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Why I Forgive General Petraeus -- And Why You Should, Too


America has lost a great leader and we know have a huge leadership gap to fill.

Former CIA Director PetraeusGeneral David Petraeus is an American patriot and hero. America has lost a great leader, we now have a huge leadership gap to fill and a lot is sure to fall on Admiral William McRaven, the Commander of U.S. Special Operations.

It takes guts to realize you screwed up and to then come clean without any excuses. How refreshing it was to see, regardless of the circumstances. Too often it’s the Washington way to hide, point fingers, and try to place blame on someone else. Very rarely does someone stand up and take it head on, and I personally applaud the general for doing this.  It’s what good leaders do.

I don’t support cheating, but I know a lot of good men who succumbed to the same fate and the allure of an attractive younger woman --  in this case an aggressive power groupie. I personally know how aggressive these groupies can be and how they covet the spotlight. A quick look at Paula Broadwell’s less than stellar career, and personal conduct tells me that she fits the profile of what we commonly call in the military a “strap hanger.” This is someone who grabs onto your rucksack as you pull them up a hill they’ve never summit on their own.  In Navy SEAL teams, we even have a special name for these types of groupies; we call them Frog Hogs. These women crave attention and the spotlight of association. They will stop at nothing to fend off others grabbing for the same straps they’re holding onto. I’m sure this is why Jill Kelley (a groupie in her own right) started to receive threatening emails from Broadwell.

Some mistakes destroy reputations and are unrecoverable.  The SEAL author of the tell-all UBL book, No Easy Day, is experiencing this firsthand.  The fallout of his betrayal is still being felt in the SEAL community. Many are finding out the true depth of his betrayal as other SEALs associated with him are being punished for participating in video game consulting, which one source tells us that he likely coordinated.  It’s a series of decisions that can destroy an otherwise good reputation, and finished it for good.

However, in the case of Petraeus, his mistake is of a different kind, a minor misstep in an otherwise exemplary career. I like to measure people by their accomplishments in life, and how they consistently act. As Aristotle put it best, we are what we repeatedly do, and the general has a long history of accomplishment and exemplary behavior.

  • Confirmed as Director of the CIA 94-0 by the Senate
  • 37 years of service to the U.S. Military
  • Achieved the highest military rank possible (Four Star General)
  • Major contributor to asymmetrical warfare doctrine
  • Commander US & ISAF Forces in Afghanistan
  • Commanded US & Multi-national troops in Iraq
  • Commander US Central Command
  • Distinguished graduate (top 5% of his class) at West Point

Among the many rumors and speculation I’ve heard lately, is that his cheating is a direct reflection of the current administration’s culture.  After all, Petraeus was hand-picked by President Obama, they say. This is absurd to me, look at his track record and make up your own mind. My mind is already made up.

Nobody in life achieves great things without making some mistakes along the way. It’s a part of life, and anyone who says different is lying to you.

America has lost a great leader, a man who gave the better part of his life to the service of this great country we live in, and his shoes are going to be hard to fill. The general made a mistake. I forgive him, and I suggest you do the same.


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