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The Petraeus drama is a fascinating sideshow

THIS business of Gen. David Petraeus spending unseemly amounts of time with a woman reporters described as "one of his biographers' - then becoming director of the CIA only to be blown up by an FBI investigation of a ditzy socialite's complaint about threats from the paramour - well, it's all mesmerizing.

It turns out the FBI agent who sparked the investigation had sent a shirtless picture of himself to the socialite.

It turns out Marine Gen. John Allen, who drew the  task of handling operations in Afghanistan after the Obama administration ordered a drawdown against military advice, also corresponded with the socialite.

Petraeus and Allen also intervened in the custody battle of the socialite's twin sister.

In the same week, the four-star who was chief of the Africa command was removed and lost a star because of outrageous spending on behalf of his wife.

Good grief. The unraveling of all this will knock Lindsey Lohan off the front pages for months.

But as lurid as this brassy military drama is, it's a sideshow. Americans should not lose sight of the far larger drama taking place on the world stage - American loss of face.

The United States invaded Afghanistan after al-Qaida's attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Afghanistan, a failed state, had fallen into the clutches of Muslim fundamentalists, and was the base for those attacks.

A decade later, the Obama administration, disinterested in national security, decided to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Since then, Muslim fundamentalists have infiltrated Afghan units and killed 58 NATO troops, including 35 Americans, in more than 40 attacks. Afghanistan seems likely to revert to a fundamentalist base.

And on Sept. 11, 2012, a day after al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri urged Libyans to avenge the drone strike that killed his top lieutenant in Pakistan, an al-Qaida affiliate did just that in Benghazi.

It killed a distinguished ambassador who had helped Libyans create space for freedom and dignity. The U.S. government had repeatedly failed to respond to calls for increased security, and had no assets in the region to respond to the attack in Benghazi.

Will the United States be taken seriously in the Middle East? Will it have Arab allies?

Not if it stays on this course.

"We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier," Osama Bin Laden said in 1998.

A sideshow over generals is nothing compared to how the Obama administration responds to that charge.


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