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Thinking About Petraeus

November 17th, 2012 - 11:47 am

Petraeus fought, and he fought well enough to win. It was a very big deal. Under his command, we smashed the jihadis in Iraq, dealt a devastating blow to al Qaida and its Iranian terror masters, and gave Iraq a window of opportunity. By Lee Smith’s account — which matches my own — Petraeus was one of the few national leaders to recognize the big role Iran played in the regional war, and he actually took steps to challenge them. He was in a very tiny group of leaders — we’re talking about the Bush administration, remember — who recognized Iran’s role, and he saw further evidence when he went to CENTCOM, and thence to Afghanistan, where he replaced General McChrystal, who was also pretty clear-eyed about the Iranian threat.

He was certainly very ambitious (duh!) and that, combined with a generous assessment of his own leadership abilities, explains the real mystery about his career: why did he accept the job at CIA? With the exception of George Herbert Walker Bush (aka Bush the Elder), no director of the agency has ever gone on to greater power or glory, and Bush the Elder tagged along behind Ronald Reagan. There was precious little chance that Obama would offer his coat tails — if there are such — to the general. Obama probably worried at least a little bit about Petraeus entering politics on the GOP side as a presidential candidate, and figured it was smart to lock him up in Langley. But why did Petraeus go for it?

As I said, Petraeus may actually have believed he could turn the place around, and he certainly knew that we need a fabulous intelligence agency if we’re going to prevail in a world at war. That gives us two components of his decision: ego and patriotism. QED?

Which leaves the Broadwell affair, and maybe more. That such a man would fall for such a woman is not surprising. If it is true that he desperately pursued her after the tryst ended, that suggests he was well and truly besotted with her. And if it turns out, as Angleton inevitably suspects, that foreign intelligence agencies were at work inside the network of pretty women, we’ve got a textbook espionage file.  However that turns out, he was a perfect target, and the FBI seems to me quite justified in looking long and hard at the activities of the pretty women and their many friends in Tampa and Washington.

Add in Benghazi, an administration that has little respect for truth and seems altogether too willing to toss generals, ambassadors, and soldiers under its bus, and you’ve got the makings of a hell of a story, whose outlines are only just beginning to be visible.

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