If you watched the HBO series “Rome,” you saw a re-enactment of Julius Caesar’s triumph of 46 BC: Caesar riding in a golden chariot, his face painted red, dressed in purple and white robes, a slave holding a wreath over his head. If you had looked up an explanation for this uncanny garb, you would probably have been told: the red paint was there to imitate the red-painted face of the statues of the god Mars; the robes were those of Capitoline Jove; and the slave was to whisper in his ear, “Remember thou art mortal.”
There's a combination of schadenfreude and sadness at the Petraeus affairs. A lot of us here know people like the folks involved here, and the problems are basically the fact that we're all human. Too human, maybe. The resignation is a shame in some ways, but in others probably not...it's a distraction, and the timing is pretty awful in that regard. While the beltway press pursues the latest shiney object, well, who knows what nefarious things will go bump in the night.
Here's the thing that bothers me --There's another problem with this. The affair occurred in Afghanistan while Petraeus was the commanding general. Adultery is a serious violation against the UCMJ. In addition, sexual relations in the combat zone -- and under his desk in Kabul or at that monster base we've got outside Kabul -- certainly qualifies as a combat zone. Soldiers are routinely disciplined for this behavior, and this guy probably signed off on a few court martials and other punishments for this during his career. Fun facts to know and tell about generals -- when they retire, they really don't retire. And, this is definitely contrary to good order and discipline. I would expect that some disciplinary action on the Army side would happen for the affair. Possibly just a letter of reprimand or a fine; possibly a reduction in rank to the last rank at which he served honorably, which was 3 stars. Will be interesting to see what, if anything happens with this one... Of course, Ms. Broadwell was an Academy Graduate. It's interesting to ponder whether or not she retained a reserve commission; if so, an investigation by the Army could conclude that in addition to adultery, there was a violation of the fraternization policy. Basically reflects very badly on his judgement, and he is very clear about that in his resignation. Good for him by the way, and good for her in that she's handling this like an adult.
But, the teenage crush aspect of it is kind of amusing. He gets to be head of the CIA, she decides to end the affair and he pursues her. Sends her dirty emails supposedly and generally acted like a 19 year old boy.Sheesh...
I have an odd take on marriage these days. I think we just live too long these days for marriage to work. The fact that Clem and Elma were married for 77 years always elicits the "Cute, oh, they're so cute response." Not from me -- I've been married for 36 years, and frankly, it's a habit and an economic arrangement. We're fond of each other, but except for NCIS and baseball don't really share very much. Petraeus spent most of the his time since November of 2001 either deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq or getting ready to go -- his wife had a life, his kids are grown and GUESS WHAT! They'd been married for 37 years after getting engaged when he was in the Academy. Not an inevitable thing, but the seeds are there. I'm not making excuses for the guy, by the way -- I don't consider the affair particularly heinous, but the hypocrisy and silliness make you wonder. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. But, I can say that I never let any nuttiness about who was sleeping with who turn into persecution or prosecution when I was in the Army in leadership roles, and stopped more than a few puritanical witch hunts. But, if he ever signed off on a 15-6 for a court martial for any sexual relations issue, he's probably getting a payback in the old Karma Bar, Grill and Continuous Soiree.
Supposedly he was pretty unpopular in the CIA as a know-it-all, outsider, Army guy. Not terribly surprising in a way -- and I never did get the idea that he'd be a great president. Intellectuals and generals have at best a spotty record as President. Washington, Jackson...and Zachery Taylor? Rutherford B. Hays? William Henry Harrison? Woodrow Wilson? Herbert Hoover? Jimmy Carter? Ike and Jefferson are the only ones I can think of to really set the world on fire...or in Ike's case despite the jingoist paranoia of the age, to not set the world on fire. I generally don't have a lot of issues with generals, except if you want to talk about being out of touch with the American people, lots of them are so far removed that, well, they tell young people in good physical condition living in extraordinary stress that having sex is a bad idea. And, frankly, the whole counterinsurgency thing was vastly overrated. The Iraqis figured out that we were going to leave and this was a good way to get us out of there earlier. We basically bribed the militias and let the Shiites take over the country. And left...Afghanistan was never going to work, and the smartest thing to do is draw down quickly but not in a panic and leave. Most soldiers with an actual appreciation of history always saw that war as a mistake. Best thing to do with Afghanistan unless you're willing to kill 3/4 or so of the populace like the Moguls did is to bribe the bastards to stay in their cages and retaliate massively when they stick their heads out. And, I know a few Afghanis and I like them. But, substitue opium for moonshine, and they're hillbillies with Korans.
Petraeus got out of there with his reputation intact because of the Gates-Panetta transfer and the fact that the Rs couldn't oppose his nomination. Logical move on the part of the Obama Administration. But, unlike Colin Powell, Petraeus was not a general with a lot of political experience. He was a light infantry guy, and while not as crazy as a Special Operations Guy like McCrystal, he wasn't used to the corridors of power. Check out his Wikipedia entry and look at his career. His high and mighty assignments were with soldiers. He's a dirty boots kind of guy.