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The Petraeus Problem

Perspectives  November 13 2012
 — By CJ Grisham
The Petraeus Problem

Many people are of the opinion that there must be something more to the scandal involving CIA Director David Petraeus’ recent resignation from the spy agency. Surely it can’t be something so small as that, right? I mean, in light of Fast and the Furious, Libya, Iran firing on the drone, and so many other issues coming up lately, a simple extra-marital affair wouldn’t seem to rate that high. Heck, it didn’t seem to hurt the reputation of former President Bill Clinton.

But, the problem is bigger than that. Petraeus had to step down. If not because it was the honorable thing to do, but because of the nature of his position. There is no doubt that the former general holds a top secret security clearance. Had a foreign intelligence service found out about the affair, it could have really caused some problems with blackmail.

It can’t be entirely ruled out that FIS did have the drop on Petraeus and he didn’t want to give them the ammunition to use against him. I could be a number of things, but it’s important that people understand that while our morally bankrupt society may not think that an extra-marital affair is such a big deal, when dealing with sensitive and highly classified information such information is worth more than gold.

So, while Paula Broadwell’s father thinks that there is something bigger being hidden, the truth is that we are talking about national security implications.

There’s also a much bigger problem that his scandal represents. Recently, there have been numerous general officers charged with failing to uphold the standards of military service.

Gen. William “Kip” Ward has been stripped of a star, which means that he will now retire as a three-star lieutenant general despite some arguments against the demotion. Ward will also repay the government $82,000. Ward was accused of spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses.

According to the Army Times, “The FBI has turned over to the Defense Department’s Inspector General more than 20,000 pages of emails linking Marine Gen. John Allen to Jill Kelley, the wealthy 37-year-old Tampa woman who befriended many of the top brass at MacDill Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Central Command’s headquarters.” Right now, officials are saying that the emails don’t lead to anything that appears criminal, but may have Article 134 infractions. This is the “catch all” article that includes “conduct prejudice to good order and discipline” as well as “conduct unbecoming an officer.”

Brigadier General Jeffrey A. Sinclair was the Deputy Commanding General General for Logistics and Support in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He has been formally charged with forcible sodomy, multiple counts of adultery and having inappropriate relationships with female subordinates while serving in Afghanistan, and possessing pornography and alcohol during his deployment.

Former Colonel James H. Johnson III, a former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was expelled from the Army, fined and reduced in rank to lieutenant colonel after being convicted of bigamy and fraud stemming from an improper relationship with an Iraqi woman and business dealings with her family.

In the Navy, Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette was relieved of command of the Stennis aircraft carrier strike group — remarkably while the task force was deployed in the Middle East. Officials said that the move was ordered after “inappropriate leadership judgment.”

It’s clear that something is happening at the upper echelons of our military. What isn’t known is whether this is a result of poor oversight and leadership in the civilian leadership or a process failure for selecting officers to the highest levels of military service.

I’ve read many stories and opinion pieces from field grade officers that suggest the general officer corps has grown increasingly out of touch and self-centered. Obviously, I can’t vouch for those claims, but in light of recent events they seem to be at least slightly more than anecdotal.

My personal experiences with general officers has been stellar. There a lot of great ones out there. 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General, Major General Abe Abrams, General William Caldwell, Major General David Perkins, LTG Donald Campbell, and General Robert Cone are just a few that come to mind. So, we have to ensure that we don’t make wide aspersions towards the general officer corps as a whole.

There will always be exceptions to the rule. The question now is what the rule is these days.

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