Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Digging into the Petraeus Scandal

So General Petraeus gets caught cheating on his wife. I'm having a hard time seeing any big problem with this other than the usual arguments - proves the guy's untrustworthy, leaves himself open to blackmail, etc. So despite this "hero goes down" narrative, i'm having a hard time seeing what all of the fuss is about. However, I did stumble across this excellent Robert Wright article in The Atlantic in which he argues that we're focusing on the wrong Petraeus scandal:
But in many ways, [Obama] is no improvement over the last one, and Exhibit A is the acceleration of a far-flung drone-strike program that is shrouded in the secrecy of the CIA. The vision implicit in this program is of an America whose great calling is to lead the world into a future of chaos and lawlessness.

This prospect was vividly highlighted when, a bit more than a year ago, Obama had David Petraeus turn in his stars so he could move to the CIA and keep fighting wars. There have been other military men who headed the CIA, but never has there been one whose move to Langley brought so much continuity with what he was doing before he went there.
The revolving door between the military and the industries that support them has always been a problem. Wright's larger point is that the CIA - partly led in this by Petraeus - has morphed from being an agency that indirectly contributed to killing people to one that directly kills them, leading to questions like this one:
If the CIA is psychologically invested in a particular form of warfare--and derives part of its budget from that kind of warfare--can it be trusted to impartially assess the consequences, both positive and negative, direct and indirect?
Scary question, because i'm sure the answer is that no, it can't be trusted. Without knowing all of the complex details, all I can see is a growing picture of a country whose military and intelligence agencies are running amok. IMO, Obama's biggest fault was not only to continue but to expand upon the drone attacks of the Bush years under the guise of being "tough on terror." Can you imagine what our reaction would be if another country used drones to kill as many people and destroy as much property as we do?

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