November 23, 2012

Regarding the Nov. 13 editorial “The spymaster’s fall”:

Gen. David H. Petraeus was never a good choice for CIA director, and now President Obama has a chance to strengthen civilian oversight of the intelligence process. The president’s first choice for a national security adviser was a retired Marine general, and the last three intelligence czars have been retired general officers. All of these selections ignored the need for an independent civilian voice to counter the influence and worst-case analysis of military intelligence.

Mr. Petraeus was a particularly poor choice for the CIA because of his strong views on policy toward Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to his positions on counterterrorism. His stature in the administration and in the halls of Congress made it difficult to introduce strategic change to the intelligence community and increased the likelihood of tailoring intelligence to suit the interests of the military. 

President Harry S. Truman created the CIA 65 years ago to make sure that intelligence was free of bias from the policy process, particularly the military policy process. Mr. Obama should keep these interests in mind as he searches for a successor.

Melvin A. Goodman, Bethesda

The writer, a former CIA analyst, is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.

Regarding Michael Gerson’s Nov. 13 op-ed column, “An honorable man’s flaw”:

David H. Petraeus did not simply make an error of judgment in engaging in an illicit relationship with Paula Broadwell. Rather, his behavior resulted from a combination of hubris and the lack of commitment to remain faithful to his wife. 

So I don’t see it as what Mr. Gerson refers to as hamartia, the error of an honorable man, resulting in disproportionate misfortune. I see his behavior as a moral failure, “unacceptable, both as a husband and leader of an organization such as ours,” as Mr. Petraeus admitted.

Sadly, his misfortune is not disproportionate. It is deserved.

Robert C. Droege, Rockville