Skip to comments.Petraeusís Bathsheba Syndrome - Why did a man we so respected succumb to temptation?
Posted on 11/14/2012 1:49:25 PM PST by neverdem
General David Petraeus is arguably the most consequential and renowned American military leader since World War II. His resignation because of an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, has shocked Americans. L’affaire Petraeus has two parts that must be separated: his sexual relationship with Broadwell itself, and the link between the timing of the announcement of his resignation and the Benghazi attacks on September 11.
Here I will focus on the former. What led a successful general at the height of his power and influence to have an affair that undid all he had accomplished?
In 1993, Dean Ludwig and Clinton Longnecker co-authored an article for The Journal of Business Ethics titled “The Bathsheba Syndrome: The Ethical Failure of Successful Leaders.”(PDF) The name of their piece comes, of course, from the biblical story of King David and Bathsheba, recounted in the Second Book of Samuel. David seduces Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and impregnates her. He later orders that Uriah be placed in the front ranks of the fighting, where Uriah is killed. Upon word of his death, David marries Bathsheba. God is displeased and sends the prophet Nathan to rebuke the king, who repents but is nonetheless punished by the death of his and Bathsheba’s child, and by the later civil war arising from the insurrection Absalom (David’s beloved third son) leads against Solomon (the second son of David and Bathsheba).
Ludwig and Longnecker, as well as others writing subsequently, have argued that the psychological impact of gaining power, despite many positive effects, also may unleash a dark side: the belief that one is too big to fail, that the normal rules do not apply. Thus even a leader of high moral character may succumb to the temptations that accompany the acquisition of power. The findings of Ludwig and Longnecker regarding the moral corruption of the powerful go a long way toward explaining Petraeus’s behavior.
For one, they argue that moral principles are more often abandoned in the wake of success than as a result of competitive pressure. Success tends to inflate a leader’s belief that he has a special personal ability to manipulate or control outcomes, an issue that particularly seems to have applied to Petraeus.
The general clearly seemed to believe that he could control the consequences of his sexual liaison with Broadwell, his biographer. I reviewed her book All In: The Education of General David Petraeus for Foreign Affairs, and wrote that the book portrayed Petraeus as the modern exemplar of the soldier-scholar-statesman. “The Petraeus that emerges from Broadwell’s book,” I wrote, “is educated, committed, competitive, driven, and inspiring.” I noted Broadwell’s “extensive access to the general and his subordinates over a prolonged period” but concluded that All In had avoided the “pitfall of hagiography.” In retrospect, I was wrong.
Not all Davids who fall prey to the Bathsheba syndrome have an actual Bathsheba, but Petraeus did. Although I absolved her of hagiography, it seemed clear that Broadwell, a West Point graduate and Army reserve officer with an M.A. from the University of Denver and an M.P.A. from Harvard, was in awe of Petraeus. Twenty years younger than the general, Broadwell is a very attractive married mother of two young children, but her appeal to Petraeus no doubt went beyond mere sex.
As we are now discovering, many of Petraeus’s closest advisers were very concerned about the “extensive access” that Broadwell had to the general. Many of those individuals may well bear some of the responsibility for the situation that has ensued. The Bathsheba syndrome is usually enabled by a phalanx of loyalists and operatives willing to defend the leader at any cost. The leader thus may come to believe that he is somehow invulnerable, allowing his passions and sensual desires to tyrannize over his reason and good judgment.
This was certainly the case with, say, Bill Clinton. Although General Petraeus has always seemed to possess a moral fiber absent in the case of the former president, he too may have felt that he would be protected by his loyal subordinates. That is the fate of a man who succumbs to the Bathsheba syndrome.
— Mackubin Thomas Owens is a professor of national-security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and the editor of Orbis. He is a Marine infantry veteran of Vietnam.
Mutual attraction on many levels.
why? People like sex.
Gawd, what a waste of cyber paper.
"A stiff dick has no conscience"
Huh? Did you see the rack on his mistress?
It apparently took years of contact until the fire was finally lit.
“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
Paula,I dropped my pen under the desk!
That is why I have an OPEN DOOR policy in my workplace
I would NEVER allow my door to be closed when I am alone with another female
(most of the time it is never closed anyway- but I have had to open in more than once when someone came in with other than business on their mind)
She is fit, and fills out her outfits very nicely. I expect she is smart and confident too
She likely gives as good as she gets.
Why settle for a 2 or 3 star general?
Nope. Absalom rebelled against David. Solomon is not mentioned in connection with him.
Adonijah, another son of David, attempted a couple of coups against Solomon, but they did not get to the level of civil war. Solomon executed him after the second attempt.
I think the ancient Romans had the best idea. During the triumphant parade through the City a slave stood behind the conquering general and reminded him that “Cesar, this too will pass.”
Unfortunately there is no one in our current defense establishment that is tasked to do that.
Or to put it another way, how did a guy who is constantly sold to us as being one of the smartest people on the planet not realize that as CIA Director he was Target #1 for honey pot ops?
I watched a CSPAN talk and she said she chased him ... not in those words ... but that's what she did.
He was set up.
My explanation is that Petraeus was/is a geeky kind of guy, nice, smart, accomplished, but never what we would call, a ladies’ man. It didn’t bother him most of his life. He was busy doing what he did best and that didn’t involve being a ladies’ man.
Then came Afghanistan and Broadwell at the same time. Unhappy, and probably suffering some self doubt for the first time in his long career, Broadwell made him feel younger and attractive and she offered companionship and probably an ear for his doubts and concerns. She probably offered something his wife didn’t a different kind of companionship on a more professional level, feeding his ego and assuaging his doubts. Petraeus probably never intended to hurt his wife. It just happened.
I was thinking more like Delilah, not Bathsheba.
Well I don’t think she was as good looking at Bathsheba or at least Alice Krige playing Bathsheba in KING DAVID. And David should have overcome that come on.
Some men can say no to the lesser temptations and a few men can still say no to the stronger temptations. But many don’t even try to withstand even the barely tempting temptations.
Why? Because he wanted to.
Well put ‘Frog. Yep, sold to us as so smart, the ‘Top Spook’ if you will, but to damn stupid to be able to figure out how to bang a chippie broad or two on the sly without getting caught. This very well could be a classic Honey Pot. I read a story earlier today that really layed out some interesting things about those 2 sisters and their connections to the middle east.
Oh he'll bounce right back!
Hell; even Slick Willy got re-elected!
I’m sure the fact that his wife is a leftist harridan had nothing to do with it. Talk about just giving up and letting yourself go. That doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it does make it more likely to happen in the first place.
Is the Old Testament the same in every version?
The author is too cerebral in his analysis. Sexual attraction is designed to overpower the rational mind, and it is exceedingly difficult to maintain moral purity. That’s why there are many moral strictures to act as a bulwark against that kind of temptation. This is especially true if you’re a man in the presence of an attractive, smart, and aggressive woman who is obviously willing to become physically intimate. Yes, many man do pass by the temptation, but I’m willing to be that those who do reject it spend much of their lives imagining what might have been. The rest succumb to temptation.
That’s not where my mind went with this. The first thing I thought about were the sheer volumes of Democrat horndogs who have mounted everything this side of a knot in a tree and been richly appreciated by their party and the media. The double standard floors me. Second, I was thinking about Alinsky’s rule about punishing your enemy with their own rules. Petraeus was talked about as a Republican presidential candidate; now this. Third, I know Obama has a long history of destroying opponents with revelations about private sex lives. This fits the pattern.
God help us.
“...willing to BET....”
Need a better editor (in my brain).
The candy in checkout lanes is for men. We’re impulse buyers. The bigger question is, “Why risk your family and career?” Why bring her back for more?
Sure, but was it “All In”? ;)
I hope her husband kicks her dirty whoring *ss to the curb, takes her children, and her book royalties, too! Then you’ll see how much that “rack” will get her.
Well, he’s also had prostate cancer and probably has hugh problems with his sexual performance. Takes a strong women to help him with his penis pump.
Tomorrow he could surprise me, but I'm thinking he'll just lie his pathetic old rear end off to save Obama.
This is not as widely known as it should be.
I've been running for over 40 years, and Petraeus by all accounts was near fanatical in his obsession with running..far more than I. Over the age of 40, and especially over 50, the physical distinctions and capabilities between those who are fit, and those who aren't, are far more apparent. People who don't run, do NOT understand how important it is to those who do. That's why we run in the rain, in the snow, why we get up at the crack of dawn, even after having gotten home at 2am that same night. Why when we're away on a business trip, we take out running gear.
Holly Petraeus is a lovely lady who does wonderful work with the troops, and has been the perfect military spouse as Petraeus climbed the ranks. However, it's obvious from pictures that she probably couldn't walk a 5k. They couldn't share his greatest passion.And she wasn't always like that, their wedding pics show a slender woman; indeed, their daughter's wedding's pics, from last year, mirror the mom's..a slender, trim, attractive woman.
The wife, for whatever reasons, let herself go over the years..failed to take care of herself...and that can, and has, killed many a marriage, when one spouse falls badly out of shape. Some may call that sexist, to me, it's just reality.
The fact that Broadwell could run, and even keep up with him, was, IMHO, the ultimate contributing factor..she could share, participate in, something that is very important to him.
Ahitophel, who sides with Absalom (he is the one who suggests that Absalom sleep with David's concubines) but later commits suicide when his advice is rejected, was the grandfather of Bathsheba...so the great-grandfather of Solomon, who would never have reached the throne if Absalom had succeeded David.
You make sense.
RE: #34, that makes as much sense as anything I’ve read about this affair.
Broadwell is a woman with a husband and two kids. If it were a honey pot, a more logical and so more likely seductress would have been an attractive single woman.
Furthermore she allegedly still had papers on her when the affair became public. That is not the hallmark of a pro operation.
Please don't ask me how I know.
Who ever respected BetrayUs?
Petraeus is a long distance runner. Long distance running can be very beneficial. It reduces stress and usually improves overall health. Long distance running to prove your superiority over your subordinates creates an unhealthy command climate. Some people become addicted to running. There is “The Runner’s High” that some people have. It can become addicting. Like any other addiction, it can be very detrimental. The need to run means that there is less time for other activities including business activities. There are studies that claim that years of long distance running, coupled with a low body fat percentage, robs the brain of necessary materials. I would assume that Petraeus has a low body fat. If you run to prove your superiority over your subordinates, then I think you have an inferiority complex. Petraeus was pushing 60 years of age. A younger woman takes an interest in him. He can show that age isn’t affecting him and he’s not inferior. That’s my take.
little head vs. big head
That bling is about as earned as the participation awards hat are handed out to our school children.
During the years of close contact, Petraeus had ample opportunity to “draw the line” for Broadwell; however, he apparently did not, presuming she did not physically jump him by surprise after he did draw the line (an unlikely scenario IMHO). I think a plausible explanation is that Broadwell set her sights on Petraeus early. By not drawing the line, Petraeus marked himself in her estimation as either weak-willed, or a serial philanderer waiting for the next score to come around. Certainly with a wife like he had, Petraeus may have finally succumbed to marital battle fatigue when Broadwell came along to push him over the edge. However, it may alternatively be the case that the guy was accustomed to “playing the field” while away from home. Playing the field does not seem that uncommon in the military (so I have occasionally heard). If Petraeus was playing the field already by the time Broadwell came along, it would be a relatively minor step for him to convince himself that Broadwell would be like all the others before her, that is, a practice that might at most receive a wink and a verbal reprimand in more mundane circumstances. However he would have been by then more than halfway down the slippery slope, and neglected to realize that the biographer relationship would be public and the materials he shared with her potentially suspected to be classified, in which case any liaison would be very difficult for others to ignore once brought to their attention.
I think I get it. I'm like that with prayer.
This entire matter can't be this simple can it? Please tell me that Petraeus and others realize that our country is being stolen from under our eyes and are moving cleverly to attempt to recover it.;-)
Broadwell is young enough to be his daughter. His wife, Holly, is about 20 yrs. older than her. It reaches a point where it’s not just a matter of “letting yourself go”; she was a pretty slender blonde girl with long hair when they married. Things change. I cannot feel good about this just because she is a lib. You put your life’s blood into a marriage nearly 40 yrs., and it does take a toll.
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