THE RESIGNATION of David Petraeus as CIA director is a serious blow to the nation’s national security leadership, and it comes at an unfortunate moment. With the expected departure of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a possible reshuffling of senior officials at the National Security Council, President Obama could have benefited particularly from Mr. Petraeus’s knowledge and seasoning as he begins to grapple with second-term challenges in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. Mr. Petraeus understands those issues as well as any American, and his record of service as a military commander is without equal in his generation.
Given those facts, some have questioned whether Mr. Obama should have accepted Mr. Petraeus’s resignation. The CIA director was found to have committed no crime. Adultery, which he confessed to, is not uncommon, including presumably among his agency’s staff. However, in our view the president made the right call. Mr. Petraeus’s failing was not merely an illicit relationship; he recklessly used a Gmail account to send explicit messages and, as a result, was swept up in an FBI investigation of alleged cyberstalking. Such behavior would not be acceptable in the private sector, or in the military, as Mr. Petraeus recognized.