men are promiscuous, women reproduce (with) the powerful
...but that's old story, not the story!

In an bellicose age, military leaders come on top.  At first, that is.  Yet that can last awhile in a place like the US where Petreus goes against Obama's instincts with the Surge, fails, and then is appointed head of the CIA.  I include below Maureen Dowd's account of the love/fall-story of the generalissimo.   

As Lyndon Johnson said, the two things that make leaders stupid are envy and sex.
Macbeth kills a king out of envy. Egged on by an envious Iago, Othello smothers his wife out of a crazed fear of her having sex with his lieutenant.
Now another charismatic general has shattered his life and career over sex. When you’ve got a name like a Greek hero, and a nickname like a luscious fruit, isn’t hubris ripe to follow?
It’s been a steep fall for Peaches Petraeus, once the darling of Congress and journalists, Republicans and Democrats, Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley.
Washington is suffused with schadenfreude. Yet President Obama and others felt genuinely sad to see a man so controlling about integrity and image — he warned protégés that “someone is always watching” — spin out of control on integrity and image. As Shakespeare wrote in “Othello”: “Reputation, reputation, reputation.”
As a West Point cadet, David Petraeus clambered up the social ladder by winning the superintendent’s daughter; now he has been brought down by his camp followers clambering up the social ladder.
Even when he was the C.I.A. director, Petraeus’s ego was so wrapped up in being a shiny military idol that, according to The Washington Post, he recently surprised guests at a D.C. dinner when he arrived to speak wearing his medals on the lapel of his suit jacket.
His fall started as Sophocles and turned sophomoric, a mind-boggling mélange of “From Here to Eternity,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “The Real Housewives of Centcom,” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” It features toned arms, slinky outfits, a cat fight, titillating e-mails, a military more consumed with sex than violence, a plot with more inconceivable twists than “Homeland,” and a Twitter’s-delight lexicon: an “embedded” mistress named Broadwell, a biography called “All In,” an other-other woman of Middle East ancestry who was a “social liaison” to the military, a shirtless F.B.I. agent crushing on the losing-her-shirt-to-debt Tampa socialite, a pair of generals helping the socialite’s twin sister with a custody case, and lawyers and crisis-management experts linked to Monica Lewinsky, John Edwards and the ABC show “Scandal.”
“This is The National Enquirer, ” an alarmed Senator Dianne Feinstein told Wolf Blitzer of CNN. If only it were that highbrow. Now that erotic activity is entwined with the Internet, rather than closeted in hideaway Capitol offices and Oval Office pantries, it’s even more likely to be a trip wire for history.
It is disturbing that an ethically sketchy, politically motivated F.B.I. agent could spark an incendiary federal investigation tunneling into private lives to help a woman he liked and later blow it up to hurt a president he didn’t like.
It’s also worrisome that the nation’s spymaster — who had presided in a military where adultery could result in court-martial — could not have found a more clandestine manner of talking naughty to his biographer babe than a Gmail drop box, a semiprivate file-sharing system used by terrorists, teenagers and authors.
It’s understandable that men accustomed to being away from their families and cloistered with other men in Muslim countries where drinking and blowing off steam are frowned upon might get used to cavorting on e-mail.
But Petraeus should have realized that the Chinese and Russians were snooping and sent Paula Broadwell an Enigma e-mail: “I would like your insights into the debate over COIN versus CT in Helmand Province. Our HVT kills are falling a little short of the mark. Let’s discuss.”
And Broadwell could have sent ones more like: “I’ve been reading Chapter 3 notes and the Galula theory of counterinsurgency confuses me. Hope you can clarify.”
The scandal is a good reminder that, although John McCain and Sarah Palin urge total trust and blank checks for the generals, these guys are human beings working under extremely stressful circumstances, and their judgments are not beyond reproach.
Petraeus’s Icarus flight began when he set himself above President Obama.
Accustomed to being a demigod, expert at polishing his own celebrity and swaying public opinion, Petraeus did not accept the new president’s desire to head for the nearest exit ramp on Afghanistan in 2009. The general began lobbying for a surge in private sessions with reporters and undercutting the president, who was trying to make a searingly hard call.
Petraeus rolled the younger commander in chief into going ahead with a bound-to-fail surge in Afghanistan, just as, half a century earlier, the C.I.A. had rolled Jack Kennedy into going ahead with the bound-to-fail Bay of Pigs scheme. Both missions defied logic, but the untested presidents put aside their own doubts and instincts, caving to experience.
Once in Afghanistan, Petraeus welcomed prominent conservative hawks from Washington think tanks. As Greg Jaffe wrote in The Washington Post, they were “given permanent office space at his headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.”
So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal.    

The ReaderWave has it:

Look on the bright side. Finally, even people who don't belong to the ACLU are concerned about our intrusive spy state. If the Spook-in-Chief can have his privacy invaded. so can anyone. Even congress critters. Even presidents.

Now is as good a time as any to rethink the massive Homeland Security/spy state/military shadow government, an entity so monstrous that nobody is actually in charge of it. Let's repeal the Patriot Act. Let the Pentagon budget plummet over the fiscal cliff.

I spent most of my adult life in the same town where Peaches grew up. In recent years, Cornwall on the Hudson had begun to insidiously morph into Petraeusville. Hail-the-conquering-hero parades. Petraeus picnics. Petraeus posing with starry-eyed mentees. The presentation of custom-upholstered Petraeus memorial chairs to the public library.

Then there was the dreadful day when they renamed part of the main drag after the hometown hero. What used to be Quaker Avenue (because it meandered past the historic Friends' Meeting House) is now David Petraeus Drive. Peace was exchanged for war. The centuries-old Quakers in the cemetery next door must have been spinning in their graves.

If they will now un-rename it, I don't know. The locals are still in a state of stunned disbelief. But the meeting house motto still stands: "We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world."

Mary Scott

No matter the scandal, there's always someone like the FBI agent ready to wrap it around the president's neck.

But the big picture here is, of course, the war in Afghanistan. You are right to remind us, Ms. Dowd, that the scandal here is those "killed and maimed in a war that went on too long." Just tragic.

Rima Regas
Mission Viejo, CA

I'm glad you're not mincing your words on this, either, Maureen.

I will go a bit further. This isn't just about reputations anymore. Petraeus, Allen and who else? Is this how our top military brass operates?

Today, I read that letters written by Generals Petraeus and Allen were presented in a legal custody battle having to do with Ms. Kelley's sister. Another curious news item popped up. Ms. Kelley, apparently called 911, asking to have people removed from her front lawn, and claiming "diplomatic inviolability," (sic). Craziness aside, it turns out this woman may have been given the title of honorary consul. By whom? Why? Why does a general who is managing a war have the time to send thousands of emails?

I'm glad Senator Feinstein reiterated that General Petraeus will testify in front of her committee regardless of his employment status. I hope she summons Allen, too.

Whoever takes over as secretaries of Defense and CIA had better bring a broom, a very large bottle of disinfectant and a copy of their ethics textbook from college. This bizarre story reeks of one thing only: corruption.

Bosco Ho
Boston, MA

Thank you Ms Dowd. It is amazing that you have captured everything relating to this - still unraveling - mess in one column. And you didn't even use the name 'Barry' once!

Your final paragraph is especially poignant and heartfelt but I'd like to turn this statement, "a military more consumed with sex than violence," around by asking: why is it that violence is okay but consensual sex is not? Like you said, war violence kills and maims. But consensual sex, real or electronic, only exposes the foolishness or even the lonely life of a cloistered military and its groupie. Which one is worse?

Bozeman, MT

I don't want Peaches to appear before congress. This tedious fiasco wastes time in the way that Clinton wasted a rare opportunity. The press should be hounddogging the Republicans for their tax plans rather than obsessing about private email. But this story is too tasty it seems.

Henry Stites
Scottsdale, Arizona

Every kid that is killed in Afghanistan from this point on is pure murder. Frankly, I would like to pin Petraeus's medals to his forehead for pushing the surge, which accomplished nothing more than pouring more blood and gold down the toilet for no better reason than giving generals like him a place to win a fourth star. Our nation has been at war for 11 years. It is time we, as in we the people, demand our soldiers come home. There is nothing to win in Afghanistan but more heartache and pain. The generals embed cute girls with nice arms with them in their compounds to write self serving biographies and fly around in heliocopters, while the common soldiers are out getting blown up by IEDs. It makes me sick to my stomach as it should every single American who hates to see young people murdered and maimed for no better reason that an extra chapter or two about reputation, reputation, reputation.

Stu Freeman
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Finally Americans are talking about Afghanistan!

Liz Dickson
Burke, VA

This is what happens when you label everyone who dons a military uniform a hero even though it's been a voluntary force for almost 40 years and the people who sign up very specifically know or should know what they are getting into.

I think the hero term is thrown about because of the failing sense of these two wars. No easier way to bulk up support of a failed venture than to talk about the honor and heroism involved. Thrown in enormous lobbyist efforts, various medals and badges, almost unlimited monetary support, and excellent benefits - at least while you wear the uniform - and it's no wonder these wars have continued despite all evidence as to lack of effectiveness.

Yes, the emperor's clothes are now being removed from Petraeus, bit by bit. I was just commenting to my husband last night about how we never see a photo of Petraeus wearing a suit, even though he's been retired for over a year - now I hear that even in a civilian suit he sometimes wears his medals. That would have looked strange on even on TV!

tom mcmahon
millis ma

Syria is alsmost at war with Turkey, Iran still seeks nuclear weapons. The Israeli's threaten, no actually promise that Iran will never be a nuclear state. Greece austerity measures are causing social unrest with the same spreading to Spain.

The best we can do, or write and discuss is Sex, sex and spies ? The people of the United States are nuts. I mean really who cares about everyones sex lives except those unhappy with their own

John McBride
Seattle, WA

Maureen, you ask most "real" people, those of us down here, in the trenches, living from anxiety to anxiety, about the Petraeus "scandal" and we'll yawn.

This is a D.C. soap opera. Not good soap opera, but soap opera nonetheless.

I don't care.

You know what I care about? Were there warrants needed and obtained? Is the "man" Petraeus one more victim of all those Bush era laws that Congress should have revoked several years ago, if they should have passed them at all. If he committed "crime" where's the due process?

Congress wouldn't impeach Clinton for betraying Hillary right in the White House and Washington D.C. wants me to be outraged about General Petraeus. I wonder how many in the nation's elite who are rending their garments and gathering stones shouldn't be out there in the ring with the good general or better yet, instead of him.

If you're going to cite Shakespeare cite the appropriate character, Julius Caesar. Marc Antony's eulogy is apropos:
"But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world: now lies he there,
And none so poor to do him reverence.
O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men."
Ya,I know how "honourable" all of you outraged and guilt-free ruling class figureheads are.


Thank you for reminding us that, but for Petraeus who squeezed Obama into the "surge", we would now be mostly out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately Eisenhower, who knew the hubris of generals first hand was the only president who recognized the overreach of the military and its sycophantic Congressional supporters. Hopefully whoever replaces General Allen has learned something from this mess.


What do you expect when you let heterosexual men, with their uncontrollable impulses and desires, into the military?


Great job Maureen, you made the real point, while these people preened and pranced to polish their own status and reputation real people were dying and being maimed. Though you do caustic better than anyone in your business with a whole bunch of style and grace I will take this opportunity to be more blunt. It is sick. The nation fell over itself because some prancing organization climber shoved his fruit salad in everyones face and they all folded when they had better hands. Congressmen and journalists of all stripes gave this guy a pass when they should have been saying "where were you when the dumb idea of these two wars were being debated?" Hopefully the cult of adoration for all things military will now come to a close. It is about time. We couldn't have found a better chump to bring it down the curtain on this era than this guy.

Ellicott City, MD

Your final sentence says it all. It not only went on too long, but we know the additional war in Iraq was instigated by the former Commander in Chief, George Bush, was based on lies to Congress and the country and he was not held accountable for his deception.

Sending troops into Afghanistan with sub par head gear, which led to private citizens, personally opposed to war contributing funds for proper protection, was just pathetic. Insufficient armor on vehicles led to additional injuries and deaths that could have been avoided. No one in command was held responsible for that gross negligence.

Presently Veterans are faced with lost or destroyed records for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan which is causing extreme strife for many. Will anyone be capable of retrieving or be held accountable for that?

This may seem like a small issue in the scheme of things but the military failed to bury the dead in Arlington in the proper sites and treated the bodies in Delaware with total disrespect.

Allen and Patraeus chose their priorities, the incredible amount of time spent communicating with those women, while those under their command suffered is the crime. Show no mercy, let them fall on their own swords.


Millions of Americans who've been hurt by the Recession are enraged by the clamorous dire warnings of budget deficits and their to-be-feared consequences, because we know full well that the groundwork for such crises was laid down by unnecessary wars and military expansion beginning in the Bush years, to say nothing of those years' deregulation and financial crime spree. Once again, the hypocrisy of the Republican Conservative machine is "All In" this scandal, absorbing our tax dollars and endangering the US as it is once again a global focus of criticism and ridicule. This scandal exposes the cult of military power and license that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, while endeavoring to shame and silence Americans who marched in protest. There is no "high achievement" in endangering the lives and future prospects of your fellow countrymen. Cut the salaries, pull the medals off, and downsize our military to refine its purpose to only the most essential defense.

ben pinczewski
new york, new york

The greatest issue of alarm here is the actions of the FBI agent. It shows just how vulnerable every citizen is if a rogue agent acting out of personal enmity or to impress or grind an axe can ruin people's lives. Imagine if this happened to a former General and head of the CIA what an agent like that could do to an ordinary citizen. E mails that do not detail illegal activity are nonetheless ransacked and made public? When the Bureau doesn't proceed fast enough he consults Congressman who get involved! Wow, talk about Big Brother.

Diana Moses
Arlington, MA

"So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal."

While the affair is said to have begun after Petraeus (looks Latinate, not Greek, to me) retired from the military, since he and Broadwell engaged in some sort of collaboration, in connection with her research, during his time in Afghanistan, there could still be a sense of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, it seems to me.

Dave Viens
Pacific Northwest

Anyone at that level of power dumb enough to use a g-mail draft dropbox to conduct an extra-marital affair is too dumb to be in such a position.

There are no surprises in any of this, including the predictable mess of the Afghan war.

Ahh, Afghanistan! Graveyard of empires.


"the real scandal" is horrifying, and heartbreaking.

And General Allen has time for 20,000 + emails to Ms. Tampa over two years???

I have worked on Wall Street, taught in various schools, and been a full-time parent. I have NEVER had time for that kind of personal correspondence. How can these men be entrusted with so much and yet be willing to prioritize this nonsense in their workday? It's not the sex as much as the cheating on their jobs (not to mention the obvious security risks) that bothers me. We pay them, and they've been playing on the job --- to our children's peril. Shameful.

Donald Seekins
Waipahu HI

Petraeus seems to have been Patton and MacArthur rolled up into one big package. Thanks to this scandal, I trust he won't become Julius Caesar.

Hamilton NY

Thank you for calling attention to the most important part of this 'scandal'--the prolonging of the Afghanistan conflict by Petraeus. Someone had to say it, and you did.

Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut

I doubt if honor was ever all that prevalent. What was undoubtedly more prevalent than today was talk and admiration of honor, but this was the sort of talk one gets about the emperor's new clothes. The honor that was praised was in fact a carefully constructed and burnished image.

Elizabeth Bennett

You are so right that the real scandal is that so many Americans and Afghanistan civilians have been killed and maimed. General Petraeus is no hero--his "surge" extended the war and resulted in many more deaths. His hubris and ignorance in sending compromising messages via email to his mistress is especially shocking since he was the head of the CIA. I thought everyone knew that you don't send anything by email that needs to be private, but that the head of our intelligence service either didn't know or didn't care is truly frightening.

Anetliner Netliner
Washington, DC area

I don't condone sexual harassment and I'm not a fan of adultery, but...

The FBI appears to have determined that General Petraeus did not commit any crime, nor had security been breached. His affair with Paula Broadwell was over by the time the FBI investigation had concluded. While General Petraeus committed a significant lapse of personal judgment and violated his marriage vows, he was also a tremendously capable foreign policy, defense and strategic expert whose service made America far more secure. Unless there is considerably more to this matter than has been yet revealed, I am not at all sure that he should have been required to resign.

I will reserve judgment on whether General Allen's e-mails were inappropriate, pending the outcome of that inquiry. In the interim, let's remember that General Allen has serious and important responsibilities to perform and allow him appropriate due process.

What can be said is that it's unfortunate that America's intelligence and military establishments have been turned into a reality show spectacle since November 9. I hope that this was necessary, but I have my doubts.

James. jordan
Falls Church, Va

Ms. Dowd,
This was an interesting read. I don't want to comment on the affairs because passion and infatuation are an absolute mystery to me. I was in the Navy for 24 years and have been married 53 years but at 75, I still cannot understand the mysteries of females and their strong feelings for romance. As a student of E.O. Wilson, the father of sociobiology, I still remember an experiment in which females by the dilation of their pupils as the measure of excitement/interest when viewing certain pictures were a lot more passionate than males. Males just were not as excitable except when a picture of a field of grass landscape was flashed. Females had more interest in pictures of a female with baby, nude male, nude female and a landscape scene, in that order. The interests of men were the reverse. The amazing finding was that the females just had more interest in all of the pictures than the males.

Men just seem to have the need to dominate and amazingly women are attracted to the dominant males. Then there is the old Navy/Marine Corps tale that men only have a fixed amount of blood, which if used for an erection drains the blood from their brain and they become completely stupid. I think both came into play with the General.

This essay summed the moral of this story very well in the last two sentences.

"So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal." 4-Stars to this close.

Sandy Eggo Squat
Spring Valley, CA 91977

Advice too late for these general officers, but to others who might be contemplating an affair outside of their lawful marriage: Say it with candy, say it with flowers, but never ever, my son, say it in ink.

George Myers
New Bern, NC

Yes Maureen you hit the nail on the head. The surge in Afghanistan is the real scandal.

Christine McMorrow
Waltham, MA

Maureen is dead on with the real scandal here (no pun intended). But what concerns me most with all of these revelations that, frankly, would not make a very good movie script given the tawdriness, contrived sexual double entendres in book titles and names, and general messiness. I mean, what's the point? That people are fallible?

In addition to the very real shame of prolonged war, I wonder how these people--all of them--have so much time to spend on sexual titillation. The FBI, the generals, the socialite hanger ons. Volumes of emails, volumes of investigations, it is totally exhausting. How could Petraeus run a huge agency, and the FBI spies spend so much time and money on a pure fishing mission launched by a "friend" of friends on the very scantest of complaints?

We pay for all this, folks. We pay military salaries and the salaries of the FBI, freelancers or not.

Now wouldn't all those salaries go a long way to paying down the deficit? We have real problems these days, and all our handwringing over loose military morals isn't going to help the country and our newly engergized president start solving them.

C. Coffey
Jupiter, Fl.

Most of the comments here seem ready to defend the Director of the CIA and former Commander of both of our foreign wars with the concept of 'what's the big deal with a little adultery'?

The big deal is that many less senior officers have been court martialed out of the military, or had to resign their commissions. The other big deal is that the CIA is in the business of protecting our secrets and monitoring the activities of foreign nations in order to safeguard our national security. The Director of this agency, just like a General in the field no less, cannot have events spin out of control.

Adultery is usually a nasty business with secrets and lies to the injured spouse. This requires a great deal of attention and a life of personal clandestine behavior. The only sneaking around I want from our most secret agency's leader is against our adversaries around the world.

Finally, did I tell you that General Patreous is reported to be a Christian Fundamentalist, who has presided over Religious retreats that in many instances were mandatory for ordinary service members? See Huffington Post, and MRFF, Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Sometimes a tragedy is forthcoming and the public has the right to know about it.

Don P.
Perth Amboy, NJ

Maureen, your last paragraph is the most important message in your Op-Ed...the real scandal is that so many more American kids, our soldiers, and Afghanistan civilians were killed of maimed in a war that went on too long!

The sex scandal involving General Patraeus while shocking and disappointing is simply not worthy of all of the attention that it is being given. No crimes were committed, no security compromised, and no national secrets leaked, it was just sex!

Americans need to stop clinging to some mythical, Puritanical views on sex and end its fascination with National Enquirer type stories. We have far more important things to be concerned about.

Instead we need to be focused on what really matters. Tens of thousands of Americans in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are still without power, heat, water, sanitary facilities, adequate food, medical care, and their homes and lives have been devastated and or destroyed! Our nation needs to restore our economic vitality, create more jobs, improve public education, repair our critical infrastructure, solve our budget, tax, revenue and deficit problems, and help improve and expand our middle-class, just to name a few things we should be focused on!

Yes the real scandal is a war that has gone on too long and even worse is how poorly our Veterans are treated by our government when they return home or attempt to seek benefits they earned and deserve!


In the case of Jill Kelley is even more frightening. Consider that a socialite not a historian, not military advisor, not even a family member has access to a military leader to the count of thousands of emails! And, Mrs. Kelley is a super secrete special Ambassador to South Korea, given the right to special FBI backup in a catfight?

The problematic issue is that we are looking at an almost feudal system with high level courtesans possibly calling shots. The one arena thought safe from House Wives of Tampa has been self-inflected with another version of the Kardashians.

Now wonder why the assault and harassment of women in the military is tolerated.

The highest levels of our Armed Forces seem to have a groupie mentality when it comes to women,while young men and women are dying for their country under the command of the pre-occupied.

San Francisco, CA

Loved your column Maureen but why are we spending so much time on a sex scandal involving consenting adults when female soldiers are being raped and afraid to complain because they have to do it 'through the chain of command'? When as much outrage is expressed about those rapes as about these infidelities, maybe, just maybe, we will have gotten our priorities straight.

San Francisco

I'm confused why the President accepted Petraeus's resignation. Doesn't that just signal to would-be blackmailers that exposing adultery (which is probably more common that many would like to admit) is an effective tool for extorting intelligence?

From what I've read, Petraeus did not commit a crime nor did he breach security. Unless there is more to the story than what has currently been reported, it appears that the only reason for his resignation was cheating on his wife. If President Obama had rejected his resignation, he could have made clear that cheating on your spouse is a purely private matter that will not cost your job and sent the message to our enemies that knowledge of an adulterous affair is not a useful way to blackmail or extort our officials.

I'm sure the moralists among us will reply that the social shame that accompanies publicity of an affair is enough to make the blackmail effective. However, given the nature of the CIA's work, if some social clucking is sufficient reason for an intelligence officer to betray U.S. intelligence efforts, then that person probably isn't fit for the job in the first place.

Glencoe, IL

Rules to live by:
The bottom 99%: prudence, temperance, justice, courage, faith, hope, and charity.
The top 1%: greed, envy, lust, pride, wrath, gluttony, and sloth.
Do we really want to funnel ever greater power and resources to the top 1%?

anthony weishar
Fairview Park, OH

Ms. Dowd, great analysis of ego and power, society groupies, politicized military strategy, the consequences of being a not too wise demigod, and the "collateral damage."


I paid little if any attention to Patraeus in the past, and have learned more than I could have wanted to know from your article, Maureen.

And it is far less uplifting than anything one might read in the Enquirer. The problem with touting oneself as a model for rectitude is that the spotlights that shine on you are of a higher wattage than on those who generally keep themselves in the background. so the flaws are seen more sharply.

"What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" is probably appropriately here also.

Robert Henry Eller
Milan, Italy

"So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal."

Finally, a truly appropriate post-mortem to this menagerie (in every sense).

It's not the gratuitous sex. It's the needless death and destruction.

The pro-war military is still trying to prove that Vietnam was indeed a missed opportunity, when in fact it was an avoidable debacle.

Well, they've now proved what Vietnam really was twice over, in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they won't admit it.

Meanwhile, those who did learn the lessons of Vietnam, Senator Kerry, General Powell, are vilified to this day.

Thanks, Ms. Dowd.

Steve Singer

No we aren't. There's no debate. No anti-war marches fill the streets day-after-day. No teach-in's or sit-in's paralyzing college campuses. No "Stop the Draft" week.

Why? Because nobody's being drafted to fight in Afghanistan.

I'm a veteran of late-60's / early-70's civil strife on-campus and off. I remember it well, especially its scalding heat, the absolute fury boiling everywhere; pro-war; anti-war; "America, love it or leave it!"; "Amerika is devouring its children!". A bath in acid.

Nothing remotely like that in America today because nobody in that 17-28 year-old demographic group risks having their civilian-lives upended then ripped from their hands. They don't wake up in the morning facing forced imprisonment into an Army whose training cadre despises them. They won't be brutalized by that same cadre during basic and advanced MOS training then flushed into a stupid, pointless overseas conflict in which their assigned role is "cannon-fodder".

That's one difference.

Another is superb news management by the Pentagon's public-relations bureaucracy. The Pentagon learned some hard lessons about cultivating and managing public opinion from its Vietnam debacle. The sheer bloody-awfulness, utter stupidity and futility of our Afghan military misadventure isn't served to the American public the same way that Vietnam's was, front-row-center night-after-night on network television news, and at at dinner time.

New Jersey

It looks to me like the military just reflects the rest of our culture; the top 1% operates by different rules from the other 99%.

Doc B

Two words: "Acquired narcissism."

Very difficult, from what I have studied, to be waited upon hand and foot in any role or status in life, and not slowly be drawn into the trap of thinking too highly of one's own power and invulnerability and forget how to empathize with the consequences of one's actions on others.


What's really interesting about this article -- and the only thing that will be remembered or debated by a very few historians and academics -- is the third to last paragraph where Maureen equates the surge to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. I hope she's wrong but I suspect she's right. In another country putting such an important point so late in a column might be considered burying the lead...but not in the here and now. Our soldiers deserve to be treated better than political pawns.


Thank you, Maureen. As a civilian who served at a provincial reconstruction team in a far-flung corner of Afghanistan(and as one who vociferously opposed the surge for reasons obvious to those of us with boots on the ground), once again you have hit the nail on the head. The real scandal is the hubris of a public servant who thought he could manipulate a commander in chief into sending more American men and women to their deaths whilst he played footsie with his biographer. I hope history is very unkind to General Peaches Patraeus.

Boston, MA

"So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal."

I agree. I think our moral priorities are skewed. Too much emphasis on sex. Clinton gave us a surplus, prosperity and peace, but he engaged in extramarital foreplay, so he was publicly humiliated and impeached.

GW Bush ignored warnings about 9/11, started an entire trillion dollar war in Iraq that killed at least a hundred thousand people without necessity, let New Orleans drown, lost what may have been our last opportunity to avert climate change, let the economy tank, our debt balloon, unemployment skyrocket, and introduced torture into our military, but he's sexually pure, as far as we know, so he's still considered morally upright.

bklyn, ny

It's nice to hear that the top brass live so well in Tampa; wish we could take these party animals down a notch and give our military men and women the support that they need both overseas and for their families in the USA while they are deployed.


I am so over these men and women in positions paid with tax dollars having no moral character. Come on, head of the United Stated of America's Central Intelligence Agency and you have extra time on your hands to some lame affair? Really now, I home school two children, keep my household in shape, pay the bills, end up exhausted by 9:00 at night, but wishing I could have an extra few hours to get more done - and I get no salary. I just hope they replace Petraeus with someone who has come up through the ranks and truly earned it.

Atlantic beach, FL

Conducting an affair with someone else's spouse requires premeditated dishonesty, a willingness to lie to those you have sworn to be truthful with, sneaking, plotting and risk taking. It also requires large amounts of time that is unaccounted for, and being a good actor, as in, "Honest, Dear. I was caught in traffic for two hours."

So, Gen. Patreaus has proved himself good at all of these things.

So remind me: why is his downfall considered a "loss" for President Obama?


I served in the Air Force for 22 years, and retired as a colonel in 1980. Sorry if I offend your delicate sensitivities, but the military has always been about sex and alcohol. Happy hours at the Officer's Club, very frequent trips to everywhere, Officer's professional schools at Maxwell AFB, in Montgomery Alabama. Montgomery was dry in '65, but the young ladies had open access to the casual bar in the officer's club, where they could drink, dance, and meet college educated junior, middle grade, and senior officers. If your next assignment carried the risk of death, dismemberment, or prisoner status, who cared? My generation seemed to be capable of being more discreet.

When I went to Vietnam in 1966, I brought a collection of Kipling with me, because he had brilliant insight into the far East and military cultures.

Some examples:
Ship me somewhere east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
where there ain't no ten commandments, and a man can raise a thirst.
We ain't no thin red heroes nor we ain't no blackguards too,
but single men in barracks most remarkable like you.
And if our conduct isn't all your fancy paints,
Well, single men in barracks don't grow into plaster saints.
There is nothing new under the sun. I don't think Petraeus should have resigned. JFK had his fun, and maybe Eisenhower did also with his beautiful Brit driver. Not all indulge, but some do. Most males are slaves to their hormones. Which is why females are superior.

West Coast

I'm not interested in Petraeus' peccadillos but I do fault him for his arrogant insistence on the surge in Afghanistan which has been a failure. Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy and nation-building there has cost us billions of dollars and too many lives. And I agree with you, that's the real scandal. Kudos to Maureen Dowd for being one of the few journalists with enough gumption to criticize the lionized Petraeus. The rest of the media have been shamefully obsequious.

Capt. Penny
Silicon Valley

Ms Dowd,
You buried the lede, says this father of an active duty soldier. Afghanistan is not past tense, it's a continuing scandal.

The real scandal is that my son and hundreds of thousands of others will serve in Afghanistan in the next 2 years - long after we should have been gone.

My neighbor's son served a couple tours there between 2010 and 2012, returning with a clear sense of core problems that have never been resolved and never will be, including the inability of US military to grasp that some things aren't worth doing, even though they can do them.

the doctor
allentown, pa

This scandal illustrates once again that older, powerful, self-absorbed and arrogant men - once smitten - will engage in the kind of reckless behavior illustrated by our CIA Director. I can only conclude General Pertreaus, like many tragic figures before him, lived in a make-believe, third-person world and somehow came to believe he was immune from the consequences of his actions.

west mystic connecticut

Petraeus is merely the cutting edge of the military elite that we have allowed. Their arrogance and entitlement matches that of our--95 percent always re-elected--political royalty. Corruption and selective morality is typical of any ruling class.. The fix? A professional officer corps held to strict standards under a tight civilian leash. Those officers need to lead a citizen military chosen by required selective service. There's nothing like a good old-fashioned draft to keep the politicos who are so anxious to send in the troops on their toes. And maybe the American public will take more of a personal interest in their wars when it's their kiddies that get shipped out. A really engaged public will implement tight term limits and get rid of our professional political royalty.


Probably by sometime Friday, more journalistic energy and resources will have been spent on this scandal than that expended in questioning the validity of the second war in Iraq. And soon after, the same could be said about Congressional questioning. There's your failure in leadership.

richard kopperdahl
new york city

Wearing his medals on his civilian suit coat is a most pathetic image, Maureen. Reminds me that during the last presidential debate, Romney's lapel flag was twice a big as Obama's.

Ike had his lady driver for comfort during WWII, Bill, his pleasures in the Oval office, FDR and JFK had pretty much, whoever they wanted but were protected by the reporters who covered them The ones who stay on the straight and narrow, Carter and Romney, we find kind of creepy when all is said and done.

Maybe we should concern ourselves less with the sexual lives of others. Seems to me we have a few really pressing things to deal with now.

retired teacher
Austin, Texas

"So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal. "

Thank you for reminding us of the real tragedy behind all the sordid headlines. Our military is over-delployed after two wars. It is ime for us to get out of Afghanistan. Why are we staying another two years?

Brewster, MA

"So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal."

It's more than a scandal; it's a hideous decision most government officials and the main stream media seem intent on ignoring.

bangor, maine

The bigger they come, the harder they fall. I agree that the real scandal is how Petraeus rolled the president about the surge. Unnecessary American and Afghani deaths just so the general could get his way.

I never liked Petraeus. I'm not unhappy he's gone. I hope the President now has enough trust in himself to not be rolled again by another of these power-hungry men.

Sex and the internet. Who will be the next important man to succumb to the thrills of emails from attractive women stroking their ego? Or have they learned from this? Probably not. It's an old tune, played out on modern technology which makes it so easy and exciting. Petraeus (and Allen) certainly are not the first and will not be the last to get 'tripped up'.

Bryan Barrett
Malvern, Pa.

"That's the real scandal'; indeed. You are correct. That the misbehavior of any General Officer, who had presided over the command of a contemporary GI, while he so dishonored himself, in the full knowledge of the Code of Military Justice, is to the average veteran, astounding. That this story would coincide with the celebration of Veterans Day, which for those of us who have had the enormous privilege of serving in some small way, in whatever branch of the service, with pride and honor; if this episode of selfishness, if proven to be correct, proves to be an example of a lack of honor which is enough to consign a so called officer and a gentleman, to the lowest level of dishonor, is reprehensible.

Honor has in recent years virtually disappeared in civilian life, whether it is even referred to in passing in the service academies, or in ROTC, or in OCS, today is unknown to me, and clearly these disclosures have exposed the fact that the academies have a serious problem to rectify. The fundamental idea of honor in military service was, when I was a young man, more than a half century ago, a well understood concept. And among those with whom I served, both enlisted, and officers, was well understood.

General Petreus and General Allen have their battles to fight on the civilian and military justice levels. Should they be found guilty on charges, not yet published, I will be sad, and sincerely hope and pray that their successors will prove to be above reproach.

Loiza, Puerto Rico

Poor on Shakespeare.

Macbeth did not kill his king out of envy. We don't know how to figure Iago's motives -- there are too many of them. Shakespeare wrote, but did not advocate "reputation" as the key ethical imperative and is not personally responsible for what his characters, many of them reprobates, say.

Your professors have failed you, and Congress should look into this malfeasance.

Los Angeles, CA

So sad that the concepts of duty and honor seem to stop at the waist for so many of those in power. If those in the highest levels of the military and the government can't be trusted to control their own sexual urges, how can they be trusted to control the lives of those in their command and to guide the destiny of their country? To claim "these guys are human beings working under extremely stressful circumstances" seems a rather flippant excuse that tries to explain everything and yet excuses nothing. They cheated, they lied, they tried to evade responsibility for their actions all the while insisting their subordinates uphold the very virtues they mocked. But off they go into comfortable retirement, probably write still another book extolling their wisdom and virtues and all the while collect outrageous fees for speaking engagements. Alas.


Yes, and as the war raged into overtime, the deaths, all of them senseless, the traumatic brain injuries, the amputations, and the permanent damage to our soldiers minds all mounting, so did the promotions, and the shiny medals. Therein lies the sting of these senseless wars: that's how to get your promotion and your next decoration, you keep the war raging. Bring on the peace and the opportunity for advancement and pretty ribbons withers. Hmmm...makes one wonder if there was ever a promotion used as hush-money.


There are two major issues here that bother me. The first is that integrity seems not to matter only when it applies to marriage. What if David Petraeus' integrity failed when he was testifying before Congress or when he was paying his taxes or when he was reporting what happened in Benghazi? Why do we presume that a man who will go to such great lengths to lie to his wife and family will tell the truth in all other things?

Second, all those who wish to excuse his behavior forget that there are soldiers and civilians in the military and in the CIA who have to live by rules that Petraeus felt did not apply to him. I have known several people who also were "good" people but whose careers were nonetheless ruined because they violated the codes of conduct that some now wish to waive for Petraeus. It is unfair to the many who live by the rules to exempt him from them.

Mary Wickens
East Lansing MI

Eisenhower said beware of the military-industrial complex. While we are having these fiscal cliff discussions, maybe we should take a hard look at the value of this inflated military that thrives while soldiers and civilians are dying.

New York

I think the officer class has always had a sense of privilege in our military. I'll never forget being re-assigned from training for almost a week to help clear a few acres of brush at my boot camp. Turns out it was for an extension of the officer's golf course.

Reid B
Takoma Park, Md

Good column, conclusion. Maybe all this foolishness will help take the shine off the machinery of our permanent warfare and point us in a more positive direction. One can only hope.


Obama showed extremely bad judgment in appointing a military officer to head the CIA. Aside from Petraeus' personal mind-set and past attempts to subvert the Commander-in-Chief's policy in Afghanistan, the CIA should never be in the hands of the military. The CIA should be under civilian leadership as the military should be under civilian control. Petraus remained a military man with a military mind-set. Meanwhile, military intelligence had expanded dangerously during the Bush Administration, involving itself in non-military foreign affairs. We have an entrenched military-industrial complex resulting in unending wars in which our resources and treasury are depleted and our young men are dying.

While we fight in Afghanistan, the Chinese have bought the concession to a huge copper mine. While we involve ourselves militarily in Africa, the Chinese buy oil in Sudan and minerals wherever they can find them and engage in buying minds and hearts of Africans. Iraqi and Kuwaiti concessions did not go overwhelmingly to American companies. While we back the most reactionary forces in Latin America, the Chinese are signing contracts for minerals and engaging in "soft power". Meanwhile the Chinese own much of our foreign debt.

The only way to ease back on the militarization of America is to allow the "financial cliff" to become a reality. Afterwards, the Republicans dare not reinstate middle class tax cuts. But Obama doesn't have the guts.

The gunpowder-treason, 1679


Justin Raimondo said...

The outing of Gen.
David Petraeus as an adulterer, and his subsequent resignation as
CIA Director, was carried out by an unknown FBI “whistleblower”
who leaked the facts of the FBI investigation into the General’s
private life to Rep. Eric Cantor. The New York Times reports:

Eric Cantor,
the House majority leader, said Saturday an F.B.I. employee whom his
staff described as a whistle-blower told him about Mr. Petraeus’s
affair and a possible security breach in late October, which was
after the investigation had begun.

“’I was
contacted by an F.B.I. employee concerned that sensitive, classified
information may have been compromised and made certain Director
Mueller was aware of these serious allegations and the potential
risk to our national security,’ Mr. Cantor said in a

Mr. Cantor
talked to the person after being told by Representative Dave
Reichert, Republican of Washington, that a whistle-blower wanted to
speak to someone in the Congressional leadership about a national
security concern. On Oct. 31, his chief of staff, Steve Stombres,
called the F.B.I. to tell them about the call.”

JR said...

The FBI probe
apparently started in late
, when several people associated with Petraeus — not just the one
, as has been reported elsewhere —
received harassing emails. The emails were traced to 40-year-old
Paula Broadwell, national security analyst, military intelligence
veteran, and author of a biography of Petraeus. Authorities believed
his email account may
have been
hacked, and this led to a remarkable irony:
the CIA chief’s emails were monitored, without his knowledge,
whereupon it was discovered Broadwell may have either had access to
his account or tried to obtain access. In any case, in the course of
their spying, FBI monitors discovered a large volume of emails to
and from Broadwell. Looking for evidence of a security breach, all
they found was evidence of a “human drama,” as one
anonymous FBI official put it: an illicit affair between Petraeus
and Broadwell.

Petraeus was only
informed of the investigation on October 25
or 26
. So here we have the astonishing fact of the
CIA’s head honcho being spied on for a period of months by our
own law enforcement officials.

Or maybe it wasn’t
a simple case of complaints about “harassing” or
threatening emails. Fox News avers:

The FBI had
been investigating an unrelated and much broader case before
stumbling on the affair. Fox News has learned that during the course
of this investigation, the name of biographer Paula Broadwell came
up. The FBI followed that lead and in doing so, uncovered his affair
with her.”

JR said...

What was this “much
broader case”? Almost certainly it was a counterintelligence
investigation, i.e. a pushback against efforts by some foreign
entity to penetrate or otherwise compromise US secrets. We can only
guess at the specifics, however we do know that in the course of
that investigation Broadwell’s name “came up.”

On the surface, at
least, Broadwell is not the sort of person whose name would come up
in a counterintelligence investigation: a West Point graduate, where
she earned degrees in political geography and systems engineering, she seems like the veritable embodiment of All-American

red-white-and-blue super-patriotism. This
biographical account
on her high school website

pursued a military intelligence career abroad, serving in Asia,
Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. During her service, especially
after 9-11, Paula’s intensity was directed toward the war against
terror; her contributions and efforts to thwart terrorism have been
commended by the U.S. Army and by Europe’s Special Operations Forces
Commanding General. In this arena, she has planned counter-terrorism
initiatives presented to NATO and worked on transnational
counter-terrorism issues with foreign and domestic agencies, U.S.
Special Forces, and the FBI.”

Graduate studies at
the University of Denver in Middle East studies enabled her to
travel to “Jordan and Israel,” and make a swing through
the Persian Gulf and Europe where she spoke at various conferences.
This triumphal tour was capped by a Harvard fellowship “for
study in Syria and Iran.”

JR said...

While Broadwell’s
current academic affiliation is with Harvard’s Kennedy School
of Government, her previous post was deputy director of the Jebsen
Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies at Tufts University’s
Fletcher School. The Center, according to its self-description,
“distinguishes itself by a philosophy that maintains
counter-terrorism should be predictive, preventive and preemptive,
with the latter being a last resort.” Founded in 2005, the
Jebsen Center was made possible by the generous donation of one Jan
Henrik Jebsen, heir to the Norwegian shipping fortune, who gave $1.3
million to set it up. Jebsen, a former investment banker with Lazard
Freres, is the principal of Gamma Applied Visions Group, an
international octopus with tentacles all over the place: part arms
and weapons developer,
part “green”
company. As one might expect from someone who
has so much of his multi-billion dollar fortune invested in making
and selling armaments, Jebsen is on
the board
of directors of the distinctly warlike
Hudson Institute, where Scooter Libby, Douglas Feith, Michael
, and practically every neocon you’ve ever heard of have found refuge.

JR said...

While, in true neocon
fashion, Hudson scholars conjure a wide diversity of imminent
“threats” to the US, including China and Russia, their
main focus is the threat of Islamist radicalism, especially as it
impacts Israel. Indeed, Hudson operates inside
, where it pushes the far-rightist views of the
most extreme elements in Israeli society: the settler movement, and
the faction of Likud angling for war with Iran. It has also focused
its attention on purging
universities of academics who don’t toe the right-wing
ultra-nationalist Likudnik line.

More recently, former
Hudson president and “trustee emeritus” Max Singer —
who has since moved to Israel, where, as a “public policy
consultant” at Bar Ilan University, he spends his time
against Palestinians — is on a mission
to protect Israel from the alleged
posed by the President of the United States.

JR said...

The Jebsen Center has
been equally useful to the neocons. Richard H. Schultz, head of
Tufts’ International Studies program (of which the Center is a
part) was a
to the Project for a New American Century’s
“open letter” to President Bush urging war with Iraq and
a number of other Middle Eastern actors in the wake of 9/11. Here
he is
recommending the importation of Israeli
“anti-terrorist” techniques to pacify the restless
natives of Iraq. Here
is another
Jebsen Center scholar describing alleged
terrorist actions engaged in by Iran worldwide. And then there’s
the testimony of this

The idea of
overthrowing the Iranian government through covert but peaceful
means is not original. The project was first brought to my attention
in August 2006 when I worked as an intern research assistant at
Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Diplomacy’s Jebsen Center
for Counter-terrorism. I worked for the then director of the center
Brigadier General Russell Howard (Ret.) on a project titled Bringing
Down Iran Without Firing A Shot. I wasn’t very experienced in the
world of covert operations in the field or in the academic realm but
I was very interested in becoming involved in it. General Howard, on
the other hand, was not only a counter-terrorism strategist but a
veteran Special Forces officer, an academic, and a tutor. It was
General Howard who introduced me to the idea of targeting factors
specific to Iran in order to adapt to the country’s specific needs.
He had six factors which he believed were important: The military
use of ongoing insurgencies within Iran, political strife, economic
strife, declining oil revenues, demographics, and deteriorating

JR said...

Interestingly, in
November of 2006, during her tenure at the Jebsen Center, Broadwell
led a group of Fletcher School students on a
trip to New York City
to meet with then Iranian UN
representative Javad Zarif. Both are alumni
of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the
University of Denver.

All this establishes a
context that goes far beyond the titillating details of the alleged
affair between Petraeus and Broadwell — and this is no doubt
what set alarm bells ringing in the intelligence community when it
was revealed. Is there really any need to point out the uses of the
in intelligence-gathering and other covert activities regularly
engaged in by spooks
of all nations? From Mata Hari to the Mossad agent who lured Israeli
nuclear scientist Mordecahi Vanunu, sex is a time-honored weapon in
the war of spy-vs-spy. A secret affair with the CIA Director is the
equivalent of the Honeypot Olympics, and we have to ask: was the
remarkably fit Ms. Broadwell a lure? If so, she’s won a Gold Medal.

actions — sending emails that were bound to be traced back to
her — appear to make little sense on the surface. But if the
goal of luring a 60-year-old geezer into an affair with a much
younger woman was to expose him, and get him fired, then surely her
antics succeeded in accomplishing that goal.

JR said...

So who would have an
interest in getting rid of Petraeus? Here’s where the Cantor connection comes in. The tip by an anonymous “FBI employee” that
wound up in Cantor’s office two weeks ago came through Rep.
David Reichert
, Republican of Washington state, who has a friend who
knows the whistleblower. Cantor then spoke to the whistleblower
directly, who put him in touch with FBI Director Mueller.

Cantor is a great
friend of Israel, and Petraeus — not so much. The General was
as you’ll
, by partisans of the Lobby, including Abe
, when he delivered testimony
before Congress citing Israel as a strategic liability in the Middle
East. As the executor of the new Obamaite policy of sidling up to
Islamists, not only in Libya but also in Syria and Egypt, Petraeus
was no doubt seen by the Israelis as an enemy to be neutralized.

affiliation with the Jebsen Center, and the Center’s
connection to the neoconservative network, sets the scene: a young,
attractive woman with impeccable national security credentials
throws herself at Petraeus, and he takes the bait. Whether she’s
been recruited by a foreign intelligence agency at this point or not
is irrelevant: he’s already put himself in a vulnerable
position, and there are any number of actors on the international
stage more than willing to press their advantage.

JR said...

Will we ever know the
full story? At this point, the story is so hot that it may burn the
cover story — “it’s all about sex” —
right off the wrapper. Because there’s more — a lot
more — here than meets the eye. When Cantor pledged
to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he and his fellow
Republicans “will serve as a check on the administration”
in regard to the President’s policy toward Israel, he was
clearly aligning himself with a foreign leader against American
interests as perceived by the White House. But would he really go
this far — deliberately taking down a key figure, one beloved
by Republicans, in order to keep his promise to Netanyahu?

Stay tuned to this
space, because this story is moving fast….

Update: This
morning [11/12/12] the New York Times reports:

agents interviewed Ms. Broadwell for the first time the week of Oct.
21, and she acknowledged the affair, a government official briefed
on the matter said. She also voluntarily gave the agency her
computer. In a search, the agents discovered several classified
documents, which raised the additional question of whether Mr.
Petraeus had given them to her. She said that he had not. Agents
interviewed Mr. Petraeus the following week. He also admitted to the
affair but said he had not given any classified documents to her.
The agents then interviewed Ms. Broadwell again on Friday, Nov. 2,
the official said.”


Blog Archive