I have been deeply saddened by the quick and absolute fall of General David Petraeus. I think a case could be made that Petraeus was the most respected man in America. He was a hero of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars whose advice was sought and followed by both Presidents Bush and Obama. He seemed to rise above the partisanship of Washington, D.C., and serve his country, most recently as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It would not be a stretch to imagine that he could have been a legitimate candidate for President in 2016, and had he declared that intention, I think he might have been considered the favorite.
Petraeus was not always popular with his fellow generals and admirals. One reason he seemed to understand that a foundation of our republic was that we have elected, civilian leadership that has ultimate control over our military forces. He made his case for large surges of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but followed the more limited decisions of his Commanders in Chief in both cases without public comment. And lest we think the military commanders should always be given whatever they want, we might remember that General MacArthur wanted to use nuclear devices in the Korean War. It took a former military man turned President, Harry Truman, to realize that this would have led to a world where nuclear war was not unthinkable, but just another battlefield tactic of horrific scale.
This is a sad day, and I am sorry that it has come during our respectful celebration of Veterans Day, honoring those who have served this country in the armed forces. I am not a veteran, but I had a father and five uncles who were, and I understand their sacrifice a little. My Uncle Vale contracted malaria while serving in the South Pacific and suffered from it for the rest of his life. My Uncle Verne served in the Battle of the Bulge and suffered from battlefield trauma for the rest of his life. These men willingly served for their country at great personal cost.
What happened to David Petraeus? I don’t know. My guess is that he suffered from the hubris that often comes with great accomplishments and acclaim. I’m sure we will get more information than we want in coming days. Petraeus enforced the rules with consistency and violated them himself at the same time. He maintained a facade of honor but lived a lie. Et tu, Petraeu?
Nebraska Christian College