Imagine you turn on the TV and you see the following. Two kind of skeevy looking elderly dudes, and their wives and mistresses. One the mistress of one outed the relationship between the other skeevy dude and his mistress. While someone was digging into that, they discovered the affair between skeevy dude number 2 and his mistress. Oh, and mistress number two has a crazy (as in: denied custody of her children by a judge because she was so crazy) twin sister.
Would you expect to see this on:
A) The Evening News
B) The Jerry Springer Show
If you answered "B" you would be wrong. This almost exactly what happened in the case of General Petraeus and General Allen. Except that instead of ruining a couple of lives and making them laughing stocks, a la Jerry Springer, this affair compromised National Security and (quite likely) cost thousands of good men and women their lives.
Now, a lot of pixels are being used, and ink being spilled, over this whole sordid affair. Most of it seems to be centering on whose "fault" it is. I have not seen very much spent at all on what effect this has had, and will have on the Intelligence and Military communities.
Perhaps most superficially, there is the PR nightmare. Both of these men were highly decorated, highly respected Generals. General Petraeus had been in President Obama's Cabinet since the beginning of his Administration, first over the Pentagon and then swapping with Leon Panetta to head the CIA. Prior to that, he'd been the author of the COIN "Surge" strategy which largely completed our mission in Iraq. General Allen was the head commander of our forces in Afghanistan, and was being considered for promotion. That these men are now embroiled in, as Gabe from Ace of Spades puts it, "a love Pentagon," makes this a terrible blow to the trust Americans place in military leadership.
More importantly, what practical effects did this have on Intelligence and Military operations? What things were missed because these men were getting some strange on the side? How many lives were lost because Gens. Petraeus and Allen were not paying attention to their duties? What cost was there to National Security? After all, a powerful man in an affair is a compromised man.
I think these things need investigation. And only one man can get to the bottom of it. Only one man in America has shown the ability to sort through this kind of back-and-forth recriminations.