4 years ago
There are all sorts of questions surrounding how the FBI found out about this affair, why they waited so long to inform the chain of command, and why it was made public when it was. Those questions will eventually be answered, just like all of the questions surrounding Benghazi.
But focusing on the situation at hand, I am not opposed to making moral judgments. We – you, I, all of us – make moral decisions and value judgments all day long, every day, on all sorts of things. But the point of this isn’t to make judgments as to the moral challenges that General Petraeus faces. Petraeus will have to face God and his own wife, and apparently according to reports, his own wife isn’t very happy. She shouldn’t be. She made a promise long ago, and so did her husband. I do not give him a pass regardless of how difficult his career and life.
I have never been a fan of the General-worship that seems to engage America and American military history. I didn’t and do not now agree with the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency, and I believe that FM 3-24 is filled mostly with fantasies and pipe dreams from neverland fabricated by people using as their basis primarily nineteenth and twentieth century secular psychology.
According to one high level staff officer who interacted with me during the surge, when Petraeus deployed to Iraq he brought a plan, and that plan survived right up until the logistics officers got hold of it, which was immediately, and then it died. That being said, this same officer told me that to the credit of Petraeus, he adjusted very quickly to something that would work. I have this for which to thank Generals Odierno and Petraeus. They left the Marines alone in the Anbar Province in 2007. They stayed out of their way, didn’t press them to change the way they were doing business, and allowed them to free reign to do what the Marines do best. That is a lot more than can be said for Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez in Afghanistan.
Furthermore, the General’s son served in uniform. 2nd Lt. Stephen Petraeus served in Afghanistan as a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. General Odierno’s son, Anthony Odierno, lost his left arm in Iraq. The General wasn’t willing to hold back on committing his own son to the war effort. Michael Yon is also heaps praises on General Petraeus. Mr. Petraeus is fortunate to have advocates like Yon. But it pays to remember why it’s simply unacceptable to have these kind of affairs going on in the chain of command.
Hidden and hurtful things like affairs are an opportunity for extortion and blackmail. The nation cannot tolerate men in positions of power knowing secrets, intelligence, and sensitive information who also have undisclosed secrets that could be used against them. For the same reason, heads of corporations have moral turpitude clauses in their contracts. Information on company holdings, good and bad financial reports, and mergers and acquisitions, can affect stock prices, retirement plans and ultimately jobs. Separate from moral judgments, certain things are required of certain people. In the words of reader and commenter Jean, if you don’t want to commit to the job, get out of the way and let someone else pick the targets. Jean says Petraeus should have been reading intelligence reports from Kunar. Yes, and Helmand too.
As for Paula [Edit: spelling corrected] Broadwell, she is apparently delusional on a number of levels. She considers Petraeus to be her man, as if they’re married. But Yon brings to us another tale of silliness as he describes what he knows about Broadwell. “She believes that women should be Rangers, and infantry officers, and are capable of standing beside men in combat. Ironically, her role in this spectacle serves as a counter to her own argument.”
Broadwell only believes those things because she has never attempted to be an infantry Marine officer or join Special Operations herself. Looking at her physique, she wouldn’t last a day in either the infantry Marines or Special Operations. But recall what I said about such people.
If you have some sort of androgynous, genderless vision for the armed forces – if you believe that Navy Corpsmen should be able to treat the field diseases of both men and women and understand what mud and parasites in the various different cracks and crevasses and holes of men and women do, if you believe that men and women are on equal footing pertaining to physical abilities, if you believe that machines like the ridiculous Army future combat systems robotics and the silly machines like the big dog can ever replace mules and the backs of infantry Marines, if you believe that men and women will be able to interact socially as a cohesive fighting unit without the behavior that attends the opposite sexes – I think you’re weird and creepy. Not that we can’t be friends, but just that you’re weird and creepy, at least to me. Machines cannot replace strong men, and even the Russians found out in Afghanistan that women had a higher number of lower extremity injuries than men, causing severe under-manning of forces.
I take no delight in the General’s demise. But I do take particular delight when a person creates the definitive defeater argument for their own views. That’s what Broadwell has done, and Michael is right to point it out. She has demonstrated to us yet again that men and women in the field of battle behave like men and women do. If it can happen to Generals, it can happen to infantry Marines and special operators. Even with the unfortunate affair that has taken down a General, Paula Broadwell has done us a service in spite of herself.