Spooks and loversBy Ramon Farolan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Three days after the reelection victory of President Barack Obama, Washington officialdom was stunned by the sudden resignation of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus who assumed office in September 2011.
In a statement to members of the CIA, Petraeus informed them that he had asked President Obama “to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair.” He said the President had accepted his resignation. Prior to the disclosure of this indiscretion, he had been mentioned as a possible contender for the White House. Here in the Philippines, a man of Petraeus’ stature would be a formidable and attractive candidate for the presidency.
It was only last May that my son in Chicago sent me the book “All In: The Education of Gen. David Petraeus.” The author Paula Broadwell was a West Pointer like Petraeus, but 20 years his junior. Petraeus graduated in 1974, number 40 in the class, putting him in the top five percent of his batch. Broadwell finished in 1995, an honors graduate who also excelled in athletics particularly cross-country marathons.
In her book Broadwell reveals how the general’s father, a Dutch sea captain, would always ask for results, not excuses. These high standards set the tone for all his academic and leadership undertakings. This was best summed up in a description of Petraeus by his roommate in the 1974 West Point yearbook, “Peaches (his nickname) came to the military academy with his ambitions but unlike most, he accomplished his goals.” He would marry his cadet girl “Holly” Knowlton, the daughter of the Academy superintendent, a month after graduation. Broadwell says that “to Petraeus, the stature of Holly’s family was intoxicating,” referring to her “patrician-military upbringing.”
Paula Broadwell was class homecoming queen and valedictorian in high school. After graduation from the US Military Academy, she took up an M.A. at the University of Denver, majoring in international security; she later attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It was here that she met Petraeus, who was a guest speaker of the school. Her doctoral dissertation included a case study of his leadership that provided her “remarkable access to the man, both on and off the battlefield.” (Mark Bowden, author of “Black Hawk Down”)
Sometime in May this year a socialite in Tampa, Florida, Jill Kelley, friend of David and Holly Petraeus, complained of threatening and harassing e-mails from an anonymous source. She contacted the FBI who traced the e-mails to Broadwell, indicating that Broadwell suspected Kelley of having an affair with Petraeus.
The rest is history.
Someone suggested that the Petraeus affair would be perfect for a telenovela. There are a few issues aside from the sex angle that I felt would be interesting to the military leadership.
Since 2009 there have been four US generals running the Afghan war. For various reasons, they were dismissed or replaced under difficult circumstances. The first, Gen. David McKiernan, was relieved because President Obama desired a new counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan. One news report called it “the first presidential dismissal of a wartime general since President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean war.”
McKiernan was replaced by General Stanley McChrystal, an expert in special operations. Unfortunately, he made some critical remarks in Rolling Stone magazine about Vice President Joe Biden and other civilian officials, saying “they were fools who were ignorant of the complexities of war.”
David Petraeus took over from McChrystal but retired from the military a year later to become CIA director.
Gen. John Allen is the current head of the International Security Force in Afghanistan. He has been linked to “inappropriate communications” with Jill Kelley, the second woman in the Petraeus case. The Pentagon says he is under investigation.
Four generals in a span of less than four years.
In an article published in the New York Times, Thomas Ricks, a senior fellow at the Center for A New American Security, had this to say about the “revolving door” situation in Afghanistan: “Rotating top commanders on an annual basis makes no management sense. Imagine trying to run a corporation by swapping the senior executives every year. Or imagine if at the beginning of 1944, six months before D-Day General George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, told General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, that it was time to give someone else a chance to lead.”
One of the more touching portions of Broadwell’s book on Petraeus has to do with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ emotional farewell to US forces in Afghanistan.
He told the soldiers, “I really did want to come out here and thank you for one last time for your services and your sacrifice. Probably more than anybody except the President himself, I am responsible for you being here. I am the guy who signed the deployment orders that sent you here. That has weighed on me every day that I’ve had this job for four and a half years. So, I’ve taken it as my personal responsibility to make sure that you had what you need to accomplish your mission, to come home safe, and if you get hurt, be medivacked as quickly as possible and get the best possible care. I think about all of you every moment of every day. I feel your hardship and your sacrifice and your burden more than you can possibly imagine. My admiration and affection for you is without limit and each and every one of you will be in my prayers every day for the rest of my life.”
Somehow I am reminded of some of the endeavors of the present AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Jesse Dellosa, aimed at transforming the AFP Medical Center into a state-of-the-art facility. Even as he prepares to go into retirement, he continues to actively promote the morale and welfare of our wounded personnel at V. Luna General Hospital. These include improvements in the food service section, revisiting menus to ensure better nutrition and a balanced diet. Basic needs such as new mattresses, pillows and sofa beds, renovation of common toilets and bath, improvements in illumination and ventilation are being undertaken. Soon a new Emergency Room and Operating Room plus a three-story outpatient complex will be built at the AFP Medical Center courtesy of donors like the AFP Mutual Benefit Association Inc. and AFP Savings and Loan Association Inc.
Dellosa says “Until my last day in uniform, I will continue to be passionate in striving for the welfare and comfort of our soldiers.”
More from this Column:
Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=41078