Your Thoughts Petraeus

I really don’t have much to say about the Petraeus resignation and scandal, except a few observations.
First, a hint to public officials everywhere: if she’d (or he’d) be out of your league if you were a civvy and both of you were in a bar, then leave it alone. Go home, jerk off and forget her. You’re sixty and not particularly good looking, how long did you think it would last? And you’re forty and a starry-eyed biographer. How long did YOU think it would last?
Next, Andy Borowitz had the best take on the “conspiracy” angle, by pointing out that Petraeus began the affair over a year ago, so clearly he intended to use it to distract from the Benghazi story. Petraeus can still be called as a witness in the House hearings and worse for the Obama administration, can’t hide behind executive privilege or national security any longer.
Third, it’s pretty sad that a man of such accomplishment and a woman of such accomplishment have created such a roadblock for themselves. I’m not going to point fingers: the second the tango began, both of them were to blame and who’s to say when the music started?
My real sympathy goes out to the spouses of the couple in question, of course, but I save my deepest symapthies for Jill Kelly, the woman who triggered this whole mess — not incorrectly — by complaining about threatening anonymous e-mails. She gets implicated in so many ways here and I expect this will have repercussions for an apparently (there’s one implication right there) uninvolved person. Think about it: she is suspected by folks of being the “other” other woman, her actions disgraced Petraeus (*ahem* No, but people will think that), her name gets dragged out through trials and investigations and she’ll now have to lawyer up for what? For being the recipient of some really nasty e-mails.
Finally, I wish we’d all grow up a little and learn that power begets sex. This is an unspoken deal that politicians and their families make going in, and if you think they do not, then they’re being naive and not paying attention. While the smart ones manage to stay away from it all, to ask anyone to betray their sex drive is like asking them to stop eating.

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  • Doesn’t our FBI have enough to do, what with running around looking for nitwits to whom they can sell Play-Doh and who can then be dramatically charged in a fomented plot to “deploy weapons of mass destruction” hither and yon? Or find a guy who is shopping at too many hair salons and who can be charged with plotting to blow up the New York Subway system using hair spray?

    Now when a woman comes to them with emails where a jealous woman is telling her to “stay away from my man,” they launch a massive investigation which uncovers, amazingly enough, adultery?

    I do believe our FBI may be a bit overstaffed.

    • Yes. I mean imagine how this whole thing should have played out.

      First the power players as you say know going in that power attracts sexually and that all this has to be sorted out ahead of time. Both partners would get it that sex is well down on the list of what makes their relationship tick.

      Second the political system and the media system would not care about personal stuff. Kinda like France.

      So then when someone gets threatening emails the FBI does the grown-up thing and tells the principals to knock it off.

      End of story.

      • It’s a wonderful narrative, but it doesn’t have much in common with real world security in intelligence organizations.

        Firstly, any FBI National Security guy worth anything would love to blade CIA, good for the resume, good for promotion – hell, if you’re a G-man, you probably think it’s good for your eternal soul.

        Secondly, when someone does something thought out of character like this, the reflexive should always be whether they’ve started acting out of character in other ways as well, and what the implications might be for information security.

        We’re working through the trial of the biggest traitor we’ve had in decades up here, pretty significant amount of damage done. Guy went over as a walk-in. Motivation: his wife cheated on him. Does selling out branch to get back at your wife in some bizarre way make sense? No. But concealed sex stuff matters and it always gets poked at.

          • @JustPlainDave (Can’t reply anymore so have to resort to alternate blog reply mechanism)

            When I stated for the record to my doctor that I was getting swept up in this Petraeus stuff, she broadly prescribed a relaxing outing to a baseball game.

            But I replied to her that “Sweeping statements are, by definition, so broad as to be a poor basis for prescription.”

  • I agree with your assessment. Power can be an aphrodisiac, but propinquity can also lead to love affairs. How many years in his marriage has Petraeus been stationed abroad? As a four star general, it wouldn’t take much to add an attractive woman to his entourage as a traveling biographer. Next thing you know, two people can’t resist entering into a sexual relationship, even if they know it is not “meaningful” or intended to last a long time, and even if it clearly jeopardizes their careers and his public image if anyone discovered the truth.

    I don’t know if we have enough information about Jill Kelly or the threatening emails to make any judgments about what happened. Delving further into a personal mess like this is unsavory if there are no identifiable breaches of national security; it’s the sort of thing only a Republican with a fetish for stained blue dresses would enjoy. If it looks like this is just a personal tragedy affecting four married people, and if Petraeus has already paid a high personal price by resigning, can’t we the public drop the whole thing?

  • Yes … to ask anyone to betray their sex drive is like asking them to stop eating.

    Now you understand how cruel it is to brand girls and women as sluts for merely enjoying their sex drive which is, as you suggest, the same as telling them to stop eating.

    • As with obesity and noting someone is fat, where is the line before someone can be called a slut?

      Over the course of my life, I’ve slept with dozens…I’m being modest here…of women. I am a slut, and acknowledge it, but then I was also faithfully married for close to twenty years and in committed relationships for another ten or so.

      So…slut? No? Does the same logic hold for Broadwell if a cursory examination of her past (which I would oppose)…reveals she a repeat offender? And what about Bill Clinton? Slut or no?

      • In a post about Petraeus, a married man, you make the following statement: To ask anyone to betray their sex drive is like asking them to stop eating, then you insinuate that because Broadfoot, his lover, is married she is a slut.

        You throw in the totally unrelated topic of obesity, resurrect Bill Clinton, and brag about your own sexual prowess to prove exactly what?

        It is disingenuous, to say the least. You know damn well that the word slut is used by our society to refer exclusively to so-called “immoral” women. Even all the dictionaries say so.

        12 Year-old girls are called sluts. I myself have been called a slut at age 21 for innocently flirting, while unmarried, with a couple of boys on a beach.

        The smell of hypocrisy in your comment is overwhelming.

        What does it feel like, Actor, to be an oppressor?

  • Joshua Foust nails it, for me. I suspect JPD’s mileage will vary significantly.

    General Petreaus made the cover of Newsweek three times – more than the commander of all forces in Iraq. But in the course of this relatively minor task, he managed to flood the country with weapons he never accounted for. Incidentally, the training mission never really worked. It had to be revamped, and still took the Iraqi civil war to settle tensions enough for policymakers to envision turning the whole thing over to the Iraqis.

    After the Iraq civil war in 2006, Petraeus took credit for operating the troop Surge. This was during the Awakening movement, where local Iraqi villagers grew tired of the predations of al Qaeda militants and took arms against them. While Petraeus certainly deserves credit for recognizing this uprising and successfully exploiting it, the ebullient praise that he “won” the war in Iraq lavished on him is just not true – especially when we consider the (shockingly violent) Iraq of today.

    The real tragedy of David Petraeus resignation is that he didn’t retire over these and other failures. The salacious details of how he was discovered – Broadwell turns out to be a jealous type, and her target somehow got the FBI to investigate the lovers’ quarrel – should not matter unless there was criminal wrongdoing or if Petraeus broke an oath that would make him vulnerable (such as not disclosing his affair).

    Rather, General Petraeus had a reputation his record simply could not support. It would be difficult to say Iraq was noticeably improved by his presence – certainly before 2006, but also during the Surge (which produced only a temporary cessation in the incredible violence). At CENTCOM (United States Central Command, where he was Director from 2008-2010), he oversaw the expansion of the war in Afghanistan, which has been a humiliating disaster. Additionally, his protégé, Stanley McChrystal, made a mockery of civil-military relations and was summarily fired. As ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) commander, Petraeus oversaw a dramatic rise in violence in Afghanistan, the adoption of “night raids” and a complete breakdown of relations between Kabul and Washington. And at the CIA, he has pushed the final transformation of an agency known more for its human element into a paramilitary engine of assassination – leaving a huge gaping hole where the country’s human intelligence capabilities used to be.

    This is not a man who should be drummed out of office for having an affair. He should have been drummed out of office for not living up to his own legend. David Petraeus is a paper tiger: his personality cult looks impressive until you get close enough, and then the whole façade crumbles away.

    Lost in the Petraeus affair is a very simple question: do we want a man who judged his subordinates’ intellectual capacity by how well they can hold a six-minute mile on his morning run to lead our premier intelligence agency? It was Petraeus’ lack of intellectual integrity and incredible narcissism that should prompt us to reevaluate his legacy, not who he chose to sleep with.

    • Not at all. I don’t have any problem with Josh’s piece – it actually bears some resemblance to actual on the ground reality. Hastings’ piece was frankly a blender full of sensationalist, outrage as entertainment, please buy my book, low thought, zero insight, crap. It sounds good to those who don’t know how complicated the reality of it was.

      Over-simplification is frankly just another indicator that it’s infotainment not news. Just like the implicit notion being sold in much of the critique – if only it weren’t Petraeus, apparently it would be all better. Hooey – it only it were that simple.

    • That Foust can read the winds and ride them. He’s a truly skilled apparatchik. Two days ago he was publicly talking about the sad end to the career of a “storied general” and now he’s all, “Yeah, I never thought he was all that great.”

      I seriously don’t see what so many liberal bloggers see in the guy. Sure, he does a pretty good job of presenting standard imperial schlock in a kinder, gentler, more intellectual manner. I guess that’s good enough. Both he and his support in the liberal blogging community speak volumes to what’s wrong with and passes for foreign policy thinking among liberals in general. Yes to empire just so long as we can make its policies sound like they’re being implemented for the good of the planet. Yes to fawning over the military, but with careful criticism that’s not too critical. Etc.

      It’s becoming a handy barometer for me: the higher a writer values Foust’s opinion, the more quickly i can discount the writer’s opinion.

  • Paula Broadwell and I clashed a few years ago when, in the course of shadowing Petraeus for her biography (which is also the topic of her dissertation, and on whose dissertation committee Petraeus sits), she wrote glowingly of a decision,  to demolish several Afghan villages in Kandahar province, approved by Petraeus himself. It was adehumanizing, disgusting effort, one she bragged came straight from the General himself.

    I thought Broadwell sounded familiar. Blech.

    • There are many angles to this story. The one you bring up is related to the fact that the attraction many women feel toward powerful men is socially constructed.

      Personal involvement with a dominant master is like an elixir for the subservient class.

      It can temporarily blind them to their otherwise genuine feelings of empathy toward the disadvantaged.

        • I’m with you adrena. Broadwell will be the one who pays for this in terms of career and legacy. And look how the military-intelligence sycophants are already framing it. She’s just a hanger-on slut who writes glowingly of flattening villages. I never liked that bitch anyhow.

          Now watch the liberal commentariat ride that wave. There won’t be serious questioning of Petraeus’s theories that didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being implemented by the modern US military, or his actual record in Iraq or Afghanistan, or his potential offenses. There will be a backing off from the media myth of Petraeus until such time as Broadwell gets the lion’s share of the negative press, and then Dave will get rehabilitated for his fantastic theories and turning outright catastrophe in Iraq to mere defeat characterized by vicious, sectarian civil war.

          • Actually, the MI folks I’ve observed (at least on Twitter) are using the controversy as a platform to launch the latest missive in the ongoing COIN vs. CT wonk war. Foust has beef going back nearly two years with Broadwell over her glib delight in response to Petraeus’ apparent collective punishment policies in Afghanistan. Overall, CT partisans (like Foust) smell serious blood in the COIN camp and are going after Petraeus (and the many obsequious partisans in the national press and foreign policy establishment who enabled his ascent in exchange for access and/or influence).

  • John Reed:

    In light of the Gmail-related scandal involving former CIA chief David Petraeus, one has to wonder if, given the relative ease by which an intelligence agency — or just about anybody — can break into a private email account, government officials entrusted with the nation’s most sensitive information should be allowed to keep personal email accounts while in office?

    True, Petraeus’ email was never actually broken into or hacked by the FBI. Agents gained access to his naughty notes by monitoring Paula Broadwell’s email and then asking Broadwell if she was having an affair with Petraeus. She fessed up and gave them access to her computer and with it, even more of his emails. Nevertheless, the very revelation that our nation’s top spy used at least one relatively unsecure Gmail account has prompted people to raise the above question.

    I recall being surprised over the years when at least one of Petraeus’ predecessors would reply to my emails from a gasp, AOL email account (I can’t remember what email provider other former CIA directors used, but they were equally pedestrian). It just seems a little odd that these people with access to incredible secrets use the same email services the rest of us do. (Don’t you just expect former spy chiefs to use some tricked out, semi-creepy, super-secret email? Maybe that’s just me.)

    If hacked, these emails could reveal plenty about the personal lives of their owners.  Hackers probably wouldn’t find state secrets, but they could find plenty of personal information — travel plans, info about friends and family, online purchases, bank accounts, the list goes on and on. As Google knows for business purposes, a look at someone’s email can paint a pretty valuable picture of who they are. Google uses this information to sell ads tailored to your interests. You can imagine what spies would do with it.

    (h/t TAFNA Praktite)

  • Scott Lemieux:

    Apparently, there was nothing in Broadwell’s initial emails that comes remotely close to illegal threats or harassment. As far as I can tell, there’s absolutely nothing here that justifies an ongoing investigation that involves combing through people’s email with the inevitable leaks to the press. Whether or not it was the result of partisan motivations, it’s outrageous that this investigation didn’t die after Broadwell’s emails to Kelley revealed no illegal threats.   And if “potentially” “inappropriate” behavior justifies extensive looks into people’s private communications, we might as well just pass a constitutional amendment doing away with that obsolete Fourth one.

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