Four-star general enjoys five-star lifestyle

Claudine Zap
Claudine Zap
The Lookout

The scandal that caused four-star Gen. David Petraeus to step down as CIA chief has led to scrutiny of his swanky lifestyle.

A story in The Washington Post highlights the five-star treatment that four-star generals receive:

The commanders who lead the nation's military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.

The article goes on to assert that the perks enjoyed by the military's top brass are more lavish than those enjoyed by anyone else in government, except for the president.

[See a slideshow on who's who in the Petraeus scandal.]

The amenities of the office haven't gotten much attention or focus, as the top generals have been revered for fighting the country's wars. But the scandal has changed how Petraeus is viewed.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered the perks of office as one explanation for the general's lapse in judgment. He told The Washington Post, "There is something about a sense of entitlement and of having great power that skews people's judgment."

Thomas E. Ricks, author of "The Generals," agrees, telling the Post, "Being a four-star commander in a combat theater is like being a combination of Bill Gates and Jay-Z—with enormous firepower added."

Others argued that the perks make up for the stress of the position: overseeing a war for years, working 18-hour days, managing a massive budget, and ultimately being responsible for the lives of thousands of men and women under their command, while taking in a relatively modest salary compared to CEOs of multinational corporations.