The High-Achiever's Exit: A Veterans Day observation about our former top vet, soldier, and spy, General Petraeus

November 11, 2012 8:15 AM

Hmmm....Petraeus rhymes with "Betray us"?

I don't think he did, but it sounds like the mindset of the highly decorated, super-achieving general who found himself undressed in e-mails.

It's reported he's so guilt-ridden for his lack of discretion that he has done the honorable thing in his mind.

He's resigned, stepped down, derailed his own high-flying career. He's fallen on his sword. Asian warriors would call it hara-kiri, in this case a public disembowelment.

Not pretty.

Not even necessary. In fact, I don't know many Asian Americans who take all that samurai stuff seriously, even as a metaphor.

What, after all, is Petraeus guilty of? The FBI found no national security breaches in his emails.

They found evidence of an extramarital affair. Didn't sink a president. Why should it sink a Petraeus?

It may not say much that the nation's top spy couldn't keep this kind of secret. But hey, not even the Secret Service is capable of keeping that kind of secret.

Still, it's not like he revealed President Obama's hotline number or the special ingredient in Army-grade chili.

Have you thought that maybe after years of having a perfect image, the general wanted to be caught?

All this episode reveals is the humanity of someone heretofore seen as some kind of mythic icon of extreme military perfection.

He's human. Do they give a medal for that?

It's ironic that it is an affair with a doting biographer, a former West Point grad and married mother of two, that brings him dishonor. Unlike a lowly enlisted man, the general didn't pay for it. But he paid for it.

So here's the updated resume: Bullets, bombs and Taliban, Petraeus survives.

An affair with an ambitious biographer, a few pay grades higher than a Monica Lewinsky? Kryptonite.

On a Sunday, the day one usually balances the moral checkbook, I'm inclined to forgive Petraeus. In the political realm, if there's no legal breach, then a moral breach surely rates a pass. Or at least a "Get out of jail free" card. If the CIA can forgive waterboarding and any number of nefarious things done covertly, I don't see why an affair tweaks anybody's epaulets.

But here is the general's exit strategy. Petraeus gets to pull some superior moral one-upmanship on all of us, leaving the scene on the steam vapors of an affair. That's the only way an over-achiever can go out, by puzzling us lowly common folks with such a high-minded exit.

Ah, advantage Petraeus!

I actually find myself wanting more information.

The Petraeus Affair turns out to be like the "The Kardashians" for wonks and geeks.

It's revelatory. Hey, nerds have penises and vaginas too.

I guess we were all too deep in thought to care or notice. And we thought he was too. It's not a question of good taste. There are just so many high-minded things of domestic and international importance on the table to wade through in regards to Petraeus before one has to sink to that human level. We reserve the right not to think about people like him in that way, because he's Petraeus, for goodness sakes, not Justin Bieber or Bradley Cooper.

But just give us a whiff of something so out of place, and we all get more wrapped up with the human than the political. We understand the temptation of an affair. The x's and o's of engagements of the heart. That we all can relate to--in the public interest.

Benghazi? Not so much. 


Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, @emilamok.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views or policies of AALDEF.


1. My hunch points to his knowledge and access to political intelligence in both the military and CIA. Too many grave secrets for someone with his iconic integrity to stomach or to hide. Sure conspiracy theorists are hard at work, but could be he is who he portends to be. Someone has to deal with the Arab Spring...Remember a private risked his integrity and ended up with 2 years of solitary by revealing secrets and government lies. A former general and top spy now shows off his integrity by revealing his personal secret while hiding too many deadly secrets including the torture of a whistle blowing private hanging on to his integrity while possibly losing his mind.
Posted by: sjx | Nov 29, 2012 1:05 AM

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