By now everyone has probably seen the coverage of Michael Flynn’s recent trial, in which the presiding judge, Emmet Sullivan, told Flynn he had “sold your country out” after he was found guilty of lying to the FBI about his dealing with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, according to a report from the USA Today. What punishment Flynn will eventually face when he is sentenced in March of 2019 is unclear — the judge has postponed sentencing to give Flynn enough time to finish cooperating with investigators. But what is certain is Flynn’s career is for all intents and purposes finished.
However, Flynn is hardly the first retired general or admiral to fall from grace once their time in service comes to a close. For some unknown reason, it seems the men and women who retired with stars have the same trouble adjusting to the civilian world as other service members. A perfect example is General David Petraeus. The former International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander and Central Intelligence Director was at one point much-loved throughout the country. But once news of his affair with his biographer broke, Petraeus was forced to leave government service, according to a report from CNN.
Other generals, like former Central Command (CENTCOM) chiefs Tommy Franks and Anthony Zinni, also faced criticism after their retirements. Franks, who had overseen CENTCOM during the initial operations in Afghanistan as well as the 2003 Invasion of Iraq came under fire after a charity he was associated with was lambasted for only giving a small portion of the funds collected to the intended recipients, reports the Washington Post. Zinni was slammed for his involvement with First Command, an insurance company that sold policies to service members using allegedly unscrupulous tactics, according to a report from the New York Times.
Still, others have remained out of the public light and scandal-free since their ETS date. Take for example retired General Stanley McChrystal, who famously commanded US forces in Afghanistan before a candid account of his comments regarding former Vice President Joe Biden were published in an article by Rolling Stone. The report derailed his career, but since his retirement, McChrystal has found success in private business. As head of the McChrystal Group, a business consulting firm, the former general now spends his time developing “the performance of organizations.” He also teaches a course at Yale.
Another solid example of post-career success is former Central Command commander Admiral William J. Fallon, who left the Navy in 2008. Since leaving the military, Fallon has sat on the board of directors of several companies and was a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Although his departure was similar to McChrystal’s, Fallon has enjoyed his time out of uniform, and more recently gave a lecture about cybersecurity at USC Aiken, according to WRDW.
Despite the scandals, accusations, etc., that military leaders endure during their tenure, many now lead relatively quiet and successful lives outside of the service. Which path is the right one? I’m not sure I can say. However, it seems those who stay clear of politics often fare better than those who don’t.