The Downfall of a Great General

I keep reading about what a great general Petraus was and how, maybe, we just need to be more understanding of the needs of these great men to have affairs otherwise, we wouldn’t have said great men.

And I just want to say a couple of things. One, I think it’s kind of stupid that any part of the government is sticking its nose into people’s personal business so far that it’s making rules about whether people can have affairs. But those are the rules as they stand now in the military. And I find it galling–though unsurprising–that people at the top of the chain feel free to do things they know have ended the careers of their underlings. It just seems like flaunting your power. I find that dishonorable.

But the more important thing is that the idea that Petraus or Eisenhower or Roosevelt were the best leaders America could produce is unproven. And we should not forget that. There may have been a military genius as inspiring and passionate and brilliant as Eisenhower who may have even been in the military right then, and who would have never cheated on his wife, but we never got him as a general because he was black. There may be a very faithful woman in the military right now who is every bit Petraus’s match, but we do a lousy job of moving women up the ranks.  And that’s just people who were/are in the military. How many great leaders have we lost out on due to our old policies toward gays?

I don’t want to downplay the genius of these guys (and I realize I’ve roped Roosevelt in here as if he’s a military dude, when he’s just an affair-having leader, but I wanted three names, because… well, it’s three, and it’s the magic number). I just wish we didn’t talk about it like it was a singular genius, like, if we don’t tolerate in them extraordinary hypocrisy and bad behavior, we might miss out on what they had to offer.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that, yes, these might be the best players we had on the field at that moment, and they made some extraordinary plays, but a lot of great players never made the game.

We simply don’t know that those players who weren’t allowed on the field would have lost us the game. We simply can’t know that.

We don’t need to be held hostage to the idea that these are the best America can do. We don’t yet have a fair enough system to know if that’s true.

2 thoughts on “The Downfall of a Great General

  1. The thing that gets me is that time and again the best leaders of any given nation, army, whathaveyou, have been sociopathic. What makes a great leader often makes for a terrible human being. Yet people are surprised when the great leaders are…terrible human beings.

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