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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | Last updated: 9:52am

Petraeus' private life is no one else's concern



Why do Americans think they deserve to know about high-profile figures’ personal lives? Even worse, why do high-profile figures feel the public is allowed to hold their personal lives against them?

No, I’m not talking about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, or anyone as actually unimportant as them. I’m referring to the recent revelation that former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus was involved in an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.

So what, another big name had an affair — it happens all the time these days, right? But the retired general, in the face of this scandal, resigned from his position as director of the CIA.

That was a terrible loss for the organization, and it all happened because Petraeus was fooling around with someone on the side.

By no means am I encouraging or even condoning his behavior, but a soldier as experienced and decorated as Petraeus could have probably done the CIA a lot of good. What’s more, the fact that Petraeus cheated has no bearing on his ability to perform (what was) his job.

Still, according to an article from NBC News, Petraeus resigned as a result of his extramarital affair, writing in a letter to the CIA workforce that “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”

In disclosing the affair, he probably feared the backlash and loss of faith Americans would have in his capabilities to run the CIA as effectively as it needs to be run.

But such a loss of faith would be based on nothing other than the assumption that good people don’t make mistakes. Petraeus made an adult decision by resigning — likely to spare anyone from having to make the controversial decision to fire him — but the fact that he felt his resignation was necessary is disappointing.

Granted, there could be other factors at play. Petraeus is set to testify over the alleged lacking security in Libya that resulted in the death of three Americans, and maybe he’d rather be known as the guy who resigned for cheating than the guy who resigned for getting three people killed.

We won’t know until the hearings are done though, so all anyone has to go off is this so-called scandal. And while the affair shines a light on Petraeus’ character (or apparent lack thereof), what it really needs to do is be used to open discourse on the way Americans react to these situations.

It’s as though people have to be infallible, mistakes can only be made as a child and any adult who screws up shouldn’t be forgiven. There’s no such thing as second chances, it just turns out elementary school teachers were lying to everyone.

It also has to do with entitlement and the idea that Americans think they have a right to know what a person like Petraeus is up to — a right that doesn’t exist. Yes, he did have an important job, and the public does deserve to know what he’s doing (except for the fact that the CIA is an organization that requires a lot of secrecy as is), but anything not work-related isn’t anyone else’s damn business but his own.

Frankly, this shouldn’t even be in the news at all. Aren’t there more important things to talk about? Didn’t a hurricane just devastate parts of the East Coast, leaving thousands vulnerable to approaching storms?

A man’s mistake in the privacy of his own bedroom doesn’t trump all the real things worth talking about.

— Jason Krell is the copy chief for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @Jason_Krell .


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