Small Wars Journal

CIA Director Petraeus Resigns, Cites Extramarital Affair

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:01pm

CIA Director Petraeus Resigns, Cites Extramarital Affair - NBC.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.

As I depart Langley, I want you to know that it has been the greatest of privileges to have served with you, the officers of our Nation's Silent Service, a work force that is truly exceptional in every regard. Indeed, you did extraordinary work on a host of critical missions during my time as director, and I am deeply grateful to you for that.

Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life's greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.

Thank you for your extraordinary service to our country, and best wishes for continued success in the important endeavors that lie ahead for our country and our Agency.

With admiration and appreciation,

David H. Petraeus



Ward, Sinclair, et. al., perhaps senior leaders collectively are failing at the basics they preach. Perhaps the priesthood of their basic tenants should be examined. Perhaps Ricks is correct. Strategically, our recent wars have not advanced the nation. Perhaps something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Perhaps we are too big, and our civilian leadership simply disappointed as our sage advice did not lead to glorious victory. Republics rise and fall. Hollow victories, Tour de France or Iraq, are simply that, hollow.


Sun, 11/11/2012 - 2:01pm

Stop looking at the General and start looking at who benefits and that will get you closer to the truth.

LTG Hertling quietly left command in Germany without ceremony last week and "retired" at West Point. His replacement was named in June, but won't be on ground until after the new year. Ham, Hertling, Admiral underway in the Med, and DCI. Patterns, anyone?

Well let's see, he resigns a few days after the election, a few days before the secret Benghazi hearings start and the announcement is made on a Friday. Yea right, I believe this is all about an affair.

Robert C. Jones

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 7:58pm

First General Ham, now Petreaus? Something smells fishy about these recent moves. I suspect the real story comes out when the second boot hits the floor. I don't think it's out yet.

This is too much like honorable men in uniform taking bullets for their civilian bosses. Maybe it's all coincidence. Maybe.


Sat, 11/10/2012 - 12:28am

In reply to by Peter J. Munson

No, I can't buy that. The FBI finds out all kinds of things about all kinds of people and they don't talk. Maybe it would have come out some day, whispered innuendo years down the line. But this guy didn't resign quietly and go on his way. He got up in front of the world and said what he did knowing that his wife would get drug into it. Something ain't right. That is a big red flag for me. They way he did it, his family gets involved. Something ain't right.

Peter J. Munson

Sat, 11/10/2012 - 12:08am

In reply to by carl

I would imagine that there was a public admission only because it was going to come out anyway. There is certainly more to this than meets the eye, but I think that most of the conspiracy theories that are sure to come up just don't make any sense. And once someone knew something about it, it was only a matter of time before it came out. We can't even keep the highest national secrets secret, so certainly something juicy and unclassified like this would be outed.


Fri, 11/09/2012 - 11:52pm

In reply to by Peter J. Munson


Why the public confession of infidelity? Just because the cops find something doesn't mean its illegal nor that it is to be publicly revealed immediately. The public confession of infidelity brings in the guys wife and humiliates her. Bob Jones is right. Something fishy is going on.

Peter J. Munson

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 11:20pm

In reply to by martin_kurpan

You mischaracterize my argument and confuse what I retweeted from others with what I actually said. I retweeted a number of other comments, some of which were about COIN and not all of which I agreed with. I don't think the news has anything to do with validating anything about COIN, Iraq, or Petraeus' overall legacy. I think it has a lot to say about how hagiography informs the commentariat's opinion of real issues (which is a travesty) and I believe that this turn of events will turn many people's opinion of Petraeus and thereby turn the narrative that some people have created regarding COIN, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Petraeus' involvement therein. Do I think this is right? Absolutely not. But I think it is emblematic of how shallow a basis our thought on these things rests on. As for "my" argument about the inefficacy of COIN in Iraq, I've made no such argument, at least no argument that could be accurately summed up in that phrase. And as for General Petraeus being overhyped, I do believe that he was overhyped, although I don't necessarily believe that was due to any shortcomings on his part prior to this. I think he was overhyped because he was looked at as a superman, which no man is. As for this episode, personal issues become public matters when someone who choses to accept a position of such gravitas and then allows personal issues to detract from the life and death business that they are charged with leading and managing. Finally, the things I actually wrote myself, as opposed to retweeting, are included below in paragraph instead of individual tweet format. I believe most readers will find them consistent with what I say above:

"Don't think the Petraeus thing is as much a case of Puritanism as the recognition that the position does not allow for distractions, whether those distractions were going to remain personal or were about to become public. Could be more to it of course. The issue, for me, isn't that Petraeus was a security risk. He was a leadership risk. Distraction can't be accepted. Timing of the resignation is probably a product of this coming to a head in last few weeks and he being asked to wait till after election. As a friend said, for all the failures on the battlefield and in the IC, the only way to get fired is still booze or trouser malfunctions."

"A lot of the commentary shows the real lack of understanding of the world on the part of the "expert" commentariat. (This was referring to a lot of comments that seemed to think that the Director was a spy who should have had better tradecraft, in addition to other silliness). Mostly full of sh#$, but they're the ones who make people like P into legends and circle around as they fall again. The entire world constructed by the commentariat is exceedingly shallow, and this is what the most ponderous decisions are based on."

I then retweeted this: "RT @bungdan: Well, at least we can stop pretending that "coin" saved Iraq." To which Ryan Evans responded that the two issues were not linked. I responded: "@EvansRyan202 Certainly not, but all of this BS, hagiography, and storymaking runs together. I find it interesting. And: @EvansRyan202 My thought is the narratives are so simplistic & simplistically linked that stuff like this will turn opinion on other issues."

In these two responses, my point was - as stated above - that we link narratives about complex issues to simple legends and that these narratives will be torn apart when the legend is taken down.

I continued, as the story began to unravel even more: "Geez, what a mess. Megalomania is virtually inevitable in our big man leadership culture, esp w/the hagiography. And we wonder why our policy is so flawed... As for the morality of personal decisions- whatever. As for the implications for judgment of leaders charged with life/death power- massive. People are fallible, which is y we need to stop fawning over them & believing they can do anything. That is the story of today & last decade. People in such positions are different to begin with. Lifestyle further removes them from what rest of us see as reality. This has serious implications for their decisionmaking over time in my opinion."

This is not about the private matter of what happened between them. This is about the public matter of what happens when an official's private life affects the public sphere and how we construct worldviews around the stories that are built about people like Petraeus. And when people are elevated to legend status, we believe that they can do things that they cannot do and we put them in positions that damage their decision-making abilities over time.


Fri, 11/09/2012 - 5:19pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Peter Munson's twitter feed was spouting a diatribe about how today's news somehow validated his argument about the inefficacy of COIN in Iraq and that General Petraeus was over-hyped.

Dave Maxwell

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 5:04pm

In reply to by martin_kurpan

Not sure what the above comment means. The post by Dave D, not Peter is simply reporting that the Director of the CIA resigned. I see nothing about anyone's "opinions."


Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:52pm

can someone please tell Peter Munson that he is acting like a "real Munson" (aka Roy Munson from Kingpin)...what on earth does General Petraeus's personal life have to do with his honorable performance as a Military Officer? I mean really, who uses something like this to try to validate a totally unrelated opinion?
Just a petty academic move all around.