarnish on his rep will have been rubbed off by the RW noise machine.

  85. 85
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Heh. I’m grumpy because I’ve spent most of my career writing C and C++ (and have the brain damage to prove it). I’ve also spent a good chunk of my career in the defense sector where a clearance was required, and shit like this drives me up the wall. Like I said in the Manning thread, you are briefed regularly on your obligations and responsibilities, you sign documents stating that you understand these obligations and responsibilities and the penalties for failing to meet them, and these penalties apply whether you’re an analyst stuck in a cubicle or the Director of the CIA. Any adverse information is to be reported immediately, and God help you if someone else does it before you.

    This is why I can’t feel much sympathy for PFC Manning, despite how badly he’s been treated, and likewise if Broadwell leaked classified information obtained from Petraeus through their affair, then they both need to go to prison.

  86. 86
    Eric U. says:

    apparently the Powell doctrine is fairly important since things probably would have gone a lot better in Iraq had Bush not totally ignored it when he started his vanity war.

  87. 87
    JPL says:

    @Legalize: Couldn’t Issa ask him whether or not Petraeus knows something that is damaging to the President? The purpose of the hearing is to embarrass the President and Issa wants to accomplish that.

  88. 88
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey: I too was grumpy when I had to write code in C++ and deal with some legacy C code, so I understand. However it had nothing to do with defense so no security clearances were required.

  89. 89
    Guess Who says:

    Beck is already firing up the conspiracy theories and demanding an investigation. How long until Issa uses this to go on a fishing expedition?

  90. 90
    planetjanet says:

    Regrettably, I just clicked on this article on Yahoo News by Martha Raddatz. This part just left me slackjawed.

    “As the details of the investigation launched by the FBI unraveled this weekend, it became clear that the woman at the heart of the inquiry that led to Petraeus’ downfall had been identified as Jill Kelley, a Florida woman who volunteers to help the military. She is a family friend of Petraeus, who Broadwell apparently felt threatened by”

    So tell me how the “heart of the inquiry” was a family friend and not the the woman with whom Petraeus was having an affair and was feared to have had improper access. This seems like such a smear. Petraeus’ downfall rests with Petraeus. Paula Broadwell was also a liar and adulterer. End rant.

  91. 91
    Soonergrunt says:

    @planetjanet: Because Ms. Kelly was the one who initiated the investigation by contacting the FBI over threatening emails. The hell of it is, according to NPR this morning, she went to a friend in the FBI, who turned out to be the same guy who went to Eric Cantor’s office and prematurely compromised the criminal investigation.

  92. 92
    WereBear says:

    @Soonergrunt: I respectfully submit to you, Sir, that the real authors of that phenomenon were Cheney and Rumsfeld, with their “we’re going to defer to the Generals” and “we’re going to trust the commanders on the ground” rhetoric, accompanied by the insinuations (and occasional outright statements) that to do otherwise or to disagree was to impugn the integrity and competence of those men instead of the what disagreement really was, which was to (rightly) impugn the integrity and competence of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

    Yes. Very much.

    I find it amazing in hindsight that historical information have revealed that both George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld actually did exhibit moral lines they wouldn’t cross; things they wouldn’t do.

    But not DICK Cheney. Nosirree!

  93. 93
    Chris says:

    @Linda Featheringill: @Linda Featheringill:

    If only.

    I think the fact that most of us never go near the military (far less than in the days of the draft) tends to make for a public that’s easily impressed and led around by the nose by generals with good PR departments.

  94. 94
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mandalay:
    My gut feeling is that there’s a ton of obfuscation behind that bolded phrase. If I had to guess, the real meaning is that the FBI was getting political pressure to shut the investigation down, which the agent resisted because he thought there was something real there. So he did what a good agent would do when he felt political pressure to stop a valid investigation, which was to get some political cover to continue it.

  95. 95
    El Cid says:

    @planetjanet: I think the meaning is that the interaction between Broadwell and Kelley is what caused Kelley to notify authorities and that that action by Kelley triggered the inquiry. I.e., there was no ongoing investigation triggered earlier, but an inquiry did begin at that time.

    I don’t think the suggestion was that this was the ‘heart of the problem’. Probably a term like ‘seed’ or ‘origin’ or ‘spark’ would be better.

  96. 96
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @WereBear: Well he didn’t bump off Dubya and become the President himself. Thank Ceiling Cat.

  97. 97
    maya says:

    @Eric U.: In my high school civil war history (circa 1960) the Powell Doctrine was incorrectly known as the U.S.Grant Doctrine. And Marvin Hamlisch was incorrectly known as Scott Joplin sometimes. History does need to be corrected from era to era or else it gets stale.

  98. 98
    rikyrah says:

    somebody dropped a dime on Patreaus.

    November 11, 2012
    A Petraeus Puzzle: Were Politics Involved?
    Posted by Jane Mayer

    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/onlin.....z2C1jL80n9

  99. 99
    Roger Moore says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    I’m grumpy because I’ve spent most of my career writing C and C++ (and have the brain damage to prove it).

    Just think how much grumpier you’d be if you had been forced to program everything in ADA.

  100. 100
    MobiusKlein says:

    Does anybody remember the shit MoveOn went through for its ‘Betrayus’ ad?
    Perhaps they were right all along.
    eta.
    ah yes: @maya:

  101. 101
    Chris says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    My impression of Cheney and Rumsfeld is that whatever they said in public, they were micromanaging egomaniacs who were fairly resented by those on the ground for it.

  102. 102
    aimai says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Since she didn’t know who sent the emails, how can it be her fault that Petraeus’s secret was uncovered. I must say I’m gobsmacked by the FBI guy who a) starts an investigation that seems like it was totally outside the scope of the FBI in the first place and b) follows up by going privately to Cantor’s office.
    aimai

  103. 103
    planetjanet says:

    @El Cid: I agree that wording that Kelley’s actions triggered the inquiry are perfectly correct. But shouldn’t the heart of the inquiry be the person who was behaving suspiciously?

  104. 104
    Culture of Truth says:

    I’ve been out of the loop and only watched the Sunday talk shows. Did David Petraeus cure cancer over the weekend? Cause that’s what it sounded like.

  105. 105
    roc says:

    The press has been lighting up with “I can’t believe I was deceived and uncritical” stories from reporters who perpetuated this bullshit (instead of doing their job).

    But how many articles had we ever seen on, say, the revelations that Ryan and his budget were an outright fraud? Surely if an unrelated affair is enough to shake these journalists free from Petraeus’ powers, the (repeated) revelations of fact in Ryan’s case should have been plenty, right?

    To say nothing of the discovery of reality-divergent-from-reports with regard to essentially the *entire* Iraq war. (How many critical voices were raised at Romney’s foreign affairs consultants being the architects of failure in Iraq?)

    What of Colin Powell, whose own fantastical image remained unmarred despite revelations of truth-distinct-from-reputation, from Vietnam to the UN?

    What threshold did Petraeus actually cross, where his mistakes are given this treatment, whereas Ryan remains favored and Powell is, if not favored, at least left alone?

    Is it simply that he happens to have ‘wronged’ both the left *and* the right in this country?

  106. 106
    Mandalay says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    and likewise if Broadwell leaked classified information obtained from Petraeus through their affair, then they both need to go to prison.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Patraeus has denied giving her classified information, and she has denied receiving classified information from him.

    However:”She also voluntarily gave the agency her computer. In a search, the agents discovered several classified documents”.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11.....&_r=0

    So if she didn’t get those classified documents from Patraeus, how did she obtain them? She may be in very deep trouble regardless of what happens to Patraeus.

    Her professional life and her reputation are ruined, and she may face criminal charges. I guess it is up to her husband to decide if she still has a marriage. What a mess for her.

  107. 107

    Bernard, I’m surprised no one here has used the term “Bonapartism” to describe what Petraeus was up to: “a government that forms when class rule is not secure and a military, police, and state bureaucracy intervenes to establish order.”

    Seems to fit the situation to a “T”.

  108. 108
    Culture of Truth says:

    However:”She also voluntarily gave the agency her computer. In a search, the agents discovered several classified documents”.

    No cat pictures?

  109. 109
    Felonius Monk says:

    My cynical view is that General P. was double-dipping his battle-lance which resulted in threats by one babe to the other. I really doubt that this incident has any national security implications other than the resignation of Gen. P. But the wing-nut politicians will whip themselves into a frenzy trying to convince everyone that the Kenyan usurper is totally responsible. This whole thing should be a National Inquirer story and not a NYT or WaPo story — nothing more serious than a fender bender in the local mall parking lot.

  110. 110
    Mandalay says:

    @Roger Moore:

    So he did what a good agent would do when he felt political pressure to stop a valid investigation, which was to get some political cover to continue it.

    I agree, and he was very prudent (or just lucky?) to arrange that a prominent Republican left fingerprints on the turd, so that it could not be hushed up forever.

    The irony is that while Patraeus will probably become a gazillionaire through sitting on the boards of defense companies and speaking fees, the poor old FBI agent may have screwed up his career (though that is pure speculation on my part).

  111. 111
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Chris: Easier too, if those PR departments aren’t recognized as PR departments at all.

  112. 112
    schrodinger's cat says:

    I wonder how many other affairs the good General has had. It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

  113. 113
    Mandalay says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    No cat pictures?

    No, but possibly pussy pictures, lovingly submitted by her David.

  114. 114
    sharl says:

    @Soonergrunt: I think this point – political (civilian) leadership rigging things to get a desired result – doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Through various maneuverings in back rooms and hallways, a determined and skilled political leadership can get the generals they want. Cheney and his lieutenants (David Addington, Scooter Libby) were masters at the Washington bureaucratic game, and Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul “Comb-Sucker” Wolfowitz were on their side in such matters. If it hadn’t been Petraeus, it would have been some other compliant general (though perhaps one with less political savvy or PR skill).

    Generals who didn’t play ball were out. Remember Gen. Shinseki’s “mistake” of telling the truth about the size of the ground forces that would be required to go into Iraq? Subsequent events bore him out.

    In nonmilitary aspects of that total clusterfuck, remember too that Cheney et al. were pretty good at doing this with the media who willingly propagandized for that bunch. Former NYT reporter Judy Miller may have been about the worst of the lot, but she wasn’t alone.

    At its worst, our political leadership is very good at taking advantage of their authority over the military, but they are profoundly and criminally negligent in not accepting the huge life-and-death responsibility that comes with that authority. This often manifests itself in bad political leaders committing the military to questionable (at best) ventures, then leaving military leaders holding the bag when everything goes south.

    Happy Veterans Day to Sooner, Raven, DennisSGGM (?), and the other veterans here. I am glad and grateful you survived to return alive.

  115. 115
    LanceThruster says:

    If only Willard was a general because his integrity is beyond question.

  116. 116
    Mandalay says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    I really doubt that this incident has any national security implications

    Not so sure about that. It is known that the FBI found classified documents on her laptop. Notwithstanding their denials, if those documents came from Patraeus then they are both in big trouble, and she is in trouble either way.

  117. 117
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Roger Moore:

    It’s always nice to write code in languages that post date the first Reagan administration (C++, early 80s C about a decade before )

  118. 118
    Soonergrunt says:

    @aimai: “Since she didn’t know who sent the emails, how can it be her fault that Petraeus’s secret was uncovered.”
    I don’t think Ms. Kelly did know that. And I don’t think that she holds any blame whatsoever for what has happened to Petraeus. I think she went to her friend cause she was freaked out about the threatening emails, and he used some flimsy legal excuse (like maybe she accessed her personal email from a government computer on base, which is legal in most circumstances) or that the threats were communicated using interstate commerce, and bootstrapped that to utilize FBI resources to trace the emails and ended up stumbling upon the Broadmore/Petraeus affair.
    Then, being the good little goper that he was, he went to Cantor’s people before the election.

  119. 119
    Suffern ACE says:

    I’m confused Broadwell’s claim that the CIA was holding prisoners in Bengazi. It’s unrelated to the case of whether she had classified information because she was citing Fox news reports. But now that the election is over and the good general is gone, can we start to ask what we are doing in Libya? I know, I know. Liberals love the CIA since Bush and Co dissed them in the run-up to the Iraq war. But we might want to end that clandestine affair we’ve been having with them for the past ten years.

  120. 120
    catclub says:

    @Judge Crater: ” into the corporate side of our military/industrial complex.”

    In principle, this is tougher to do if you have lost your security clearance.

    Also, Petraeus wrote a 2004 editorial supporting Bush. It was inappropriate then, and is pretty much ignored now. So I see him doing just fine in the corporate side of our military/industrial complex.

  121. 121
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Culture of Truth: No. He got caught shtupping the person who was saying he was curing cancer.

  122. 122
    Culture of Truth says:

    Meanwhile, the F.B.I. agent who had helped get a preliminary inquiry started, and learned of Mr. Petraeus’s affair and the initial concerns about security breaches, became frustrated. Apparently unaware that those concerns were largely resolved, the agent alerted the office of Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, the House majority leader, about the inquiry in late October. Mr. Cantor passed on the agent’s concerns to Mr. Mueller.

    If I were Mueller I’d be a little ticked off about that.

  123. 123
    Suffern ACE says:

    @roc:

    What threshold did Petraeus actually cross, where his mistakes are given this treatment, whereas Ryan remains favored and Powell is, if not favored, at least left alone?

    Cole lied to us. Petraus lied to them. If we use the example of David Gergen. It appears that they weren’t let in on the affair.

  124. 124
    Mandalay says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    If I were Mueller I’d be a little ticked off about that.

    I would think that Cantor was probably even more ticked off with the FBI agent that spilled the beans to him.

  125. 125
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Suffern ACE: Also, you are never going to get them to admit that they were misled on Iraq by those Senior Bush foreign policy people. Reporting that those folks in Romney’s campaign were dangerous then and don’t appear to have learned a damn thing now is not going to happen any time soon.

  126. 126
    Elie says:

    @Mandalay:

    We’ll see. I think Petraeus has his butt in a crack on this one — will be very hard to state that he did not give her anything and let her take the whole fall. Uh Uhn —

    They are BOTH in big big trouble.

    Someone better check his firearms — yes, I believe he is a risk for suicide. Maybe her too…

  127. 127
    debbie says:

    @ c u n d gulag:

    Perhaps as close as we’ll get: I just listened to Newt pontificating on Petraeus’s being obliged to testify. Does this man have even less self-awareness than Trump?

  128. 128
    Felonius Monk says:

    @Mandalay: I see your point. However, I still do not yet see this as any threat to national security. It sounds, so far as I’ve seen, some mishandling of classified information; Broadwell probably improperly got hold of some material to prove she was an insider, big-shot type and she will ultimately be treated appropriately. Petraeus, if he was at all complicit, will be handled likewise. I don’t think this is a “spy” thing, but then maybe I’m wrong.

  129. 129
    Kay says:

    The coverage of this is sickening. They’re making all kinds of unsupported claims hinting at a conspiracy in order to discuss what looks to me like an affair while remaining “serious people”.

    Why don’t they just admit they’re glorified gossip columnists and be done with it? They’re fascinated with it because they all know him and half of them probably know her. This has nothing whatever to do with informing the public.

  130. 130
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Mandalay: The NYTimes story says no criminal charges would be filed. The “classified documents” on her computer might have been Wikileaks documents for all we know. Just because her computer had them doesn’t mean that a new crime was the cause.

    http://www.public.navy.mil/usf.....leaks.aspx

    The speculation in this Petraeus thing is entertaining, but we shouldn’t follow threads of causation that aren’t necessarily there.

    FWIW.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  131. 131
    Mandalay says:

    @Elie:

    will be very hard to state that he did not give her anything and let her take the whole fall

    Why? Because Patraeus is an honorable man?

    Actually, if he did give her anything he shouldn’t have given her (apart from the obvious) then I agree he is in big trouble, but then the FBI will be as well. Why? Because they had already decided that
    “law enforcement officials decided there was no evidence that Mr. Petraeus had committed any crime and tentatively ruled out charges coming out of the investigation, the official said”.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11.....&_r=0

    So since that is now on the record, if Petraeus is later charged with anything there will (hopefully) be all kinds of stink about an attempted cover up.

  132. 132
    Mandalay says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet:

    The NYTimes story says no criminal charges would be filed.

    Not quite. While it explicitly stated that Petraeus would not be charged, the FBI had only “tentatively ruled out charges coming out of the investigation”.

    The “classified documents” on her computer might have been Wikileaks documents for all we know.

    I take your point, but I think we do know that was not the case. Otherwise, why would the FBI be asking Petraeus if he had provided her with the information? They wouldn’t have done that if it was Wikileaks documents on her computer.

  133. 133
    Bernard Finel says:

    @Eric U.: ” some asshole from Brookings (but I repeat myself) was interviewed on NPR. The part of the interview that NPR chose to air had him saying that it was horrible that Petraeus had to resign because he was an American Patriot and we don’t have too many of those left. I had to turn the channel after that.”

    Well, that’s the issue. Who was it from Brookings? Was it Mike O’Hanlon, who, much like Ricks and Broadwell and others was close to Petraeus and profited professionally from the association?

    When our military leaders deliberately build quid-pro-quo relationships with media types and analysts it makes everything they said and said about them suspect. This happens regularly in politics, but the military not supposed to be playing at this game.

  134. 134
    Elie says:

    @Mandalay:

    Like you note in your later comment, the operational phrase here is “the FBI tentatively ruled out” charges — I am sure that they would not have hamstrung themselves prematurely by saying unequivocally that there were no chargeable offenses. In most instances, it might be way too early to know that — or even that all parties to this thing have been fully identified.

  135. 135
    Bruce S says:

    I have always had conflicted feelings about Petraeus – he’s obviously a self-promoting egomaniac, but he was also the most tactically skilled and strategically realistic commander in the Iraq debacle, and his pragmatism (essentially paying off the Sunni “bad guys” and using additional troops to help create some feeble negotiated settlement between the warring factions) helped get us in a politically viable exit position. The tragedy was that he convinced himself he could replicate something like that in Afghanistan. I had opposed the Iraq surge, but I think it was relatively successful in retrospect. Of course, the outcome had absolutely nothing to do with US national security and arguably helped create a more sustainable ally for Iran in the region. But I can’t really see demonizing him in the wake of this current situation. I’m surprised by it – but not so much. Just don’t see Petraeus as some sort of sinister presence. His impact, in context, has been at least marginally better than the rest of his peers had been so far as I can tell.

  136. 136
    thrasycon says:

    The Village/neocons have a sad.

    Now who’s gonna make endless war palatable to the viewing public, and be their Eisenhower in 2016? Hm?

    Brought low by his dink. How gauche.

  137. 137
    Maude says:

    @Kay:
    I despise the media right now. Bunch of wankers.
    I could say that because Petraeus was seen as a Republican and Clinton was a Democrat, both sides do it.

  138. 138
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    because he was an American Patriot and we don’t have too many of those left.

    Oh Jeezus. Was that the actual quote. That Petraeus was somehow a dying breed? Lordy, Lordy, how will our dear democratic republic survive when there are so few decent folks left to run the CIA who can be both competent AND patriotic? Lets us now proceed to the garment rending, ash sitting part of this affair.

  139. 139
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Bruce S: The surge in Iraq was successful in that it achieved its limited goals, which was to create space and time for the US to emplace something resembling an Iraqi government and to hand responsibility off to that government and begin the process of getting out. From the time the first surge troops started leaving the country, it was a continual stream without interruption to the last combat troops (non-trainers) left.
    The problem in Afghanistan is that there is nothing resembling a government there to which to pass responsibility. Karzai is as feckless as he is corrupt.
    And I agree with you that it’s a hell of a leap from “Petraeus is a bad husband” to “Petraeus is a bad general” and an even bigger leap (which many are trying nonetheless) to “COIN doctrine is completely discredited!” or any of the other completely non-related subjects to the issue of whom he was fucking.

  140. 140
    Steeplejack says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    No cat pictures?

    That’s a given.

  141. 141
    DougJ says:

    Great post.

  142. 142
    Chris says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Like I said on the other thread; my impression of the surge is that the centerpiece of its success wasn’t the act of putting more troops into Iraq, but the fact that the Sahwa sheikhs switched sides along with most of the native Sunni resistance after determining that the AQI was too psycho a partner to work with.

    Also all the change in strategies that the media simplified into “The Surge” only happened after the 2006 midterms gave the GOP a big kick in the ass and Bush figured “oh, shit, maybe I should start doing my job.”

  143. 143
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @Mandalay:

    So if she didn’t get those classified documents from Patraeus, how did she obtain them? She may be in very deep trouble regardless of what happens to Patraeus.

    My money would be on her downloading documents from Wikileaks. Just ‘cos Manning turned classified documents over to Wikileaks, doesn’t mean the Feds don’t treat still treat them as classified if they find them.

  144. 144
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Chris: Yup. The fact that he had to do something to try to salvage his legacy (already permanently damaged, but nobody ever credited the guy with insight) kicked Bush into gear on the concept of getting something done.
    It was Obama who said before anyone else that we needed to have combat forces out of Iraq by the end of 2010 when he was still a candidate. The Iraqis grabbed onto that date and never let go, and Bush and the neocons’ hands were tied. If you really look at the things we were doing in Iraq up until that point, you realize that what they envisioned was a strategically placed intelligence and operational HQ with a combat force located there that could be deployed anywhere, but most especially to either Iran or Syria as they wished. Just another example of how out of touch with reality they were. There was no way the US public would have agreed to that, and the Iraqi government and public damn sure would never have agreed to anything like that.

  145. 145
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @wenchacha:

    I have no great knowledge of the upper echelons of our military, and I know I’m being glib, but seriously, I’d like to see people who are a cut above the rest.

    Do you really need to have military icons to look up to? Why?

  146. 146
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Mandalay:

    Those SEALs were punished because they were getting paid for disclosing classified information. Some fine heroes.

    Do guys who do shit like this just think they’re going to get a pass? Are they just stupid?

  147. 147
    aimai says:

    @Culture of Truth:
    Yeah, or is “chain of command” just for military people? I mean, if he went outside the FBI that is basically admitting that he thought there was a coverup and that he basically went to Cantor and told him there was a coverup.

    aimai

  148. 148
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Hagiography is a moral and intellectual toxin if taken in more than very small doses.

    Yes, but it made Tom Brokaw richer so it’s all good.

  149. 149
    Mandalay says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Do guys who do shit like this just think they’re going to get a pass?

    Indeed. Actually I was surprised that they kept their jobs, but then I was also surprised that it wasn’t a no-brainer that Petraeus had to step down.

    I have no personal experience so I can’t relate, but there is a mountain of evidence on Google News everyday that having power gives people a massively misplaced sense of invulnerability and/or entitlement.

    It almost seems to be hard-wired part of human nature. Bummer.

  150. 150
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    David Patraeus is possessed of things, including some rather darker personal traits, not the least of which is hyper-ambition, but the blame for the damage to civil-military relations is rightly placed at the feet of the men who actually did the damage.

    Soonergrunt I agree that Bush and Cheney are ultimately to blame, but President Obama has no intention of holding them to account, so oh well…

    Secondly, just because Bush and Cheney are disgusting murderous lying pigs, does not mean that those lower down the chain of command are not also responsible for their actions.

    You seem to favor a view that says “no one but Bush and Cheney are to blame and since we won’t even attempt to punish them, everyone is off the hook.”

    Nice how that works out for everyone…

  151. 151
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    I’m confused Broadwell’s claim that the CIA was holding prisoners in Bengazi.

    IMHO she’s trying to get out of the eye of the storm by steering the question back to “Was ‘it’ all a coverup by Obama?” for all values of “it.”

  152. 152

    […] at Balloon Juice Bernard Finel explains The Real Sin in the Petraeus Case.  Read the entire thing but here is a snippet: Petraeus deliberately sought to woo a range of […]

  153. 153
    dollared says:

    @Bernard Finel: Thanks for this post, Bernard.

    This guy was a one man PR agency, working to promote himself and prolong expensive, brutal wars of attrition where the outcome was not critical to the people of the United States. That the opposite of my definition of patriotism.

  154. 154
    OOTB says:

    “IMHO she’s trying to get out of the eye of the storm by steering the question back to “Was ‘it’ all a coverup by Obama?” for all values of “it.””

    I believe she made the comments on 10/26 – before there was a storm. Entirely too much confusion and mis-directed speculation swirling about.

  155. 155

    @Guess Who: Not long. The Ends justify the memes. And then it is a short hop and a skip to impeachment. Or so hope the GOP. If they cannot take back the country through elections, the Constitution provides another course of action.

  156. 156
    Guess Who says:

    @We are bigger than you think:

    I give it two years until Obambi’s Hope ‘N Change Impeachment. We will D E S T R O Y his second term, and make him wish he did lose to Romney.

  157. 157
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Guess Who:

    Who’s the sore loser now?

  158. 158
    Yutsano says:

    @Mnemosyne: Squid clouds all over the place here.

  159. 159
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Ted & Hellen: But I think we should punish them. I do not agree that we should “look forward and not back.” I never have.
    And I think you go after them because the President is the CinC, and is responsible for what the military does. And you punish Rumsfeld because he executed those acts in his capacity as #2 in the Chain of Command. And you go after Cheney because he planned it and was the father of the conspiracy.

    It CERTAINLY was not my choice to ignore their behavior. But as far as Patraeus is concerned, we have no evidence that he was involved in that. If his actions obeying their orders were otherwise legal, then they were legal, period. That’s a cornerstone of military law kept around the world.
    As I noted, him being a bad husband does not equate to anything else other than him being a bad husband.

  160. 160
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @Guess Who:

    I give it two years until Obambi’s Hope ‘N Change Impeachment. We will D E S T R O Y his second term, and make him wish he did lose to Romney.

    ‘Cos pursuing impeachment worked so well for you guys in the 1998 elections, after all. What makes you think Cantor would be able to persuade the wobblier parts of his caucus to support impeachment, when you’re not within a rabid dog’s howl of 2/3 vote in the Senate?

    I think this is going to be as accurate as your predictions we’d be crying into our organic fair-trade hand-brewed coffees last Wednesday.

  161. 161
    elftx says:

    ok all you DFH’s just saw on afternoon news in Dallas an older gent wearing a 5th Marine Div. hat claim he came out for the Veterans Parade here because when he came home from Vietnam he was spit on by Dirty Hippies…jeesh I have never seen a recorded incidence of such but yep he said it.

  162. 162

    @Guess Who: And that profoundly arrogant, self-centered, narrow minded strategy is central to why the GOP lost so badly in the last election despite Rove’s and others very successful efforts at Getting Out the Dollars.

  163. 163
    notoriousJRT says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    I got a small taste of Ricks’ glibness as I listened to him on Warren Olney’s “To the Point” program today. He said (I am paraphrasing but not too far off the mark) that Obama should have told Petraeus to go home to his wife, give her some “Kobe Bryant” jewelry and a couple weeks in the Carribean to smooth things over and then get back to work. It was truly odious, and I sent him an email to tell him as much. He also trotted out Kay Sommersby and the comment by a cab driver (kid you not) that who wants a man without a healthy appetite for sex commanding him?

  164. 164
    fuckwit says:

    I’m no Petraeus fan. I thought what he was doing was shitty neocon salesmanship, and that MoveOn got pilloried way out of proportion for trying to poke some holes in his blowhard bubble (remember the “General Betray Us” ad? I do).

    But is this really new, Bernard? What about MacArthur? What about Patton? They were egomaniacs with their own agendas too! And, like Petraeus, apparently effective at their jobs despite that (because of that?).

    But I haven’t served in the military myself, and I don’t know enough military history to be able to answer this. But it seems from my civilian outsider perspective as though preening, showboating, egomaniacal top brass is absolutely nothing new.

  165. 165
    Bart says:

    Of course, this could have been prevented if the USA didn’t have such a hard-on for its military, and would stop calling its soldiers heroes and babble about “defending our freedoms”. For instance: do sports events really have to be preceded by military parades?

  166. 166
    Prairie W says:

    Bravo!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] at Balloon Juice Bernard Finel explains The Real Sin in the Petraeus Case.  Read the entire thing but here is a snippet: Petraeus deliberately sought to woo a range of […]

  2. […] Bernard Finel and Kevin Drum has some interesting observations, if you want to explore the topic further. Tweet Spotlight No Comments […]

  3. […] (c)  Brilliant analysis by Bernard Finel (Assoc Prof, National War College): “The Real Sin in the Petraeus Case”. […]

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