By Teresa Welsh |
There's only one answer to the question "Should David Petraeus have resigned?" It's yes. Petraeus's high rank, military background, and influence over national security required him to adhere to a standard of moral character that exceeds what most hold themselves too. Petraeus should have had the wherewithal to temper his romantic urges and demonstrate strict adherence to Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which concerns adultery.
Regardless of when his affair with Paula Broadwell began, he should have remembered that as a four-star General adultery is clearly unacceptable conduct, and it reflects adversely on the service record of the military member.
This is not a matter of giving the general a pass because of privacy concerns, or as some have argued giving him one because his experience and intellectual leadership makes him indispensable. Petraeus is not a private citizen, nor is he indispensable. His capabilities don't make him immune to the need for him to atone for his behavior.
What seems to be absent from the current discussion of whether or not he should have quit is the damaging, long chain of events that have come about because of this affair. Petraeus betrayed his wife; and Paula Broadwell sent harassing E-mails to Jill Kelley, which triggered an FBI investigation that has now ensnared Gen. John Allen, another high-ranking official. The end result is that we have the Senate Intelligence Committee demanding an investigation instead of allocating their time to discussing more important matters like cyberwarfare, FBI resources wasted on wading through thousands of E-mails, and the Obama administration's focus on the "fiscal cliff" drawn elsewhere.
We've grown far too forgiving of public officials allowing their personal lives to intrude on their professional ones. At least Petreaus's decision to resign is an honorable one, and offers some hope that all public officials will some day hold moral strength higher than moral failing.
About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Lawrence J. Korb Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Heather Hurlburt Executive Director of the National Security Network