The Pentagon’s Misplaced Priorities

tags: Pentagon, David Petraeus

Max Boot, a regular contributor to Commentary, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author, most recently, of "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present Day." He is advising, without pay, the campaign of Marco Rubio.

… [David] Petraeus’s reputation was blemished and he was forced to step down as CIA director after it emerged that he had conducted an affair with a reserve army officer and author named Paula Broadwell. He ultimately pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sharing classified information with Broadwell: He provided her with notebooks he had kept in Afghanistan so that she could do fact-checking for her biography of him. As penance, he agreed to accept a two-year probation term and to pay a $100,000 fine.

Broadwell, mind you, had a security clearance and there is no insinuation that the information he shared with her ever fell into the wrong hands or compromised U.S. security in any way. This was no different, really, from the way countless civilian and military officials share classified information with journalists, in no small part because the U.S. government is so guilty of over-classifying that practically everything is slapped with a “secret” (or higher) label. Petraeus was not guilty of sharing America’s most sensitive secrets with our worst enemies, as Edward Snowden did (an act for which he was praised by, inter alia, Ted Cruz for performing a “considerable public service”). He was not even guilty of systematically evading information security rules by using a private email server as Hillary Clinton did as secretary of state.

The former secretary of the army, John McHugh, already reviewed the allegations against Petraeus — which concerned conduct that occurred while he was on “terminal leave” from the army and only days before he hung up his uniform for good — and decided that no action on the army’s part was warranted. But now the Daily Beast claims that Carter is “considering going in a different direction.”

Apparently Carter’s intent is to show that no officer is above the law. But if he is going to go after Petraeus, why stop there? Why not reduce Dwight Eisenhower in rank posthumously because Ike committed adultery with Kay Summersby — an offense that would like get him cashiered in today’s Puritanical environment? Why not, while he’s at it, knock a few stars off Ulysses Grant’s shoulders for drunkenness, another offense that would not be tolerated in today’s “zero defects” culture? Or perhaps Carter should demote George S. Patton for slapping soldiers he believed to be cowardly malingerers, yet another offense against today’s standards (and even those of the World War II generation).

But if Carter is not going to go after Grant, Eisenhower or Patton, he should leave Petraeus alone too. Petraeus is an intensely honorable man who has suffered deeply already because he felt that he did not live up to the superhuman standards that others expected of him, and that he expected of himself. Stripping away the four-star rank that he did so much to earn and to honor would be a travesty and an indignity that would hurt Ash Carter’s reputation far more than David Petraeus’s.

Read entire article at Commentary Magazine

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