VFR discussion of the Petraeus affair

There are so many entries on the Petraeus affair, and so many comments responding to them, that I am putting most (not all) of the comments from the last couple of days in this one entry for easier perusal (and less work for me). The comments are arranged under the title of the entry they are responding to or by topic.

“The woman problem rears its head”

LA to Laura Wood:

Do you have a problem with the title of this entry?

Laura Wood writes:

By your title, you seem to be suggesting that the woman problem is sexual infidelity and aggressive pursuit by women of rivals. But men are more prone to sexual aggression. Muslims keep women covered up largely because of the “man problem,” so that other men won’t pursue them.

When I read the entry, I thought that it made the Petraeus affair seem as if it was only caused by Broadwell.

LA replies:

What I meant was that the exposure of the affair was caused by Broadwell, with her wildly imprudent behavior of writing the e-mails to Kelley. If she had not written those e-mails, no one would have heard of the affair and this whole megillah would not have occurred. The affair, while it remained private, did not affect anything in the larger world. Only the exposure of the affair affected the larger world.

I agree with what you say about Muslims and the “man problem.”

Laura replies:

When you say “the woman problem” you are suggesting some timeless phenomenon. What is it about her writing the e-mails that is part of this essential woman problem?

LA replies:

That woman are more emotional and less guided by rationality than men, so that if women are given substantive equality with men and thus, as an inevitable result of such equality, freedom from the constraints that apply to men, they will wreak havoc (as Nik S., the original poster, put it).

Broadwell was an empowered woman. Her empowered quality was seen in her military career, by the aggressive way she advanced herself, by her many trips to Afghanistan while her husband served as “Mr. Mom,” and so on. She was given male-like power. Her relationship with Petraeus, including the affair, was an outcome of that power. But she was a woman, not a man. And so, in the midst of secret adulterous affair with the director of the CIA, she sent jealous, cat-like e-mails to another woman which ended up destroying the career of the man and creating this huge public mess. A less empowered woman would not have behaved so arrogantly and recklessly.

LA continues:

However, this discussion leads back to Petraeus’s own specific wrongdoing. During this affair, I’ve often asked myself and others: “Why exactly did Petraeus have to resign? Is it just the fact of the adultery? What difference did the adultery, however wrong it was, make to the larger world and to his ability to carry out his job? There has to be something in addition to the adultery itself that disqualified him for his job.” And now it seems to me that this additional factor was his choice of such an obviously pushy, aggressive woman as his correspondent. Beyond the adultery itself, to be adulterous with such a woman—the type of woman who “wants it all” and thus is more likely to behave in such a way as to reveal the adultery, which in fact Broadwell did—showed extraordinary lack of judgment on Petraeus’s part and made it necessary for him to step down.

Laura replies (this reply arrived before LA’s above last comment):

I agree with your description of Broadwell and the phenomenon she represents.

But, since you asked and I thought about it, I still think “the woman problem” is not the right phrase. The emotional side of women is neither good nor bad in itself. It depends on how it develops and expresses itself.

I guess if someone were to ask me what the ancient “woman problem” is, I would say it is that flaw depicted in Genesis. The woman problem is insubordination. I don’t think Broadwell exemplifies this ageless problem at all because she was doing exactly what men had encouraged her to do: to be aggressive and to pursue in a focused, single-minded way what she wanted. She was obeying and conforming to all she had learned from the men at West Point.

LA replies:

Fascinating point.

Laura replies to LA’s earlier comment about what Petraeus did wrong that required his resignation:

Lack of judgment and poor taste, yes. Plus he knew she was the mother of two sons.

And he was her superior. That’s the main thing. His sin is far greater than hers because he abused his position of authority in having a relationship with her.

LA replies:

He was not her superior. She was not part of the military.

Laura replies:

I strongly disagree.

Once you are in the military, you are in some senses always in the military and thus deferential to those chains of command. It’s bred into you forever. So he was indeed still her superior.

Kevin S. writes:

I believe the ”problem” goes beyond traditional morality. The original poster hints at the politically correct notion of equality between the sexes being the root cause. (Note that ”equality” in this case is the progressive version of the term meaning equal and the same in all ways.) While the inclusion of women in positions where they have no place in a healthy society certainly contributes to such indiscretion, I do not believe it to be the leading indicator. With a very few notable exceptions the top leadership positions in the military have been political appointments for some decades now having almost nothing to do with the appointee’s military excellence or adherence to the marshal tradition. Is it really surprising when the top commanding officers behave like politicians when that is what they are?

Also, Muslim treatment of women is wholly evil. They do not ‘cover up their women’ to avoid indiscretion. Muslim women are view as inferior in every way to men. In traditional Western society women are correctly perceived as being generally different than men, but equal in the eyes of God. Imagine the state of this nation if, like the ancient Athenians, only male property holders had the civic responsibility to vote? [LA replies: We don’t have to imagine it. It was the case until about a hundred years ago. Was it so terrible? Is it better now?]

Did the scandal drive a craven Petraeus to tout the false White House line on Benghazi?

Paul K. writes:

I am skeptical about two aspects of the official timeline of the Petraeus affair.

- The claim that the sexual intimacy between Petraeus and Broadwell began only after he left Afghanistan and took his position heading the CIA. This claim is convenient as it absolves him from violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibition against adultery. Petraeus was in Afghanistan from the beginning of July 2010 through the end of August 2012. During that period Broadwell, who had already interviewed Petraeus a number of times and formed a “relationship” with him (her word), “makes multiple trips to Afghanistan and is given unprecedented access to Petraeus and his commanders,” according to the Daily News timeline. Isn’t it likely that the sexual relationship started at this time? If the attraction was there, what would have prevented it?

- The claim that members of the administration, including the President, weren’t told about the affair until after the election, implying that the administration didn’t use that knowledge to pressure Petraeus into toeing its line on Benghazi, as he did. Eric Holder knew of the investigation in the summer of this year. Is it possible that he wouldn’t have told his friend the president of it, due to the official policy of not disclosing information about investigations in progress? Only a fool would believe that.

Henry S. writes:

The Krauthammer thesis makes loads of sense, but only if the White House knew of the affair, which is something you seem to be resisting because you are basing everything on one NY Times article. [LA replies: I am not basing everything on one NY Times article. I said that the article gives a depth and detail to the investigation which shows that it’s absurd to claim that the whole thing was an elaborate plot to remove Petraeus.]

So, the NY Times is an “evil” institution, but in this one case, they are to be trusted above all common sense and knowledge about the way the world works? [LA replies: I did not say that the Times is to be trusted or that everything in that story is true. I said that there is a detail and depth to their account of the investigation which makes it clear that the investigation was a real investigation and actually occurred, which some people acted as if it was not the case.]

For that I must believe two things:

1. That the AG didn’t tell the President. his friend, that the head of the CIA was behaving in this reckless fashion; and

2. That the AG didn’t tell the President, his friend, that the head of the CIA was in a position to be his blackmailed catspaw.

See this from Fox. (Yes, it’s the Hannity show, but the guy speaking isn’t Hannity.)

Henry S. continues:

You wrote: “Many people, including some VFR readers, have suggested that the Petraeus scandal was, from the start, a complex conspiracy to bring down Petraeus. ”

Just for the record, I have never thought this and I regret that anything I wrote led to your thinking I did.

Petraeus and Broadwell did what they did without any baiting of traps. But, my slow brain is befuddled by two things: one, did Eric Holder tell the President that the head of the CIA was messing around and possibly compromising security, when he learned of the affair in September, and two, why did the unnamed FBI agent contact Eric Cantor, of all people, with the scoop? [LA replies: Actually, as I read recently, it was not Cantor he contacted, but another representative, who then contacted Cantor.]

Perhaps there is an innocuous answer to those questions (especially the second one), but I can’t think of it.

Jim P. writes:

If what Krauthammer says is true, a couple of problems present themselves.

One is that Petraeus may have corrupted himself not just by the affair but by showing a willingness to alter testimony. If he comes forth and re-alters it to correct the record he’ll be seen as a hopelessly compromised person and one the media will be happy to discredit in order to protect the administration.

Second, the fear that people in highly sensitive jobs are prone to blackmail from our enemies would now have to include the proviso that your very own boss is prepared to do the same thing! The standard of a morally uncompromised state for an individual would seem to be a very inconvenient thing for king makers. They have no basis to push you around.

Ric writes:

Due to Gen. Petraeus’s unbecoming conduct as commanding general in Afghanistan in relation to his biographer, Obama made the general an offer he could not refuse: he could preserve his hefty pension and reputation if he retired from the Army and accepted the CIA position.

While the general’s reputation is now in disarray due to a cascade of unforeseen circumstances, keep in mind that Obama still has leverage to affect the general’s substantial pension under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Gen. Petraeus can be prosecuted for conduct unbecoming an officer and the president is in a unique position to request prosecution if the general does not continue to cooperate.

Petraeus’s and Broadwell’s use of shared e-mail account

James P. writes:

How do we square the “draft folder” trick with the claim that Petraeus sent Broadwell thousands of e-mails? The whole point of this trick is that no e-mail is actually sent. Did he keep thousands of draft e-mails in the draft folder?

LA replies:

Aren’t you mixing up Petraeus with the earlier, superseded report that Allen exchanged thousands of e-mails with Kelley?

James P. replies:

No, the FBI reported that Petraeus sent thousands of e-mails to Broadwell.

Nick D. writes:

It would make no sense for the adulteress to have used the shared account to harass the other-other woman. If the other-other woman replied to those e-mails, Petraeus could have seen it, and known he was dealing with a loose screw with a screw loose, and promptly broken off the affair.

The tabloid nature of this case makes it easy to overlook certain big-picture aspects. One of these currently on my mind is, Who Ordered the Code Red? Someone must have ordered Petraeus to step down, AND reveal the affair. If they just wanted him gone, he could have given any standard excuse—more time with the grandkids, golf, write a novel. But to make public his affair was exceptionally cruel to his wife. It may have come to light later, but why lay it right on the table, and guarantee her humiliation? It is also a safe bet that someone would figure out the identity of the other woman, and that her husband and children would be publicly humiliated; so why ensure all the victims are further shamed? If it was his own idea to “come clean,” then Petraeus is utterly devoid of character, and uncaring of how his actions harm the innocent. [LA replies: Very interesting. No one has raised these questions before.]

Any speculation that he stepped down to avoid the upcoming inquiry is ludicrous; Congress can subpoena any citizen to testify on Benghazi, or any other topic. His resignation actually liberates him to testify more freely, as he can no longer hide behind Executive Privilege. [LA replies: That’s the way it always struck me.]

Alexis Zarkov writes:

The real scandal about Petraeus: he’s incompetent. Here we have the head of the CIA trying to do his own covert communication (CC), and failing at it. Had Petraeus and his paramour Broadwell simply had two separate and private e-mail accounts to exchange their steamy messages, we would not have anything that looks all that sinister. Just the ordinary hanky panky one finds in governments all over the world. No big deal. However they used a single gmail account, and left their messages (in plain text) in the draft folder, in an amateurish and clumsy attempt at CC, which is guaranteed to arouse suspicion if discovered. Petraeus should know better. His agency is keenly interested in CC. They need it for their operatives and their NOC (No Official Cover) contacts. They also want to detect and decode CC as part of their regular intelligence operations. Petraeus should know that you don’t leave your message in plain text at a place where it gets backed up. Evidently, although we don’t know this for sure, Broadwell used the common account as well as other accounts to send threatening messages to Jill Kelly. Even if Broadwell didn’t use the common account, the FBI would still have been able to trace the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses back to Petraeus and Broadwell with Google’s cooperation. Sending threatening messages to someone is not a good idea especially if you don’t know how to cover your tracks, and Broadwell didn’t. Petraeus showed very bad judgment by getting involved with this bimbo the press keeps telling us is so accomplished and smart.

While it’s very difficult to cover IP tracks, I think it can be done. Use a public WiFi network such as one finds in coffee shops, and spoof the MAC (Media Access Control) address on your laptop, so you don’t leave an identifier in the records of the coffee shop’s network. This will make IP tracing extremely difficult, and I suspect impossible. In any case, if you have to send a secret message to someone at least encrypt it. Today that’s easy to do with commercial software packages, although many of us suspect NSA has a backdoor to them.

LA replies:

I don’t understand your point. Obviously if they had exchanged e-mail between two separate accounts, the affair would have also been easily discovered. Is your point what they needed to do not to be discovered, or is your point that the shared draft folder makes the affair look more sinister?

Alexis Zarkov replies:

My point is exactly as stated. As the press has been pointing out, they used a technique that teenagers, and some terrorists use, a “drop box” inside a private e-mail account. This suggests they might have more to hide than a simple extramarital affair. It makes their whole relationship look more sinister. [LA replies: But they had as much need to protect their secret as, say, terrorists have to protect theirs. If the technique is more effective than others, I don’t see how that implies that they were doing something more sinister than adultery.] My larger point is both look technically incompetent. That might be all right for Broadwell, but not for Petraeus. As the head of the CIA he should know weak CC.

“An inevitable affair?”

NM writes:

It looks as if everything that was said of Petraeus and his wife can be said of General John Allen and his wife Kathy, though Gen. Allen is not as youthful in appearance. Naturally, a Daily Mail article has the details. Kathy Allen reportedly called herself “Pudge Mom” on social networking websites; she was not overstating her case.

No one can say whether these infidelities would not have occurred had these generals’ wives maintained their appearance better. But if, say, a thousand such cases happened, I can’t imagine that there would be a different outcome in a significant proportion of the time, that the men would not cheat because they had more attractive wives at home. We also know that when a woman cheats, nearly everyone is quick to lay the blame at her husband’s feet—he neglected her, he was shiftless, he worked too many hours, he was sexually inadequate, he was too weak-willed, et cetera. Yet, some would like to bar us from drawing the slightest hint of a similar conclusion for men guilty of adultery, and prohibit us from seeing any causal role in the behavior of their wives.

No doubt, James N.’s point is correct. I recall a rabbi’s sermon mentioning a reality TV show called “Temptation Island” where contestants were placed alongside couples in other relationships, to “test” their relationships. The rabbi criticized this, saying that this is not the way of traditional observance—one doesn’t go out into the world throwing themselves into every lurid situation to test one’s fidelity. Rather one removes oneself from temptation. He respects the fact that he is not a saint, that certain conditions may promote sin, even among the most pious.

In a traditionalist, patriarchal society, the notions that (1) a wife oughtn’t consort with other powerful married men, and that (2) a wife ought to maintain a pleasing appearance, would be deemed common sense. In our current society, naturally, both are offensive in the extreme—both impose constraints and limitations upon the modern woman for which she has no appetite. And plenty of modern men would happily take up the cause of such women, at least for the first notion, and fight for a woman’s right to gather round the big boys. Many men feel so inadequate, so starved for female validation, that they will do anything to secure it, and it becomes a sort of moral compass for them—“Women are applauding me, I must be doing the right thing, while anyone who opposes us must be wrong and immoral.”

LA replies:

See also NM’s earlier comment in “An inevitable affair?” which is equally interesting.

Trying to be fair to Jill Kelley

Giuliano D. writes:

From Business Insider:

The mysterious woman at the center of the Petraeus sex scandal founded a cancer charity in 2007 with her surgeon husband Scott, Jason Cherkis and Christina Wilkie of the Huffington Post report.

The charity was called the Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation. It was run out of the couple’s house—the same house where they famously and lavishly entertained military brass like General Petraeus and General John Allen.

According to a form filed by the charity, its “Mission Statement” was as follows:


The charity spent $157,000 in 2007, reports Huffpo. This spending went to the following expenses:

$43,317 for Meals and Entertainment

$38,610 for Travel

$25,013 for legal fees

$8,822 for Automotive Expenses

$12,807 for office expenses and supplies, and

$7,854 on utilities and telephones

It’s not clear where the $157,000 the charity spent came from. It’s also not clear, exactly, what these expenditures had to do with cancer research and the wishes of terminal patients.

In any event, after the charity spent the money, it ceased operations.

Whatever this short-lived “Cancer Foundation” spent its money on, we’d bet the money was deducted from someone’s tax return.

Broadwell’s accusations against Kelley

Giuliano D. writes:

From The Daily Mail:

The mistress of shamed former CIA chief David Petraeus accused her supposed love-rival of touching him under the table and asked if her husband was aware of her actions, in a string of threatening e-mails.

In one of the e-mails from Broadwell to Kelley, she accused the Florida housewife of touching him underneath a table and another e-mail asked if Kelley’s husband was aware of her actions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Does your husband know you’ve been touching Petraeus under the table?”

The anonymous writer claimed to have watched Ms. Kelley touching “him” provocatively underneath a table, officials said.

In another, the biographer of the former CIA director was apparently aggressive towards Mrs. Kelley, saying: “Who do you think you are?”

The anonymous writer claimed to have watched Ms. Kelley touching “him” provocatively underneath a table, officials said.

LA replies:

I saw stories on this and they said her e-mail said touching “him,” not touching “Petraeus.” I believe (though I’m not sure) that if you read that Daily Mail article it will claim in the headline and lead that she said “touching Petraeus,” but that if you read further into the article it will make it clear that she said “touching him.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 15, 2012 08:02 AM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):