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Did Petraeus betray us?

by Jenna Cocullo November 27, 2012 0 comment
Did Petraeus betray us?

Former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus. Image via Flickr.

On Nov. 9, 2012, Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus resigned from his position after the Federal Bureau of Investigation exposed an extramarital affair he was having with writer and biographer Paula Broadwell.

Some would say the punishment for his actions was fair because his character and leadership skills can no longer be trusted, and the reputation of the organization must be upheld. But what gives people the right to probe into a man’s private life, expose it to the public, allow this event alone define him and then force him to resign?

A man’s personal feelings are his own private business. Some disagree, saying that his morals and leadership ability is everyone’s business. However, I say that we are all human, we all make mistakes, and no leader is without flaws. Petraeus has no previous reputation of being a womanizer, liar or a cheater, therefore one affair should not affect his credibility, especially if we do not know the circumstances of his situation. I am in no way, shape or form condoning what he has done to his marriage, but at the same time I do not believe a leader should be deemed immoral and incompetent simply because he has fallen for two women.

Glenn Rowe, strategic leadership teacher at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, told CBC that “in today’s world, we’re looking for people of character to be leaders.” This statement is certainly true for a man or woman who is the leader of a country, a religious group, or any other organization that is in need of a guide who can bring hope and high moral standards to a population.

In the case of the CIA, their primary task is intelligence gathering, which has nothing to do with leading people outside of the organization. Petraeus has a PhD and has served in the U.S military his whole life and was deemed the most prominent military man post-9/11. If he is the best candidate for the job and does it effectively, then his private life should not be a factor in deciding whether he retains his position or not, especially if his private life has nothing to do with it.

If a leader of an organization has not led the institution astray, I do not think they should immediately lose their job over a scandal that has nothing to do with their job. Even leaders make mistakes, and when they do, it does not mean that they should automatically be classified as morally compromised.

I can think of countless examples of leaders in the past with much higher positions than Petraeus who have embarrassed themselves publically or been part of a sex scandal, and still kept their jobs. Petraeus has proved himself to be competent, and therefore should be re-instated as the head of the CIA.

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