FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Petraeus’ Political Seppuku

by MANUEL GARCIA, JR.

On the Friday after Election Day, November 9, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General David H. Petraeus announced his immediate resignation and admitted to an extramarital affair (with his biographer Paula Broadwell), which had been exposed (officially by an unrelated FBI investigation, privately others had known of the affair earlier including perhaps Holly Knowlton, Petraeus’ wife of 37 years).

Many see the Petraeus affair as an example of politically counterproductive and socially immature American puritanism. The popular counter to this criticism is that Petraeus had opened himself to blackmail, which represented too dangerous a risk to national security, making his departure necessary. Others suspect there were hidden motives and agendas to Petraeus’ downfall, which were covered over by the public drama of a sexual scandal being paid for with honorable military resignation. The following comments pursue this second possibility.

I have the impression that the US “consulate” in Benghazi was a CIA observation post under the cover of a State Department facility, and that the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, took the heat for the fatal attack (four American consular employees died) on September 11, to shield the CIA specifically and the Obama Administration generally. At that time, Hillary Clinton had the highest national approval rating among high-profile US government personalities and potential presidential “candidates,” Democratic or Republican, so it must have been estimated that she could probably survive the political hit and put it well behind her by 2016. This all saved Petraeus from censure for the Benghazi disaster.

Having an affair “at the office” inevitably distracts you from your work; in a job like CIA director “the office” has a very broad definition (it encases you always and everywhere). Was Petraeus paying all the attention he should have to the configuration, defense and manning of the Benghazi consulate-operations center, and to the data gathered by it? Or, were the data gathering and interfacing functions of covert diplomacy (spying) being sub-contracted to the State Department: Chris Stevens, Hillary Clinton’s appointee?

Perhaps Petraeus, the Army general, did what generals do best even as head of the CIA, focus on the military operations of the agency (the robotic air force: drones, and the counterinsurgency or semi-covert commando type military campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan), and left the reconnaissance, intelligence and infiltration work in Libya to their State Department paper-shuffling/networking office-worker type contractors: Chris Stevens and the State Department.

Congressional investigations into the Benghazi consulate attack, in September-October, and security vulnerability (paramour) investigations now would inevitably expose too much sensitive CIA activity, and too many embarrassing management errors (probably compounded by inattention). Also, objectively, even the drone war and counterinsurgency campaigns Petraeus had designed and supervised were not succeeding politically (at searing humanitarian cost).

Petraeus had accumulated too much baggage, he had become a liability to the top political careerists, he had to go. Petraeus probably remembered his Roman, samurai and military history, and decided to take control of his unavoidable exit, by making it an immediate and quick one. Obama returned the favor by his prompt permission for his Drone-War Praetor’s career seppuku,  so Petraeus could obtain an expeditiously merciful release. I doubt Hillary was anguished by the departure.

In Washington D.C., policies are personified. One thinks of Elizabeth Warren and financial industry regulation, George W. Bush (and more recently Mitt Romney) and tax reductions for the wealthy, and so on. David Petraeus boosted his career during congressional testimony in 2007 by presenting as successful his command efforts in Iraq as part of “the surge” of US troops there, and he went on to become the face of US counterinsurgency policy as applied since.

Now, Petraeus’ departure from the Obama Administration can be taken as an opportunity not only to reevaluate the management of the CIA, but to adjust its priorities, and to reexamine the current drone war and counterinsurgency policies. Perhaps these policies will remain static with a new manager appointed to supervise them (since the foreign policy objectives have not changed), but then again, perhaps the need to appoint a replacement Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) will be used as an opportunity to initiate some new and diplomatic rather than military methods of conducting US policy in Central Asia.

Manuel García, Jr. is a retired nuclear test physicist/engineer and now an occasional writer on energy and society. His e-mail is mangogarcia@att.net

Manuel Garcia, Jr, once a physicist, is now a lazy househusband who writes out his analyses of physical or societal problems or interactions. He can be reached at mangogarcia@att.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail