For the Honor of Service

It looks really weird to me, this last Veteran’s Day weekend … not even a week after the election results came in. A couple of days after General Petraeus put in his resignation as head of the CIA – conveniently for the American news cycle – on a Friday before a three-day weekend. So, kind of astonished over that – a mere several days before he was to testify about whatever was going on with regard to our quasi-official establishment in Benghazi on the 11th of September last. Of course, the second most astonishing aspect to me is that the head of the CIA can’t keep an affair secret, and the third most astonishing is that someone so politically wily as to be able to pin on four stars would still be stupidly reckless enough to engage on such a very public affair. What, were they doing the horizontal mambo in the middle of the parade ground at reveille at whatever base they were at in Afghanistan? Ok, never undervalue the comfort of situational friendships between persons of the opposite sex in a far country, double if in a war zone. Been there and … err, backed off from doing that, in the physical sense. But the friendship was enormously satisfactory; a way of getting through a hard tour in a distant and unforgivingly difficult place, and a lot of people there with us and who noted that we were a quasi-official couple also probably assumed that our relationship included an ongoing sexual aspect. Which it did not; part of the friendship involved an understanding between us that carrying it that far would inflict unacceptable damage on each other, emotionally and professionally. I thought the world of him, and he loved his family, back in the World; that’s the way that responsible and caring adults manage that kind of situation. It’s in the field, and it ends in the field.

But the way that the Petraeus mess is expanding is enough to cause me to raise an eyebrow – and now it turns out that the second woman involved – is she the South Beach Mata Hari or what? – also had a good friend of the multi-star adorned command-rank level, as well as the somewhat dogged interest of the investigating FBI agent, who sent her a pic of him shirtless … dear god, people – this is not high school. Or at least, I assumed it was not. As it is, I could swear I watched a story line like this on General Hospital in the late 1970s, only with doctors, nurses and consultants, instead of commanders, reporters and socialites.

It is curious though – the sudden retirements, resignations, and reassignments of high-ranking and notable officers lately. It’s almost like there is something going on: earlier there was that kerfuffle about General Carter Ham being relieved of duty, with dark hints that it was because of events in Benghazi. On the bright side, though – since General Petraeus was deeply involved in the events of 9/11/2012 in Benghazi, it just might be that there might be a little more interest in what happened there than has been displayed so far by our mighty mainstream press.

Or not. Discuss.

(Cross-posted at

19 thoughts on “For the Honor of Service”

  1. Well, there was General Ham. And an Admiral replaced about the same time. And now Petraeus, and maybe the other general who has been mentioned in connection with that matter. And today a 4-star who formerly headed Africa Command.

    I count 5. Entirely coincidental, that all these things came to a head at the same time?

  2. Couple of points.

    Discretion seems to fall away geometrically as rank increases. If you think about it, all you need to know about the general is revealed by his having a “journalist” in a combat zone with wide access to the operational environment to write his biography while he was still on active duty. I sincerely doubt that was his first affair or that it wasn’t known to many in his command headquarters (great mentoring of the more junior officers!).

    From her remarks on one panel when discussing journalists’ access to classified information, she stated that because she had a Top Secret SI clearance (as a result of her position in the reserve forces) that they didn’t know how to handle her in terms of access to classified briefings and she had to find a balance between her journalistic responsibilities and her obligation to protect classified information. It is a flat violation of security statues to have allowed her such access (regardless of her security clearance) because she had no “need to know”. In order to have access to any classified information, you must not only have the appropriate clearance, but also as importantly an official “need to know”. Meaning you knowledge of this information is required for you to perform your official duties. Unless you are the General’s biographer that is.

    Some of the major objections to broadening the addition of women in more categories of military units, especially those in isolated dangerous or high stress missions, is the complications of fraternization such as lack of unit cohesion, favoritism (or perception of such) based on romantic relationship or sexual favors and protective behaviors in dangerous or physically challenging scenarios. In this specific situation, one can get some idea of the realities that the services struggle with. There are powerful forces involved and many really aren’t well disposed to resist. You really have to respect those that do. On the flip side, any identifiable minority subgroup is subject to exclusionary behaviors, especially in units where homogeneity is one of the highest group values. The group and individual dynamics are potentially limiting to mission performance. These decisions are being made by those either well above the primary impacts or without any relevant experience and on the basis of criteria that place low priority on combat effectiveness. Almost anything can be made to work up to some point, but the price is often discounted.


  3. David, I’ve followed some comment threads at the Belmont Club where contributors are starting to wonder of some kind of purge of top officers is going on – not just that they are top officers, but also effective and well-respected. Kind of like what Erdogan did in Turkey, and what Stalin did with the purge of Red Army commanders before WWII. There is something going on – maybe it’s aimed at preventing anyone looking too closely at Benghazi, or maybe just aimed at bringing the military services to heel. It was reported that the Obama administration is considering John Kerry for Secretary of Defense … OMFG. That will go over like a lead balloon.

    Death … the whole thing with Petraeus just seemed so unproffessional, given the circumstances. Not just unprofessional, but stupid. And a bad, bad example to set. And leaving oneself open to threats to reveal the affair to whomever.
    Well, at least he had the stones to say ‘publish and be damned.’

  4. Regarding the other flag officers, David.

    The previous AFRICOM CG, Kip Ward, was relieved for misappropiation of over a million dollars as well as misuse of his staff related to his wife’s travel with him and shopping. This investigation has been going on for some time. By the way, his retirement as a three star does not effect his retirement benefits a single dollar because they are capped.

    General Ham was his replacement. He had only been there for about a year so his sudden retirement and the timing and venue for the announcement seems strange.

    The rear admiral who was temporarily removed from command of a carrier group and sent back to the states fore investigation of command irregularities is very unlikely to have been involved directly in any actions related to Libya. The carrier group arrived in the Middle East (Persian Gulf) in early October via the Pacific. I couldn’t rule out that he shot his mouth off regarding the affair after the fact and this got back to the upper navel brass. He has not technically been relieved pending the investigation.

    General Allen took Petrasus’ place in Afghanistan. Apparently he has had extensive email contact (thousands) with with a married woman who is a close social friend of Petrasus and who was one of the objects of email threats by Petrasus’s biographer. I seriously doubt he has any direct connection to the Libyan events either. He just got caught incidentally in the Petrasus web.


  5. One of the stupidest of the 20th century blind spots was the assumption that somehow sex wasn’t important – that it would make no difference, whether heterosexual or homosexual, in chains of command or in close quarters. The people that see sex in use of “he” as a general pronoun think it will have no affect in close quarters on a ship or in relationships between “mentor and mentee” in a combat zone or “intern/boss” in an office. The only thing stupider is the belief that people can be objective when a lover or a relation is being evaluated, is up for a promotion, or, in general, that objectivity is possible when viewing that other. (Or that divorces between co-workers are not likely to make a difference in the workplace.)

    I am looking forward to Sgt Mom’s take and that of everyone else, all of whom can prioritize these in ways I can’t. I just don’t understand. Perhaps my worry and distrust is mere paranoia. Still Benghazi and Putin and Iran all seem stalking us; we see the in the shadows. (Nothing like finally see The Cat People to sense a Serbian panther out there.)
    Of course, everything from the year before to the incident to the aftermath in Benghazi seems foggy and worrisome. Indeed, finding who did what when would seem enough in itself to fill the news for months, though it hasn’t seemed to do that.
    Iran’s attack on an American drone has been whisked away as if it never happened; was it important?
    Was Petraeus’s trip to Benghazi important?
    What does the CIA do with people if they don’t use places like Benghazi to interrogate prisoners? Do they merely expect to kill them all?
    Kerry appeared during Viet Nam to have been fairly untrustworthy (both on the ground as the swift boaters contended and in bizarre diplomacy in Paris); if that is true, how successfully is he likely to lead as a Secretary of Defense?
    Does anyone want to see Rice the next Secretary of State?
    Generals certainly would appear attactive to women; these women would appear to be attractive to men. But surely some of them at some time had more sense – and, well, is this all accidental?
    How does the military feel about Putin?
    How bad was voter suppression in terms of the military in this presidential election?
    Did someone clear Broadwell’s speeches? How did someone that said what she did at Colorado get a clearance?
    What’s the “other woman’s” relationship with . . . well, lot’s of people?
    These women are really attractive but isn’t there a bit of a touch of psycho about them? Or at the least, disproportionality? A guy leading a boring life in a boring office might find edginess attractive, but one would think people that have the challenges of life Petraeus faced daily might not need all that much risk-taking in his private life.
    Of course, I suspect the timing all over the place, but what do I know?

  6. The Purge may be only partially related to Benghazi. Might the series of them also muffle opposition – informed opposition – to budget cuts to the military? Are the cuts like to be useful to Putin’s plans but not our more traditional partners?

  7. These women are really attractive but isn’t there a bit of a touch of psycho about them?

    Ginny, “all women are crazy”. (In quotes, because I didn’t say that) The exception being yourself, of course, Sgt. Mom, and a few others.

    Seriously though, I think I heard that Broadwell is a Major, military intelligence, in the reserves. Help me out someone, but this means she was probably a pro in the regular army in that field (?). Try that on….it doesn’t fit well.

    What came to mind is 1936 (or so) Germany. Background: Gen. Blumberg (sp?) (the top military commander in the country) makes a deal with Chancellor Hitler….the Army will not interfere and Hitler’s people will do away with there common threat….and so the Night of the Long Knives occurs. Why I relate it to the current woman-problem is that, soon after the above, it comes out that Blumberg’s new wife is a former porstitue. Blumberg is forced out, the Army command structure is in a mess. Hitler is able to garner the oaths of personal loyalty of the big brass and Der Fuehrer is born.

    It’s not exactly the same but it strikes a chord.

  8. I find the Petraus thing bizarre. A man who rises to his level should have some smarts, but when the Generals start listening to the Privates they get into trouble.

    Then too Eisenhower had Kay Summersby, Patton was rumored to have someone….just in this day and age with communication it isn’t mush of a secret.

    In Patreus’ case, an extraordinary case of lousy judgement.

  9. Tyouth – both my daughter and I have the same basic reation to the ladies in question, Broadwell, Kelley and the lawyer twin sister; yes, they all seem as if they like a crazy salad with their main course. The nicest way that I can think of to say is they are high-level groupies, star-f**kers. I’d have thought that men of a certain rank and general intelligence would have been aware of this but … and this is what my daughter noticed: Broadwell and Kelley both rather look alike – and they look very much like Mrs. Petraeus in her younger years. So the General tends to fall romantically for women who are of a certain type. Hmmm…

    Ginny, I can’t think of a Vietnam-era veteran of my acquaintance who doesn’t despise John Kerry. Not so much for his service in Vietnam, where he seems to have been viewed by his Navy peers as being able enough, but a kind of Frank Burns/Eddie Haskell character – but for what he did afterwards, especially with the Winter Soldier thing. He made his bones as an anti-war activist, vigerously slimed and lied about those who served there … and then, years later, tried to use his military service as a draw for votes. He’ll be a real prize as Secretary of Defense.

    It’s all a distraction, of course – very likely the real object of all this is to obscure what in the hell happened in Benghazi on 1-11-2012.

    (Later) There is an interesting discussion of this at The Diplomad, here; wherein it is speculated that his is an Administration organized decapitation strike against the US Military … which remains pretty much opposed to Obama and all his works and ways, AND remains pretty highly respected, in most recent polls.)

  10. Ginny asks good questions, and I don’t have the foggiest idea what the answers are or even how to find them out. I suspect, however, that we had better get used to wierd soap operas for the next four years, that and a whole lot more.

  11. this is not high school.

    Yes, it is. I told all my children when they were facing those dramatic episodes in high school that this was what life continues to be. When you get older, people will do the same things but there will be more zeros behind the numbers. Likewise the petite infidelities of high school will be repeated by grand infidelities that will differ only in the hurt and harm they inflict. People rarely learn lessons in high school, they only demonstrate default behaviours.

    One of the key strengths of our founders design is its foundational assumption that we are all flawed. The conflict of this assumption with the progressive assumption of the perfectibility of man is what has created tension in American politics for the last 80 years.

  12. I think my smartest and most “liked” FB post recently was: Thank You America for letting me Serve.

    It was an Honor.

    Don’t worry we’ll come back.

  13. You have to abandon out dated assumptions. Gays are a major part of the military. Just because two men are working and sleeping in the same room you cannot assume an affair. The same logic now applies to a man and a woman working together.

    Major Broadwell’s emails to star cruiser Kelly urged Kelly to turn it down a notch. She was referring to Kelly’s 30,000 page email assault on Gen. Allen, not Gen. Petreus! Maj. Broadwell was not jealous, she was merely trying to protect Gen. Allen’s reputation.

    When Petreus joined the CIA both he and Broadwell were given lie detector tests (because there were rumors), Both denied an affair and both were proved to be truthful.

    I suppose, after the lie detector test, they meditated on the question and decided to have an affair which lasted only a few months because neither had enough time to do it proper.

    Might one suppose CIA interrogations can be watched live at the White House situation room?

  14. The old cliche’ in latin means “Who Benefits?”

    Benghazi is blown off the front page by a sex scandal.

    Petreus is discredited.

    Other major military figures are discredited, and the military’s image, which is rated very highly by the public, is damaged.

    Hillary is damaged.

    No questions about what happened to the military’s votes.

    No questions about the missing domestic voters and their votes, even though several hundred thousand have already been “discovered” to have been uncounted in Ohio.

    No questions about voting machines.

    No questions about the precincts in pivotal states that voted 100% for the current regime.

    You guys are from Chicago, and you still don’t get it?

    Do you really think 1960 was a one-time fluke?

    I wonder what you will agonize about in 2016 when Michelle is elected.

  15. Point taken, Veryretired. Yes, this is something more than just bed-hopping among the higher ranks. At best, a decision to cover up what happened in Benghazi on 9-11-2012. At medium, disgracing a likely future political threat. At worst, a concerted effort to demolish the military establishment – as you say, the last remaining respected American establishment standing.
    And I’ve never been in Chicago, not even passing through. I’m a military veteran, grew up in California when it was a nice place to be from, and now live in Texas, which seems now to be an even better place to be from.

  16. Does anyone honestly expect Obama will be allowed to stop being President when his term ends in 2017. The constitution is both an historical document and the living soul of a nation that needs an experienced president, not slavish obedience to dead white slave owners.

  17. Here is Andrew Napolitano’s very interesting take on the Petraeus affair. Central to his argument is the assertion that the FBI must have found out about the relationship with Broadwell during his CIA directorship vetting.

  18. Setbit, the FBI has been spying on government officials since FDR. Remember that “Deep Throat,” the source for Woodward and Bernstein on Watergate, was Mark Felt, who was the #2 guy in the FBI and who resented Nixon choosing an outsider as the new Director when Hoover died. Felt succeeded in overthrowing the US government. This resulted in the fall of South Vietnam and much mischief since. I don’t trust them a bit even though my daughter is an agent.

  19. Mike – my parents used to be friends with a retired FBI agent – knew Hoover and it was a little tight knot group. He was not a boss you wanted to cross.

    I remember going to school in VA – visiting DC one weekend and driving through Rock Creek Park when I heard he died – Hoover lived near there. It was a strange feeling and the end of an era I knew even then.

    Hoover could have made a fortune publishing a book on all the stuff he knew about the politicians that kept him in power for decades.

    As for the fall of South Vietnam wasn’t it Congress that reneged and refused to send them more funding?

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