It has been well covered as to why retired Army General David Petraeus should not be appointed as Secretary of State based on his pleading guilty to mishandling classified information. After all, the GOP and others have been excoriating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the same thing for years. Either mishandling classified information disqualifies you from high office, or it doesn’t. However as well qualified as GEN(R) Petraeus is for a high Cabinet post, Secretary of State is the wrong place. The reason has nothing to do with his distinguished and decorated career as an Army Officer. The reason is that he was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from September 2011 through November 2012 when he resigned.
The Secretary of State’s primary mission is as the Chief Diplomat of the United States. For decades, the CIA has conducted numerous covert missions around the world. Some are small, others such as the Bay of Pigs invasion or fomenting the coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh have been major operations. Appointing a former CIA Director will undermine all negotiations with foreign leaders, especially those in the Middle East.
Two countries who we must deal with have every reason not to trust the former head of our intelligence agency to negotiate in good faith. Like it or not, agreement or not, we will as a nation have to have negotiations with Iran and Syria. As mentioned above, the CIA fomented a coup against the first democratically elected leader in Iran in 1953. Since the revolution in 1979 when 52 US Embassy staff were taken hostage for 444 days, the Iranian government has never trusted the CIA and assumes all Americans in Iran are members of the CIA’s Clandestine Services Branch. And truth be told, some are, but most aren’t. Given that even regular citizens of Iran, let alone the Iranian government don’t trust the CIA, why would they trust and negotiate with the former head of the CIA?
The other country where we desperately need to work with its recognized government is in Syria. President-Elect Trump has said he wants to work with Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. I personally support this alliance; a Secretary of State Petraeus may ruin this plan before it starts. For years, the United States has had the position under President Obama that any solution to the civil war in Syria must include the removal of Bashar al-Assad. The CIA has funneled weapons to Syrian Rebels, the CIA has trained Syrian Rebels. Some of this occurred under Director Petraeus’s tenure at the CIA. While al-Assad may be open to negotiations with the United States given that we have elected a new President, will he still be open to negotiations if the Chief Diplomat is a former CIA Director who funneled weapons to the very people trying to kill him?
Unfortunately, as qualified as Gen Petraeus may be for high office, his former position as Director of the CIA will only undermine, not increase, US diplomatic efforts that are sorely needed to solve the treat of Islamic Terrorism and Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East. If you include the fact that he has admitted to mishandling classified information which would mean Congress would have to change the law to allow him to serve, Gen Petraeus should not be appointed by President-Elect Trump for the position of Secretary of State.