Retired Gen. David Petraeus probably wants to be remembered for his service as the country’s top military commander. Unfortunately, when most Americans hear his name, the word “scandal” is likely to follow. Petraeus made headlines in 2012 when sources revealed he had an affair with journalist Paula Broadwell. He resigned as CIA Director amid the public disgrace. Tuesday morning, he had the chance to apologize for his behavior in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he took full advantage of it:
"Four years ago, I made a serious mistake," he said. "There is nothing I can to do to undo what I did. I can only say again how sorry I am to those I let down, and then strive to go forward with a greater sense of humility and purpose, and with gratitude to those who stood with me during a very difficult chapter in my life."
The consequences of Petraeus’s affair with Broadwell weren’t limited to their marriages. The former general shared classified material with the journalist, threatening national security and forcing him to face two years of federal probation and a $100,000 fine. Some have argued that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could face the same penalty after her own mishandling of highly sensitive information, especially since Petraeus's prosecutor is now on her trail.
When Petraeus finished humbling himself over his misdeeds, the Senate Committee hearing turned from personal to professional as the general offered his thoughts on the turmoil in the Middle East. He was especially critical of President Obama’s “inaction” in Iraq and Syria and offered his own advice as to how best to respond to the current refugee crisis:
“Sunni Arabs will not be willing partners against the Islamic State unless we commit to protect them and the broader Syrian population against all enemies, not just ISIS,” he said. “We could, for example, tell Assad that the use of barrel bombs must end — and that if they continue, we will stop the Syrian air force from flying. We have that capability.”
Petraeus also urged for an increase in US support for Iraqi Security Forces and for U.S. advisers to have more of a presence in the country.