Sunday, November 11, 2012

Notes on the Petraeus-Broadwell Affair

What lessons can we draw from the Petraeus-Broadwell affair?

Yesterday, after I wrote my post, the New York Times announced that the letter sent to Chuck Klosterman, The Ethicist, was not written by Paula Broadwell’s husband.

For now we will accept the Times at its word.

We have also just learned that the FBI discovered the Petraeus-Broadwell emails after an unidentified woman began receiving threatening anonymous emails warning her not to get too close to Petraeus.

The emails were sent anonymously but the FBI quickly discovered that Broadwell had sent them.

It’s not the only piece of astonishingly bad behavior by Broadwell.

Ron Kessler suggested that Broadwell has ceased her amorous liaison with Petraeus once he became Director of the CIA. It appears that she was still jealously guarding her status as No. 1 concubine.

As of now, it appears that the greatest military officer of his generation was brought down by a cat fight.

Less glibly, Petraeus is a victim of America’s latest social experiment.

We Americans have chosen to pretend that there is no significant difference between men and women. We have set out to engineer gender equity throughout society.

The forces of gender equity have especially targeted the military. They have done everything in their power to create an army of equal persons.

To approach this goal we have subjected soldiers to seminars about gender discrimination. We prosecute soldiers for sexual harassment. And, we remove commanding officers on the grounds of sexual impropriety. 

Any number of commanding officers have been removed for sexual indiscretions. First, this affirms that alpha males are very attractive to women. Second, it says that senior military officers are not very well versed in the art of seduction. 

Max Boot wrote:

Imagine Winfield Scott, U.S. Grant, William Sherman, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower or Matthew Ridgway resigning over an affair. It’s simply impossible to imagine; standards have changed so much over the years that now sexual peccadilloes are about the only thing that can bring down senior military commanders. 

At some point we are going to have to ask ourselves what matters more: achieving gender equity or winning wars.

As it happens, Paula Broadwell was as tough as the next guy. She was something of a poster girl for personhood: anything a guy could do she could do, as well if not better. An extremely competitive overachiever, she was a living argument for the social construct theory of gender.

Yet, rather than move up the chain of command the old-fashioned way, she chose to become the No. 1 concubine of the ultimate alpha male.

After having lived her professional life as an ersatz man, Broadwell reverted to gender norm.

Note in passing that while travelling around the world to serve and adore her paramour Mrs. Broadwell left her two small children at home without a mother.

As of now her oldest child is 6.

Yes, I understand that such observations are no longer permissible, but still….

You know and I know that David Petraeus is not the only officer in today’s coed military whose career has been blown up by a romantic liaison with a female subordinate.

Apparently, no one seemed to notice that close-quarters male/female fraternization would  threaten to the command structure of the military.

Or better, no one cared.

Based on personal observations Fred Kaplan suggests that the Petraeus-Broadwell affair may well have been ongoing in Afghanistan. Others have suggested that it only began after Petraeus had retired from the military.

In a rather obtuse way Fred Kaplan raised the gender equity issue of Slate. In fairness, it takes someone of superior intelligence to be as obtuse as Kaplan is.

Amazingly, Kaplan seems to believe that an older commanding general, an alpha male, when faced with a beautiful and attractive young woman who is completely in awe of him, to the point of worshipping him, will think first of how he can mentor her.

You have to be very smart to believe something so thoroughly ridiculous.

In Kaplan’s words:

The key to this initial attraction was probably not sexual but rather biographical. Broadwell had once been a West Point cadet, like Petraeus. Upon graduating, she’d joined the light infantry officers’ corps as a paratrooper, as had Petraeus in his youth. She was obsessed with physical fitness, especially running, as was Petraeus. In short, regardless of gender, Broadwell was exactly the sort of aspiring officer-intellectual that Petraeus was keen to mentor.

Yes, indeed, the first thought of an alpha male must be: her biography is so attractive, her mind is so prepossessing that I am dying to mentor her.

Kaplan continues:

Still, it is likely that, at the outset, Petraeus was drawn more to her C.V. than to her glamour, more to her prospects as a protégé than as a mistress. Afghanistan proved to be a case study in the danger of placing too much faith in intellectual ideas—in this case, Petraeus’ ideas about counterinsurgency doctrine, which never had much chance of yielding fruit on that country’s harsh plains. Paula Broadwell may be, among other things, a case study in the danger of getting too close to the swooning sirens of would-be intellectual protégés.

Kaplan articulates the great feminist hope: namely, that a coed military will prove that gender is nothing but a social construct, the kind of place where you can achieve a “marriage of true minds….”

Correctly, Kaplan raises the issue of how effectively the military conducted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Were he to advance the issue he would want to ask at what point we decided that winning wars is less important than the feminist vision of gender equity. 

But, look at the bright side. No one is lobbying for gender equity in the NFL. At least, not yet.


SlartiBartFast said...

Female paratroopers? That should strike fear in the heart of the enemy.

Charles A Pennison said...

It is easy to fall prey to seductiohn. We all like to feel special - a type of special feeling that a good seductress can deliver.

I remember Daniel Radcliffe once saying that when he made guest appearances in public, he had to keep reminding himself that all those people were not cheering him - they were cheering Harry Potter. If another actor had gotten the Harry Potter role, these people would be cheering that other actor, and not him.

Men with titles and power also need to keep reminding themselves that seductresses aren't after them, they are after the title and power. When the title and power leave, so do the seductresses.

vanderleun said...

"... not written by Paula Broadwell’s husband."

Probably written by Barney Frank's husband.

vanderleun said...

Then again is can be simple sexual obsession

"And I'm here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It's not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know

You seem very well, things look peaceful
I'm not quite as well, I thought you should know
Did you forget about me Mr. Duplicity
I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner
It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced
Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?

'cause the love that you gave that we made wasn't able
To make it enough for you to be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me you'd hold me
Until you died, til you died
But you're still alive"

--- Alanis Morrisette, You Outta Know

JP said...

"Men with titles and power also need to keep reminding themselves that seductresses aren't after them, they are after the title and power. When the title and power leave, so do the seductresses."

And a good thing, too.

This is how my dad got rid of his wife, which was a win-win for all of us.

I love this post, Stuart.

Sam L. said...

I have no, repeat NO, reason to trust anyone at the NYT.

Webutante said...

It all depends on what your definition of 'mentor' is.

Anonymous said...

Achieving "gender equity" doesn't matter to me at all. Not a smidgen. Stop the make-work programs designed to get these status-monkeying whores employed by the gov't. Enough. Stop the empowerment of whores, or stop it altogether for all I care.

Anonymous said...

Petraeus is not a Great General. He is a Political General with Great PR. I speak from experience of 40 years. -- Rich

Stuart Schneiderman said...

That's a fair point, Rich. I've been seeing that Petraeus' reputation as a military leader has now come under serious attack, from people who know more about these things that I, evidently, do.

Charles A Pennison said...

You could argue that the top leader in any orginization should be someone who is politically competent, because they are the ones who have to deal with the public at large.

If they do their jobs correctly and handle all the political problems of the organization, they allow everyone else in the organiztion the opportunity to run the organization day by day.

Charles A Pennison said...

I should have added that where Petraeus failed in his political job was having an illicit affair. That is when he became an incompetent politcal leader.