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La Vanguardia, Spain

The Resignation of Petraeus

Translated By Stewart

13 November 2012

Edited by Natalie Clager

Spain - La Vanguardia - Original Article (Spanish)

After a 37 year career, the four-star general David Petraeus is unanimously considered one of the most brilliant military men in the U.S. He created the withdrawal strategy of the unpopular Iraq War, where American troops were on the front line. He is also behind the strategy (that will be completed in the 2014) to leave Afghanistan, where he commanded American and NATO troops.

Fourteen months ago, Petraeus was named the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In this brief period, he established the foundation to transform the organization, which until then was centered on counter-terrorism. He worked to change the CIA into something different without neglecting the parts of the CIA preparing to act in the Pacific, which will be a high-priority for the next the fifteen years.

Last week, a few hours after Barack Obama was re-elected as the U.S. president, Petraeus became the star of a national story. The FBI, which was investigating some threatening emails sent by Petraeus´ biographer to another woman, discovered communication between the biographer and the general that revealed an intimate relationship. Petraeus has governed his career by a strict Decalogue - with exemplary conduct as a military leader and the necessity to recognize errors- he released an official notice in which he admitted to have acted unwisely and submitted his resignation as director of the CIA.

Although the background information of this case is unknown, it is already evident that Petraeus’ resignation has had diverse consequences. The first consequence is the diminishing attention being placed on Obama’s victory over Romney. The second is the debate of whether the information was already known and, if so, about the reasons that would have postponed its diffusion until the elections were over. The third deals with the possibility that, with his resignation, Petraeus wanted to avoid appearing on the commission that is investigating the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi.

These and other speculations about the case shouldn't hide the real question: What is the relationship between private moral and public function? There is no objection to the strict code of conduct assumed by Petraeus, which led to his resignation. From the point of view of American national interest, it seems obvious that an intimate relation between adults, which has not been confirmed as a risk for national security, shouldn’t deprive the country of one of its best officers. This is not the first occasion in which a highly-ranked government employee of the U.S. has been involved in a similar case.

In our collective memory remains the relationship of President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, in 1995-96 when she was an intern in the White House. The press published many pages on the matter. The Republicans, who believed to have opened a breach to attack Clinton, showed no mercy. The Lewinsky case harmed those who threw it around: Republicans’ sexual scandals sprung up like flowers in spring. Clinton did not fall and his popularity began to increase.

The U.S. society preserves a puritan component, which is very useful when it serves to unmask hypocritical politicians that don't respect privately what they prescribe publicly. But sometimes – perhaps the Petraeus case is a good example – a resignation can have more drawbacks than benefits.



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