The resignation of CIA director David Petraeus over an extramarital affair has caused consternation and confusion not only in the United States, but all over the world. The news was greeted with an ample dose of disbelief, and even a few days after his resignation, questions are continuing to swirl about the high-profile exit. The US journalists are busy trying to unearth all the details with their usual enthusiasm and expertise, and they have more time to do so as the US presidential elections are over. In the coming days, we will have a clearer picture of the sordid mess which the scandal has created. That a dazzling career should collapse over infidelity was just inconceivable for many. Many thought his decision had more than what we already know.
The initial reports say the resignation came after the former CIA director was caught in the crosshairs of FBI. It all began with a complaint several months ago about ‘harassing’ emails sent by Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer, to another woman who knows both of them. When FBI agents began to examine Broadwell’s emails, they discovered exchanges between her and Petreaus which revealed their secret affair and also found out that Broadwell had in her possession certain classified information though it was not Petraeus who had given her the same. There are vast numbers of people in politics and government all over the world who have affairs outside marriage, and if all of them were to follow Petreaus, their governments would almost sink under the collective weight of so many scandals. An online survey conducted by a British newspaper on whether Petraeus should have resigned over the affair saw a vast majority saying that it was unnecessary, which shows the public perception about the incident.
So there are two ways of looking at it: one is that there is much more to what has already happened, which will be clear in the coming days. Or, there is nothing more to what we have seen, and shows the sincerity and rare courage of an official to admit his mistake and take responsibility for the same. One of the ‘Rules for Living’ which Petraeus wrote on a website is: “We all make mistakes. The key is to recognise them and admit them.” The former CIA director took his own advice and resigned. He said that he was resigning after 14 months as the head of the CIA because he had shown extremely poor judgment in engaging in the affair.
Finally, if his words are proved true, he will be admired for his probity and honesty.