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Why infidelity in public service matters

In all the back-and-forth over whether former CIA director David H. Petraeus’s extramarital affair [letters, Nov. 18] was, or should have been, cause for his resignation, there is one point that I have not seen addressed. Surely, a man with the general’s long years of experience and close contact with the Washington political scene must be aware of how many men before him suffered public humiliation and career downfalls as a result of their ill-considered dalliances: Bill Clinton, John Edwards and Gary Hart, to name just three. The map is marked very clearly: Here be dragons.

In the face of all that, Mr. Petraeus plunged ahead, consequences be damned. That might be excusable if he were flouting convention for a worthy cause, but in this case, it seemed merely the triumph of ego and lust over good judgment. That is cause to question his fitness to hold the powerful and sensitive job with which he was entrusted.

Nancy McGuire, Silver Spring

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Regarding Rebecca Sinclair’s Nov. 16 op-ed piece,  “When the strains of war lead to infidelity”:

Ms. Sinclair, the wife of Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, raised valid issues about the strains on a marriage extended wars can bring but her op-ed quickly turned into a self-serving defense of the various charges against her husband, which include forcible sodomy, adultery, fraternization and possession of pornography in violation of a lawful order.

Ms. Sinclair acknowledged her husband’s infidelity with one woman but failed to say that a number of women have accused her husband of inappropriate, and in some cases, coerced sexual acts. She also failed to address the fact that some, if not all, of the women were under her husband’s command which makes the alleged misconduct not just a matter between her and her husband but also the Army. Can a subordinate under the command of a senior officer, such as Gen. Sinclair, truly make a free choice to engage in an inappropriate adulterous relationship?

I feel for Ms. Sinclair. She faces the reality that her husband might go to prison or be dismissed from the Army. If he is dismissed, she and her family will be affected greatly by the loss of medical coverage, exchange and commissary privileges, and her husband’s pension. But whatever stark reality may come, no one should be swayed by Ms. Sinclair’s self-serving opinion piece.

Ariel E. Axelrod, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The writer is a lieutenant colonel in the Army. The views expressed are his own.

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