I’ve been reluctant to write on this Petraeus stuff and wasn’t sure why that was so. I am now. I just don’t care. I really don’t.
Maybe there’s something I’m just not seeing in this story of cheating 4-star generals and their equally unfaithful email-loving women…but whatever it is, I still don’t care. That said, and without any attempt to excuse the behavior of any of the players in this sordid tale, here’s something to think about.
That’s the thing about Petraeus. He isn’t some sort of paragon of virtue as people on the right want to claim, nor is he just business as usual in his abuse of power and position as some on the left seem to believe. There is something unique about him and what he’s done, and I just wish people would look at the situation essentially sui generis rather than as confirmation of one worldview or another.
There is a perception, I think, that general officers are swinging dick, alpha-males, screwing, boozing, and brawling their way through life. And sure, there are some like that, but in my experience, general officers are about as far from that stereotype as possible. They are usually driven, hard-working, introspective, and bookish. Whether they went to the service academies or ROTC, they rarely had time to party even as undergrads. They often marry young, have kids young, and spend much of their time either deployed or struggling to pay attention to their families when they are home. They are, in short, often nerds (in a good way), and they are not always well-equipped emotionally to deal with the kind of attention they begin to attract as they rise in rank, and particularly as they pin on stars. General Allen, for instance, has a reputation as a serious, bookish guy. Now maybe he’s a serial cheater, and Jill Kelley was just another actual or potential conquest, but more likely, in my estimation, is that he just didn’t quite know how to handle her attention. I dunno, but I think it worth keeping in mind that possibility.