“Historians will likely judge David Petraeus to be the most effective American military commander since Eisenhower,” according to CNN. Time credits him with “salvaging the U.S. war in Iraq.” John McCain testified that he “will stand in the ranks of America’s greatest military heroes.” Now he has resigned as Director of the CIA in disgrace.
I first heard Gen. Petraeus when he spoke at a leadership event in Dallas a few years ago, and was deeply impressed with his intellect and candor. A West Point graduate, he earned a Ph.D. in International Relations from Princeton and authored 23 books and articles. After leading our forces in Iraq, he became commander of all U.S. military operations in the greater Middle East before assuming control of operations in Afghanistan. On June 30, 2011, he was confirmed unanimously by the Senate as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He has been married for 37 years to Holly Petraeus. The couple met when he was a cadet at West Point, where she was the daughter of the academy superintendent. They have two children; their son led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan.
Last Thursday he resigned his office after the FBI discovered emails revealing Petraeus’s affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. She is a West Point and Harvard graduate, a 40-year-old married mother of two. On Friday, the president accepted his resignation. Such a transgression is considered a serious breach of security for an intelligence director—foreign governments could have blackmailed Petraeus or otherwise compromised his leadership.
In 1 Kings 15:5 we find a bittersweet epitaph which begins, “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life.” High praise, but the verse ends: “except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” Will history remember David Petraeus with the same caveat?
We must never assume that present obedience guarantees future faithfulness. While our culture segregates religion from the “real world,” you and I should never make the mistake of self-reliance in guarding our integrity. “There but for the grace of God go I” is the right response to Gen. Petraeus’s sin and our temptations.
In the latest Newsweek there is an article titled “Petraeus’s Rules for Living,” written by Paula Broadwell. “Lead by example from the front of the formation” is his first rule. It should be ours as well.