The CIA Director Must Keep a Low Profile
But Petraeus should still testify before Congress to quiet conspiracy theorists
November 13, 2012
When I wrote in World Report a few weeks ago that Americans should pay more attention to the long war in Afghanistan, the current focus is not exactly what I had in mind.
But nothing enthralls the U.S. public more than a sex scandal, and the bizarre love triangle emerging around the now former director of the CIA, one of America's most celebrated generals, has all of the right dramatic elements. A jealous, alpha-mistress protecting her high powered lover, a fall from grace for the heroic soldier-scholar behind today's most respected military doctrines, and political theatre involving testimony about the recent terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that led to the death of an American ambassador.
You just can't make this stuff up.
And that's why General David Petraeus made the right decision in resigning his position as director of the CIA. Simply put, the Petraeus scandal can no longer distract from the very serious business of Afghanistan and the CIA.
The head of America's clandestine services should, by nature, keep a low profile and act both in public and private with the utmost discretion. Of course, high profile leaders are human beings too, susceptible to the same kinds of temptations faced by members of our military who have served multiple tours in places like Iraq and Afghanistan—perhaps even more so. But the fact that Petraeus has long portrayed himself as a model of leadership and allowed himself to be revered in political and military circles for years somehow make this episode seem particularly callous. The moral and even strategic argument for his resignation is clear.
But that should not prevent him from testifying in front of House and Senate committees this week.
When news of the scandal broke, my social media feeds lit up with conspiracy theories from those still smarting from President Barack Obama's re-election last week. "Here we go," they collectively suggested, implying that the entire brouhaha was fabricated by the administration to prevent hearing Petraeus's findings on the Benghazi attack. The Obama administration should nip this problem in the bud and confirm that Petraeus, who visited Libya as CIA director following the attacks, will share what he learned with lawmakers at some point in the near future.
As a decorated soldier who has done much to advance American counterinsurgency strategy in an era defined by asymmetric warfare, Petraeus should be given the time and respect to confront this personal challenge in private, not as a public official.