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Judging Petraeus
Mom with a View

Judging Petraeus

Don’t sit in self-righteous condemnation. We could all make the same mistake.


It’s too easy to judge, to sit in self-righteous condemnation. What was General Petraeus thinking?! How could he throw it all away – his career, his marriage (37 years), his family – for a brief satisfaction of his appetites?

And Ms. Broadwell is a 40 year-old married mother of two. (As in all these situations, it takes two to tango. The men don’t bear the sole responsibility!) What was she thinking? What about her career, and more importantly her husband and young sons – what legacy is she bequeathing to them? How many lives are ruined by these self-indulgent behaviors?

Yes, it’s too easy to judge. How many of us have that an unwarranted confidence that we would never make such a mistake? We are completely superior in our judgment, good sense and ability to withstand temptation.

This attitude is based on illusion.

In Ethics of the Fathers we are warned not to trust ourselves, not to be sure of ourselves until the day we die. This means we are all susceptible. This means that the ability to engage in behavior that is not clearly not in our best interests, that offers only momentary satisfaction, that is in the pursuit of illusory goals dwells within all of us. It’s too easy to talk about them. It could be you and me; it could be any one of us.

Let’s get off our high horses. We could also make their mistakes. We could also lose our bearings. Perhaps the more you accomplish, the more the external accolades, the easier it is to neglect or obscure our inner moral compass. The potential lies within every one of us. You don’t need to be a general or a governor or even an overpaid athlete.

It is too easy to sit in self-righteous condemnation. We are all human and therefore we are all vulnerable.

The first step in preventing such behavior is to recognize the possibility, the potential within all of us. The belief that “it couldn’t happen to me,” the accompanying arrogance and cockiness causes our lower self to lick its lips in anticipation, as it were. We are setting ourselves up for a fall.

But the recognition that I too could falter (God forbid) leads to humility. I am not superior. I am at risk. I need safeguards. I need to be proactive.

We all need to avoid potential minefields, situations that are ripe for trouble. We need to strategize in advance and not wait until we are in the middle of uncomfortable circumstances. (Ethics of Our Fathers also teaches as that a wise man foresees the consequences of his actions, imagines the future and therefore plans ahead.) It’s good to map out a strategy for dealing with office holiday parties, business trips, personal assistants, family friends, neighbors, and, if our lives merit them, biographers!

We need to be on our guard. We need to acknowledge our vulnerability. We need to avoid perilous environments.

Am I overreacting? I don’t think so. Ask the Petraeus and Broadwell families…

November 17, 2012

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 10

(7) John, December 6, 2012 8:01 PM

I agree with Julia

Men and Women holding leadership positions such as General Petraeus should not dishonor themselves or thier position of trust, they are an example to those under them.

(6) Fred, November 21, 2012 3:13 AM

There is so much more to this story

The so called "media" is covering for our President. He knew what was going on but wanted it hidden until after the election. They will never admit and cover up what really happened over there just like they did with Fast and Furious.

(5) Julia, November 20, 2012 11:19 PM

Sordid tragedy

I don't usually concern myself with other people's sex lives, although I do feel sympathy for the betrayed spouse. But when you work in intelligence , IT'S DIFFERENT. You have to live your life so as to avoid the slightest possibility of offering enemies something to blackmail you with. As Gen. Petreus was the Head of the CIA, part of his job was to set the standard. An agent in the field probably would have been fired for setting him/herself up for blackmail. The same for Paula Blackburn, who is a LIEUTENANT COLONEL in the US Army reserve. She had a Top Secret clearance, and she KNOWS better than TO BRING CLASSIFIED documents out of a secured area. She KNOWS she can' t have classified info on her personal computer at home. Both of them should have realized that with modern technology, NOBODY can say "Nobody will ever find out." If you or I get caught having an affair, the world might not care, but if you're the head of the CIA, or an Army officer, others do care and will make it public. Emmuna Braverman is right. I am not proud of some of my behavior, but like most people, I am not putting national security at risk. And what's with the threatening e-mails Ms., no, Lieutenant Colonel Blackburn sent to Ms Kelly? And it's so convenient that Gen P resigned right before the hearings on Bengazi. One problem with infidelity , as any sin, is it can lead to so many unplanned consequences. ever day we're learning more and more about these folks. I don't want to be a judgemental person, but this situation is a tragedy for many reasons.

(4) elana, November 20, 2012 5:47 PM


Sorry, I don't understand your article. Of course everyone makes mistakes, so each person has to take responsibility for his or her own actions...but what has this got to do with "it takes two to tango"? Are you actually blaming the wife for her cheating husband? My skin is crawling if that is what you have said in your article.

Naomi, November 21, 2012 4:49 PM

what she meant

The comment "it takes two to tango" refered to the man and the woman who were having the affair, not the man and his wife. The article was clear about that.

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