For many years, General David Petraeus was the public face of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was seen as a battle-hardened veteran, a four-star general who enjoyed what many called a “storied career.” Thirty-six year Marine Corps veteran General John Allen has a similarly illustrious career and was awaiting confirmation on his nomination to become Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Both of these warriors were seen as men of honor.
This image has been crushed: first by the admittance of General Petraeus to an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell which has now wrecked his career and could destroy a 37-year marriage; then by the voluminous email exchanges, now being scrutinized for wrongdoing, between General Allen and what the media is labeling as Broadwell’s archrival, Jill Kelley.
We now find ourselves standing in the glow of a giant media spotlight that is turning this story into juicy soap opera. Political pundits are raising reasonable suspicion that all this is merely a smokescreen to take attention off the Benghazi attack which left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and a lot of unanswered questions. Others still are raising national security concerns over whether or not General Petraeus shared classified information with his paramour.
While these are valid concerns, there are others that those shining the spotlight have conveniently overlooked.Thankfully there are many who question the morality of Paula Broadwell, a married woman and mother of two, being “embedded with the troops” which set the stage for this particular scandal. Sexual scandals, however, be they consensual or by way of assault and harassment, are lamentably becoming all too common in our modern military.
According to the Army’s own “Gold Book,” a report on wartime personnel stress made public by the Center for Military Readiness, sexual assaults have increased in all branches by 22 percent since 2007 and violent rape has doubled since 2006. This should naturally lead a person to recognize the obvious pitfalls of a mixed Armed Forces and the now hotly contested issue of women in combat. This is a blatant denial of man’s human frailty, a consequence of our fallen nature. Whereas we should be praying with renewed fervor for God to “lead us not into temptation,” we turn a blind eye towards the wrecking ball of social experimentation wreaking havoc on our military. One sad consequence is the disgrace which Mrs. Petraeus, Mrs. Allen and their families now have to endure.
A similar question has yet to be raised with the case of General Allen. There was mention early on that he could stand trial for adultery which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This manual, the foundation for military law in the United States, also holds sodomy to be a crime, yet during the debates concerning repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” this manual was never mentioned. The so-called upholders of morality were initially holding Gen Allen’s feet to the fire for what, thankfully, is still considered unacceptable behavior (adultery), yet they gushingly embrace the unnatural vice of sodomy. Homosexuals are allowed to live side by side with the men of honor who still exist in our military. They are allowed to make a political statement–stringently denied other servicemen—by marching in homosexual parades in uniform. They kiss their same-sex lovers upon returning from oversees, and these flagrant violations against the UCMJ and basic morality are never mentioned.
The biggest concern however is the deleterious effect such scandals have on Americans who yearn to see men of honor. There are many people, for example, who consider General John Allen to be a man of impeccable character. John Ullyot who served with him said he “was known as a warrior monk.” Is this a mere chimera?
In a society which appreciates the value of honor, appropriate actions would have to been taken, but any disgrace would be kept discreet, not continually aired for all to see like the proverbial “dirty laundry.”
At the writing of this article, General Allen has forcefully denied inappropriate behavior. We pray this is the case, but even if he is totally exonerated of wrong doing, his career just might be over. Worse yet, his image as a man of honor is irreparably smeared and there will be no New York Times’ article to sufficiently repair the damage done to him and those who loved what he represented, even if he is proven innocent. Those who had looked upon him with pride are left to pick up the pieces of the marvelous dream he embodied and hold their breath for fear that others might suddenly meet the same fate. Can a nation continue to exist without such dreams?
Those in search of dreams and those who destroy them are much like the sons of Noah who survived God’s punishing deluge. The noble prophet had unintentionally become intoxicated with wine and was reduced to a state of disorientation. Scripture describe how two of his sons preserved their father’s dignity by walking backwards with a cloak to cover his nakedness. Such was their appreciation for what their father represented. The other son took an entirely different attitude, laughed at his father’s drunken state and was subsequently cursed.
One cannot help but see a parallel to the scandals that are unfolding before us. While we cannot compare the central figures in this drama to a man of Noah’s stature, we can identify the two opposing attitudes of his sons with two types of Americans and how they see our military. There are those who love the military and cannot help but admire its member’s daily sacrifices and heroic service. They recognize that we sleep comfortably at night because our brave servicemen faithfully stand watch. There are others, however, who seem to take joy in finding examples of dishonor and deserve the same punishment meted out to the bad son of Noah.
The Ship of Honor
This all leads an admirer of honor to wonder if the institution of the military has not suffered the same fate as the Titanic which sank 100 years ago. Has the proverbial ship of honor sunk?
There is a very beautiful legend famous among the people of Brittany in France called la Cathedrale Engloutie (“The Submerged Cathedral”). It speaks of an old city that was submerged by a mysterious cataclysm in the Atlantic Ocean, not too far off the coast of Europe. On certain nights when the moon is full and the tide is low, one can see the majestic steeple of the town Cathedral among the waves. From time to time, it is said, angels ring the cathedral’s bells at the bottom of the sea. Those beautiful sounds then rise all the way to the surface, allowing fishermen going by, on a calm evening with a tranquil sea, to hear them. Those same fishermen say that one day the cathedral will return to dry land even more beautiful, as it has been kept unscathed under the waves.
While this is only a story, we could say this legend describes our beloved military which sometimes appears to be like a sunken ship of honor. Those who love honor in our day also experience moments like the calm evening on a tranquil sea. They know that this ship of Honor will also return to dry land even more beautiful because it also remains unscathed under the waves.
We can hear the “bells of honor” in men like Marine Corps Colonel John Ripley, Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. They allow us to hear the bells of honor because they kept their honor clean.