Straight Talk
PETER WORTHINGTON - Petraeus scandal shows no sign of going away

Paula Broadwell and David Petraeus

Credits: TWITTER/REUTERS

PETER WORTHINGTON | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - Like chumming, or dumping blood in the ocean to attract a feeding frenzy of sharks, so the ordeal of Gen. David Petraeus keeps escalating.

In this case, the sharks are mostly journalists. And journalists relish the taste of blood when it flows from unexpected sources - especially from important personalities who have a burnished record of propriety and achievement.

The resignation of Petraeus as Director of the CIA because of his affair with his star-struck biographer, Reserve Lt.-Col. Paula Broadwell, has provoked more questions than it has answered. And it isn't over yet.

Scandal it most assuredly is, but one aspect seems incontrovertible: Petraeus' dalliance did not intrude on his job, did not threaten national security, did not reflect on his competence either as a soldier or as boss-man of the CIA.

In fact, his appointment a year ago (by President Barack Obama) to the top CIA job seemed a bit strange to some. A career soldier - even a successful one in bringing al-Qaida to heel in Iraq, and likewise the Taliban in Afghanistan (at least for a while) - does not usually have the attributes that make an effective spy, or head of a spy agency.

Soldiers are usually too blunt, too direct, too lacking in nuance to fit comfortably into the clandestine world of Psst and Shhh.

But Petraeus was not your typical field commander.

He is said to be vain, somewhat narcissistic, pleased with his own self-confidence.

As CIA director, what was his responsibility, if any, in the Benghazi screw-up that resulted in four Americans being killed, with no help coming to them, even though their plight was tracked, minute by minute in Washington, on satellite TV.

Assuming Petraeus was an effective CIA boss, why should he be replaced because he indulged in an adulterous affair that posed no threat to the nation's security?

History is replete with great commanders and statesmen whose sexual proclivities would have made them poor fits with the CIA. Catherine the Great of Russia, for heaven's sake, gave birth to a son that was probably not related to her husband. How many English kings harboured mistresses?

If Petraeus launched his affair with Broadwell while he commanded in Afghanistan - which he denies - it would have been a punishable military crime. (Only in WWII was it permissible for valued generals in the field to seek comfort from female subordinates. Just ask Gen. Eisenhower).

Petraeus is a genuine American hero because of the "surge" in the Iraq war that bailed out the Americans. Now his apparent successor in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Tom Allen, is under scrutiny for "flirtatious" e-mails with Jill Kelley, the woman Broadwell allegedly threatened with e-mails. You figure it out.

Marital faithfulness is a family issue, and has little to do with job performance or patriotism. Bill Clinton turned out to be a pretty good president in his second term, when he was smart enough to adopt much of the Republican platform as his own. But he was a moral creep. Ask Monika Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers, Elizabeth Gracen, Sally Perdue, Dolly Browning and assorted playmates.

The CIA isn't a boy scout organization (and forget about the reputation of scout masters). When required, the CIA kills, blackmails, deceives and subverts to protect the nation. If Petraeus was an effective director, he should stay in the job.

It's too late now, but his fate begs the question: What has sex got to do with combating America's clandestine enemies? We may find out when (if) he testifies before Congress.

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