On foreign policy and national security, President Obama’s first news conference knocked down conspiracy theories and scandal-mongering over the David Petraeus affair, raised a glimmer of hope on talks with Iran, and—thankfully—refused, so far at least, to join France in recognizing the cobbled-together Syrian opposition bloc as a government-in-exile.
The Petraeus affair—and that, apparently, is all it was, namely, an affair—didn’t compromise national security, it seems, though Obama shifted responsibility for the mess to the FBI, and quite properly. Said Obama, according to a rush transcript compiled by The New York Times:
I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security. Obviously, there’s an ongoing investigation. I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the investigation. The FBI has its own protocols in terms of how they proceed. And you know, I’m going to let Director Mueller and others examine those protocols and make some statements to the public generally.
The absurd, salacious details involved in the scandal that forced Petraeus to resign as director of the CIA and supposedly “engulfed” General Allen, the US commander in Afghanistan, are simply not relevant to national security. The news, especially cable news, is obsessed with the story, hashing and rehashing—and re-rehashing—the story of two women and two generals. But rather than worry about whether Chinese or Russian intelligence might have been able to blackmail Petraeus if they’d found out about his affair—and that’s a ridiculous idea—it’s more appropriate to ask if the FBI overstepped its bounds by diving so enthusiastically into a simple case of cyberstalking. Personally, I don’t care if Petraeus, Allen and even Wolf Blitzer have affairs.
I’m no fan of Petraeus, the hawk who pushed two surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I’m with Obama when he said on Wednesday: “And my main hope right now is—is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.” If I never hear the name Paula Broadwell again, it will be too soon.
Meanwhile, when he was asked, “On Iran, are you preparing a final diplomatic push here to resolve the nuclear program issue, and are we headed toward one-one- one talks?” Obama said this:
With respect to Iran, I very much want to see a diplomatic resolution to the problem. I was very clear before the campaign, I was clear during the campaign and I’m now clear after the campaign—we’re not going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon. But I think there is still a window of time for us to resolve this diplomatically. We’ve imposed the toughest sanctions in history. It is having an impact on Iran’s economy.