THE BLOG
11/13/2012 03:09 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2013

Say It Ain't So, Joe (Petraeus)

So, I switched on the Scarborough show this morning, and Joe is railing at the FBI, and how dare they continue an investigation once it's apparent that no criminality was involved, and why should we waste resources here, and the Founding Fathers wouldn't have survived if they had today's media crawling up their britches, blah, blah, blah...

There is no question that something smells about the initiation of the Petraeus investigation. But once stuff starts to show up, the context becomes critical. Regardless of what Scarborough thinks, we're not equal. I have no Secret Service protection, nobody much cares what I have to say about national security, and I am not the steward of some of our nation's most sensitive secrets. The investigation, now underway, needs to proceed to its logical conclusion. Just because there are no e-mails that are flatly incriminating, does this means that secrets weren't passed? What do men do to impress the women with whom they're involved? They show off. Can we be absolutely sure that Petraeus didn't say things to impress his paramour?

Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer winner, said on Scarborough's show that even Alexander Hamilton was blackmailed for an affair he had. Duh! Do these guys even listen to what they themselves are saying?

Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast and Newsweek, talked about how tragic it was to lose someone so stellar and honorable. Where is her empathy for Petraeus' wife? If he's so honorable, why are we talking about him? Would he still be honorable if Paula Broadwell turned out to have friends at either the Russian or Chinese embassy? At what point does an indiscretion bear upon someone's honor, or, at minimum, his judgment? Does the CIA director not have to live up to higher standards than the rest of us? Obviously not, because the standard has become, "C'mon, everyone fools around."

What about the stellar part? Scarborough's panel, composed of men (who, of course, think that boys will be boys), was also supportive of the view that Brown expressed later in the show. A great loss for the nation. Virtually irreplaceable. Really? Music didn't stop when Mozart died, and we've come a long way scientifically since Einstein passed. Besides, what did Petraeus really accomplish? Scarborough called Petraeus the president's most important asset in the war on terror. So? Terrorism is no different than it's ever been. Names and faces change, and that's it. To give Petraeus a major share of the credit for keeping America safe, if, in fact, we are, ignores the efforts of his own subordinates and the many hard-working analysts and field officers at other agencies and police departments. There is no evidence that Petraeus did anything to further their work.

Petraeus has left behind him nothing sustainable. He slowed violence in Iraq with the benefit of a major infusion of U.S. forces. The ultimate outcome is that Iraq is headed for disaster -- either civil war or dismemberment. It is arguable whether he improved things in Afghanistan, and was friendly with Afghan President Karzai. These were not noteworthy accomplishments. In addition, it was under Petraeus that the safety of Afghan civilians became paramount, and, as a result, U.S. forces labored under bizarre and convoluted regulations that cost American lives and made operations unnecessarily onerous.

The squalor now seems to include General John Allen, the current head of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. This brings up the issue of how hard everyone connected to the military's upper class will scramble to cover butts. A former Petraeus spokesman was quick to point out that Petraeus' affair did not start until his retirement from the service. Why? Because, if it had started in Afghanistan, Petraeus would have indeed been involved in criminal activity in a culture where adultery is considered a crime. Are we to believe that, despite Broadwell's free access to Petraeus in Afghanistan (considered inappropriate by some on the scene), that nothing untoward occurred? Well, maybe not, but was the appearance of impropriety present while troops were dying in hellholes in eastern and southern Afghanistan?

There is no denying that Petraeus rendered valuable service to his country. However, in a country whose culture is personality-driven, Petraeus has been accorded an iconic status that is totally undeserved. Military history has provided few geniuses. Unfortunately, there was a perfect coalescence of a nation swamped in seemingly endless war, a lack of geniuses at the top, and a media desperate to coronate someone about whom they could write. Along comes a glib and polished general with an impressive career and a Princeton Ph.D. Voila!

The media ought to go back to simply reporting and stop trying to rescue one of their pet projects from a fully deserved fate of Petraeus' own making. Whether there needs to be something done about the FBI's role in this situation is a separate matter. We've now looked through the door that the Bureau opened. I, for one, don't like what I see. Sorry, the director of the CIA doesn't get to fool around, and because others have gotten away with it, that doesn't make it okay. If General Petraeus has decided to join the long list of rulers, politicians, military men, and boxers who have become undone because of their libidos, so be it. The fate of the free world really doesn't hang in the balance.