One theme I often focus on is how society at large view the military.
The short version is that most conservatives are essentially military fetishists. They view everything through the lens of “honoring” the military. They want to give the military whatever it wants in terms of budgets, praise to the sky all its accomplishments, and deny or excuse away any shortcomings.
Progressives, essentially, are often the opposite. They are skeptical of all things military. They deny the legitimacy of security arguments, seeing them as excuses to justify higher budgets and assaults on democracy. They are also, often very, very cynical, seeing national security debates as corrupt and rigged.
You can see that in the Petraeus situation, where essentially half the commentariat is saying, “he’s a hero, leave him alone” and the other half is saying, “he’s a scumbag, but what do you expect, nothing new here.”
I’m painting with a broad brush, I know.
Anyway, one thing that’s happened with the Democratic party is that it is no longer friendly to the progressive, anti-militarist perspective. We can debate whether this is a matter of political expediency, genuine reassessment, or some sort of corrupt bargain, but I think you see this quite clearly in the sense of betrayal many on the left felt when Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan or, of course, in the drones issue.
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.
Good… there is stuff in the post for everyone to hate. So flame away. I can feel the warming touch of your angry retorts already. ;-)