The Tragedy of General John Allen

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Air Force photo / Master Sgt. Michael O'Connor

General John Allen in Afghanistan.

Danny Klaidman of the now all-digital Newsweek says that’s what it is. The Marine four-star general, after getting good marks for his stewardship in Afghanistan, finds himself wounded by an I-Email-D just as he is slated to ascend to perhaps the most prestigious overseas posting in the U.S. military: Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and NATO’s top military officer.

It does sound Shakespearean. Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of Klaidman’s piece:


…Last November, just as he was winding down his tour in Afghanistan, Allen became embroiled in the sex scandal that led to the downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus. The news had broken while he was back in Washington awaiting Senate confirmation for his next assignment: Supreme Allied Commander Europe, known colloquially as SACEUR. Instead of a smooth transition to one of the military’s most prestigious posts, Allen had become the subject of a full-blown Washington media frenzy.


For most of his life, John Allen seemed like the pure essence of a Marine officer—honorable, virtuous, and brave. In his physical bearing, he looked like he’d walked off of a movie set: he was lean and hard, with serious eyes; his posture was always ramrod straight. Allen, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy, was marked early as a golden boy. In 1988 he won the Leftwich Trophy, the prestigious award that went to the officer deemed to have the most promise of living up to the Marine Corps’ ideals.


…If his track record in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and at the Naval Academy is any guide, he would probably have performed admirably in the role of Supreme Allied Commander Europe as well. Instead, his private emails became a public obsession. And now America has one less general willing to go on bearing the extraordinary burdens of war.

Full thing’s worth a read, here.