November 18, 2012

Sex and the Modern Soldier

The scandal unfolding at the top of America's most trusted institution sparks suspicion of problems beyond overactive libido.

By ROSA BROOKS Foreign Policy

(Continued from page 3)

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Paula Broadwell and Gen. David Petraeus.

Staff Photo Illustration/Michael Fisher

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Gen. John Allen and Jill Kelley.

Staff Photo Illustration/Michael Fisher

Since the 9/11 attacks, the military has become the most trusted institution in America.

Indeed, Americans have put the military on such a high pedestal that it's considered near sacrilege for civilians to offer any criticism of the military. But there's no guarantee that things will stay that way. It depends on the breadth and depth of the rot.

If the Petraeus-Broadwell-Kelley-Allen business appears to be an aberration, Americans will forgive and forget: after two decades of war, most people are willing to cut the military some slack.

But if last week's revelations turn out to be the tip of the iceberg -- if whistle-blowers, media probes and congressional investigations produce a rash of similar stories involving other senior military figures -- the public's patience may wear thin, fast.

Being America's most trusted institution won't help the military much then: We're more appalled by those who betray our trust than by the bad behavior of those we never trusted in the first place. Sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic clergy are a case in point.

The higher they are, the harder they fall.

Rosa Brooks is a law professor at Georgetown University and a fellow at the New America Foundation. She served as a counselor to the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a senior adviser at the U.S. State Department.

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