A Fatal Transition – General David H. Petraeus                        
One Woman’s Opinion
  By – Sheri de Grom


A photograph of former U.S. Army General David H. Petraeus taken in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on July, 2011, is a favorite of mine. I saw the picture again while exploring The Petraeus Revolution: How He Changed the American Way of War

The image conveys a man at ease with himself, one who possesses confidence and is comfortable in his own skin. A warrior who changed the way the United States fought the Iraq war. General Petraeus instituted what became known as the “Petraeus Doctrine,” which served to suppress the level of violence in Iraq. His on-going career remained so brilliant that his biography was commissioned.

I have followed several general officers by way of the web and numerous military journals for over a year and have been appalled by the variety of criminal activities reported. However, Gen. Petraeus didn’t commit a criminal act. What he did ended his own career when he made the transition into the civilian world.

Retired General Petraeus remains one of my heroes. It’s unfortunate that he had an affair with Paula Broadwell and hence—according to his biography—that affair is what he’s best known for and not his military leadership.

I recently read the blog http://stuffitellmysister.me/2013/01/09-president-nixon-on-his-100th. Paula spoke of her life-long admiration of former President Richard Nixon and went on to discuss his accomplishments and why she’s admired him since childhood. She didn’t dwell on the negatives in President Nixon’s life. It was a joy to read an uplifting blog of a man’s accomplishments and not have it weighed down by scandal and missteps.

A comment to the above blog also reminded readers, “We are all capable of good and bad and the bad does not invalidate the good!”

My husband Tom (retired military), and I talked at length about why our country has an insatiable desire for information about our leaders’ private lives. Everyone loves scandal. And, yes, when retired General Petraeus accepted the appointment to Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he became a public person. More public than he was as a four-star general.

All military and civilian retirees have restrictions that follow them into private life. The Federal Register dictates post-employment restrictions. These regulations have been incorporated into Title 18, U.S. Code 207. For example, active duty personnel of any rank do not have affairs. This act reputes the code of military justice. 

In Time magazine, Jan. 14, 2013, retired General Colin Powell writes of his recently-deceased friend, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, “Norm and I were fellow infantrymen, but we never served with each other until I became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Norm became head of Central Command. Command at the top can be lonely. Who can you blow off steam to? With whom can you share your deepest thoughts, hopes and anxieties? We did that for each other.”

I wonder, did retired General Petraeus have a confidant he could trust? Did he have someone who was an equal and understood the trials of being at the top?

With each step up the military ladder, isolation grows. Officers can spend more than thirty competitive and dangerous years passing through nine ranks before obtaining a fourth star.

How was Paula Broadwell selected to co-author Petraeus’ biography? Until I read an article in the Chicago Tribune, every account I’d read of the biography listed her as the author.

In fact, Vernon Loeb—a Washington Post editor—ghostwrote Paula Broadwell’s biography of Gen. David Petraeus. Loeb had been silent about the collaboration but, after the affair broke, he stepped forward. Loeb stated he had no responsibility for the tone of Petraeus’ biography and that Broadwell was free to make whatever revisions or modifications she desired to the text, and she did so liberally.

It’s easy to understand how David Petraeus found it easy to talk with Broadwell. Her background included studying military leadership; she was an officer in the army reserve; she did have some type of security clearance (perhaps not top secret as she claimed), and Petraeus and Broadwell became running companions.

Not everyone who runs together forms a relationship or even a friendship. For Petraeus, running was how he conducted a lot of his business. Most couldn’t keep up with his stride, but he’d met his match in Paula Broadwell.

It’s unfortunate retired General Petraeus had an affair. Not only did he break God’s law but he turned his back on military justice. It’s implied that a retired military service member will not disobey the Code of Military Justice.

With the above said, retired General David H. Petraeus remains my hero.

It’s unfortunate retired General Petraeus had an affair. Not only did he break God’s law but he turned his back on military justice. It’s implied that a retired military service member will not disobey the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

He had to resign from the Central Intelligence Agency, but for the sake of our country’s safety, I hope he’ll re-emerge soon within a military strategic think tank or some other similar position. He’s a brilliant military mastermind and our nation lost a wealth of information when he resigned from the CIA.

Retired General Peteras is one of the most experienced operators and thinkers on lethal drones for targeted killing. His experience of command in the Middle East and South Asia is without equal. IMO, our country needs the military intelligence and knowledge he’s gained in over ten years of academic study and twenty years on the battlefield.

With the above said, retired General David H. Petraeus remains my hero.


About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. gpcox says:

    Personally, I don’t care about a person’s personal life, but it does seem that our military heirarchy does not seem to have the code of honor they once had. (oops, forgot about Gen. Ike and his secretary during the war – guess things don’t change.)

    • If a military leader can lead his troops into a successful campaign, I’m all about saving as many soldiers as possible and getting the job done. General Petraeus is wearing a halo compared to the corruption and greed others are getting away with. Like you, I say leave the man and his family alone. IMO he has a brilliant military mind and the American public is willing to throw it out the window and what a loss that is.

      Thank you for stopping in to comment.

      • gpcox says:

        I enjoy your blog. I usually stay away from political or religious comment (to each his own), but then there are times I just want to open my fat mouth.

  2. Uzoma says:

    Hello dear friend. I have nominated your blog for some award. If you’d like to have them, here is the link


    Well, I should’ve posted this (above) a while ago…but had an emergency call. But everything is all right now. Thanks for being my friend.

  3. Denise Hisey says:

    Sheri, what a great post!
    We all make mistakes -those who are in the public eye run the risk of their mistakes being broadcast for all to see.
    I think our society has an unsatiable desire for scandal so we don’t have to look at our own shortcomings.
    If we followed the Bible’s command to stop focusing on the speck in someone else’s eye when we have a plank in our own, we’d have a kinder, gentler society!

    • Denise – I do believe you are right on. Considering the number of affairs in Washington, DC – Retired General Petraeus happens to be one brought to the attention of the media and they ran with it. They destroyed a man, a family and a brilliant career. Our nation lost a brilliant military mind, and we don’t have many of those to let go of, IMO.

  4. Your blog is both inspiring and informational. Please accept this Wonderful Team Member Readership Award. If you would like, display the award on your blog page, announce the award in a post linking back to the person who gave you the award and pass the award along to 14 other deserving bloggers.
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  5. Sheri, we must keep our heros tight to our chest, lest they become smeared with the craze for scandal. Some of the world’s greatest leaders were imperfect, had afffairs … Jefferson owned slaves … Kennedy swam in the Presidential pool with hookers … and poor Clinton got the brunt of the high tide of mean yellow journalism. I am torn about the morality of the issue … and I understand there is a strong code military leaders in particular must follow … but I am honestly sick and tired of hearing all the bad, the tantilizing gossip of what men and women do in their private life.

    I’m glad that regardless that he remains your hero 🙂

    • Florence – Thanks for bringing your thoughts to the table. It’s past time for a good cup of coffee and a scone (or something to place our teeth into that will require a chew) and talk about why the mean yellow journalism has reappeared and no one has a definition of journalistic integrity. The fact that General Petraeus has a brilliant military mind and he’s not afraid to speak up about the status quo meant someone was going to keep tabs on him. Of course, I have my opinion on that too. It’s written that President Obama appointed him to the CIA because he didn’t want to worry about Petraeus becoming a political rival.

  6. I enjoyed reading your post, Sheri, and what I get from it is:

    “We are all capable of good and bad and the bad does not invalidate the good!”

    • Patti – I also know that I’ve not been appointed by anyone to set judgement on another person. I know what is right and wrong for me, I have to live with myself. Thanks for stopping in and commenting. I value your opinion.

  7. An affair will not tarnish his record in my eyes either. Let’s stay focused on what really is important here, as you say.

  8. jbw0123 says:

    I respect your opinion too (like stuffitell above). No person is one thing, especially not someone as intelligent and complex as Petraeus. I am uneasy about how Petraeus’ legacy strategy is evolving. Counterinsurgency in Iraq seemed practical, given the failure of everything else, but the concept is making its into mainstream budgeting and I fear, opening a new avenue to bulk up the military. Some jobs are better left to the State Department and the Peace Corps. Even he had doubts about the value of counterinsurgency, at least he did when he wrote his dissertation in 1987. That aside, Petraeus is brilliant. Too bad his career wasn’t during the time of say, F.D.R. or John F. Kennedy, when dalliances were more or less kept out of the public eye.

    • Hi and thanks for stopping in. Yes, General Petraeus had doubts about counterinsurgency when he wrote his dissertation in 1987 but it was also an untested theory. Everyone in the think tanks and academia accepted counterinsurgency as a viable alternative in lieu of our massive failure in Vietnam. The military couldn’t risk such a massive failure again and Petraeus was one of the few that actually came up with a plan.

      I’m not content allowing the State Department or the Peace Corps do what the military is designed for. The State Department is controlled by politics and the Peace Corps isn’t guided or controlled by anyone. One of our primary problems at the current time is that we’ve allowed so much outsourcing in Iraq and Afghanistan, our military hasn’t been able to do the complete mission they were sent to do.

      I’d say we’re fortunate to have Retired General Petraeus in today’s world and not in years gone by when the media would have treated him kinder. The United States needs his gifted military mind, in my opinion, of course.

  9. So well written! (and I TOTALLY respect your opinion!)

  10. Jane Sadek says:

    I am so tired of scandal. I liked it better when our media kept their noses in the matter of business and politics (of the non-sexual sort). People are human beings all of them have frailties – especially where the libido is involved. Are we really better off knowing about JFK’s affairs or the liaison between Eisenhower and his female secretary, or Monica and Bill, or FDR’s infidelities? Are we? Has it helped this nation or our stature in the eyes of the world. In other nations there’s a gentleman’s agreement between the media and the heads of state to turn their eyes away from what a gentleman wouldn’t tell. I wish we had less “news” and more gentlemen!!

    • I so agree Jane. I’d like to turn on the news and here something important and now simply another scandal. The entire time I was reading about General Petraeus military career I was thinking about what I’d studied about President Eisenhower’s military career. General Eisenhower could have been put out of the military under the UCMJ if that had been done in ‘those days.’ Not only wasn’t it done, no one even talked about it.

  11. You know, I, too have wondered at the almost obsessive need our country has to examine the sex lives of our nation’s leaders. While I understand that public office often places you squarely in the public eye for scrutiny, I don’t understand what correlations they seem to find between sex and the ability to lead.
    The reality is, some of our best leaders have broken God’s law, though not man’s. All these affairs prove is that they’re fallible. It was David’s biggest flaw, was it not? And yet he was loved by God and led Israel during one of the most prosperous times, Biblically speaking. Do I condone affairs? No. Do I condemn the sinner? Not at all. That’s between him/her and the creator.
    I also believe that great military minds should be utilized in ways that help protect and defend our nation from all enemies. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kitt – Hello, it’s nice to see you here again. Some that I’ve discussed this issue with have said if a man or woman uses poor judgement (their phrase, not mine) in their own lives, then wouldn’t they use poor judgement when making important national decision. My take is that one really has nothing to do with the other. In studying Retired General Petraeus military record, it appears that he spent about 16 years in war zones (at a minimum). I’m not making excuses for what he did, he doesn’t need excuses. As far as I’m concerned it’s his business. Thank you for sharing your opinion with me.

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