Gen. Petraeaus’s ethical lapse

David Petraeus is allowing himself to be made into a partisan figure. That’s an ethical lapse of Constitutional proportions. Will any of his retired colleagues call him on it?

Whatever his virtues as a military leader &#8212 and they are said to be substantial &#8212 Gen. David Petraeus has badly violated what should be the professional ethic of a military under civilian control by allowing himself to be made into a partisan figure. He shouldn’t be giving an exclusive interview to Fox News, and he should act quickly to distance himself from the lunatic McArthurite fantasies being fostered by the editors of the New York Sun.

Manifestly, the White House-friendly views Petraeus has been pushing do not reflect any consensus among the top brass. They may not even reflect his own professional judgment, as opposed to his political strategy. The hidden significance behind the lack of the written “Petraeus report” the Bushies have been hyping for the past two months may well be that the general wasn’t willing to put his signature on the rah-rah document drafted for him by the White House spin team.

The people in the best position to call him on that fundamental error in judgment are retired senior military commanders. Any volunteers?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: