Faults and all…
He was the greatest general of his generation, charged to oversee one of the most complicated military campaigns in history. Smart, respected, politically astute. Yet when his extramarital affair became public knowledge, what happened?
I’m not talking about General David Petraeus, but rather General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike went on to become the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, oversaw D-Day and would later become President of the United States. And he also had a relatively open affair during the war with his English chauffer, Kay Summersby that has been reasonably well-documented and was supposedly common knowledge among Eisenhower’s staff.
Would things have turned out differently for Eisenhower if he had lived today, with the gotcha-media lurking around every corner? If Ike had been forced to resign and thus not lead the Allied command, might things have gone differently in the planning and execution of D-Day, which barely succeeded even with Eisenhower’s incredible leadership?
The world as we know it today might be a very different place.
The events surrounding David Petraeus ‘ fall from grace are certainly troubling… the possible leak of classified information, the lack of a Congressional briefing on the matter prior to it going public, not to mention the sheer stupidity of a person with a top secret security clearance thinking his emails were private. Yet for Petraeus’ faults as a man, he was undoubtedly one of the greatest military minds of his generation. When the Iraq conflict seemed intractable, Petraeus lead the team that developed an innovative military ‘surge’ strategy that re-wrote the books on armed conflict… and allowed the U.S. to finally pull its combat troops from Iraq. Petraeus was in the process of focusing his intellect on improving our nation’s intelligence gathering capability at the CIA, at a time when the world is becoming an increasingly challenging place.
Yes, Petraeus now needs to heal the wounds he has caused his family and marriage… that’s job one in his life for the immediate future. But why deny the U.S. the professional capacity of this man when he was a flawed individual personally? Yes, if there are any issues with classified information being compromised, those would certainly be grounds for termination. But the political and media environment in which we live should back off the need for a quick vote or eye-catching headline.
We need leaders like Petraeus… faults and all.