Let he who is without sin cast the first stone ...
The sudden resignation of David Petraeus as CIA director over an affair makes me very sad and quite angry. There's something wrong with a political system that destroys men of his talent over a very human mistake.
Yes, I know he showed bad judgment and may have considered it a matter of honor to step down. But I think his resignation should have been rejected. Can our system really afford to lose him and upend the CIA, yet again, over such a peccadillo? Do we really have such talent to spare?
Petraeus was not accused of any security breach, and — as the whole world now knows — the affair was discovered only tangentially through another FBI investigation. This is now an unfortunate situation he must resolve with his wife. But why, at a time when the CIA is crucial in anti-terrorism operations — and Petraeus so knowledgeable on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East — should the country lose his skills because of a personal matter?
Watching from Cairo, where guns and jihadis are passing through from next-door Libya and making the Sinai into a new terrorist nexus, I wonder how Petraeus' exit will affect the efforts to curb this problem. Or to deal with the influx of jihadis into Syria. Or drone attacks in Pakistan, etc. etc.
Who can be surprised that, having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, under incredible pressure, this disciplined general might have slipped up? Had he compromised security it would be one thing. But if not, why should the whole country pay the price for his marital sin?
The perils of false purity became clear during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. Supposedly that mess was precipitated because he lied. But in reality it was a political vendetta. It backfired when many of the legislators who decried the president's immorality were revealed to have committed similar or worse acts in private.
Shouldn't we have learned to be wary of penalizing our leaders for sins of the flesh?
News reports say Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper asked Petraeus to resign and he agreed. I don't know the details. But I do know that even those who criticized Petraeus as overly ambitious recognize the sacrifices he made for his country. My many trips to Iraq left no doubt in my mind that the counterinsurgency strategy he promoted there prevented an even more grisly civil war and ended the heaviest fighting.
In Afghanistan, he did the best possible with the hand he was dealt.
Stephen Kinzer had an op-ed in The New York Times Saturday detailing the serial affairs of Allen Dulles, CIA chief from 1953 to 1961, in the pre-Internet days when such behavior wasn't reported. Dulles' compulsive womanizing probably did jeopardize his work, unlike Petraeus' folly.
But reading this piece made me yearn for the days when national leaders were judged on performance and their private lives remained just that.
Trudy Rubin is a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Coyotes proliferate despite year-round hunting
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Rossi: Pirates must pay for Mr. Right
- Burnett’s farewell tour wishlist has just 1 item: Pirates World Series
- Winnik impresses Penguins in first workout
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins
- Arrogant media elites mock Middle America
- Pirates notebook: Infield prospect Hanson used to playing elders
- Kentucky senator Paul’s outside-the-Beltway thinking draws voters
- Sawchik: Should McCutchen really get a huge salary bump?
- Blaze rips through Salem house