Home > politics > Time for return to civilian CIA leadership

Time for return to civilian CIA leadership

Now that both David Petraeus and John Allen are scandalised, perhaps it’s time to consider returning the CIA to civilian leadership — a subject Esquire discussed back in 2011 when he was appointed.

George W. Bush broke the longstanding tradition — thirty years’ worth, anyway — of civilian control with his 2006 appointment of Air Force general Michael Hayden. Now, after briefly handing the reins back to a civilian (Panetta), Obama has given them to a four-star general in active service. And so the man who won the White House in large part for being the anti-Bush is, in a sense, embracing the Bush way. There are many excellent reasons for keeping control of at least one wing of national security in civilian hands, but they all boil down to this: doing so helps separate knowledge from action. Military leaders, being human, tend to favor military solutions to security problems. Given the enormous dangers of warfare (to life, to democratic values, to national finances), it is vital that war is seen as a last resort, not one of a standard set of responses. That view is threatened by Petraeus’s new command.

This would be a neat move by Obama and the scandal could even be seen as a lucky break. As Esquire discussed, the president appointed Petraeus as a sop to Republicans — to compensate for the appointment of Leon Panetta, a “Clinton liberal”, to defense.

Now that Petraeus and his successor are disgraced, Obama could easily get away with appointing an outsider to clean up the mess.

As for the scandal itself, it’s extraordinary what men in power get up to — and the crazy women they choose to get up to it with.

To summarise, this all came to light because Petraeus’s mistress Paul Broadwell was sending anonymous and threatening emails to some woman called Jill Kelley, who was the mistress of Petraeus’s successor, John Allen. It’s unclear how they came to know each other. Kelley then got the FBI to investigate the emails, and all we know about the guy leading that investigation is that he sent shirtless photos of himself to her.

The mind boggles. How do these people have time to do their jobs? (Probably because they aren’t blogging.)

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