Afterward, back in Baghdad, Bremer shook his head in an interview and laughed indulgently. "He loves headlines," Bremer said. "But he's very good."
There’s no doubt that Petraeus was very good at what he did. And that Broadwell was very ambitious. And that what Broadwell called Petraeus’s “open-door policy” to those eager to tout his accomplishments led, ultimately, to a more intimate relationship between them. The question is whether this sad and salacious story amounts to anything more than another episode in the long saga of human failings, with the apparent destruction of two or more careers as a result.
It probably doesn’t. According to FBI officials quoted by The New York Times on Monday, the bureau’s investigation into whether Petraeus had compromised security in any way found that he had not. Similarly, the timing of the FBI probe suggests that it reached its final stages just as the U.S. presidential election was coming to a close, rather than being held up for political reasons. Although Broadwell was said to be in possession of classified material, she denied that it came from Petraeus, and given her wide network of contacts, it could have come from the same places that journalists often get such material.
This week, news reports also suggested that Broadwell revealed classified or sensitive information when she said in an Oct. 26 Denver speech that the fatal attack on the CIA site in Benghazi on Sept. 11 was retaliation for the detention of Libyan militia members, and that Petraeus knew “almost immediately” that the attack was launched by terrorists and had requested assistance. But the allegations of possible terrorist involvement were publicly known at the time, posted on Facebook, and the details about Libyan militia had been reported earlier that day by Fox News. Beyond that, in the last two weeks the CIA has effectively discredited charges made in the same Fox News report that it was slow in responding.
In the end, Petraeus’ downfall marks the formal finish to a career that had in some ways passed its peak. The influence of his signature contribution to U.S. military doctrine—expensive counterinsurgency programs that take years to implement, with little to show in the way of results, as in Afghanistan —has been fading.
As for Allen, his tenure in Afghanistan is proving at least as troubled as Petraeus’, beset by “green-on-blue” attacks by Afghan soldiers and officials on allied troops, and a stubborn Taliban supported by Pakistani elements across the border.
During a visit to Afghanistan I made last May, he came across as sober and largely humorless in manner as he described in intellectual terms his strategic plans in Afghanistan. “There is this sense, and it’s a very Western sense I think, that there is a Napoleonic decisive battle that tends to end wars. In counterinsurgency, it’s much less about that than about creating an enduring capacity that grows and compounds on itself over time," Allen said. "And that’s what’s happened.”
He was far less of a glamorous or show-boating figure than Petraeus. Nevertheless, he’s now one of the leading men in a national soap opera.
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