The recent and ever expanding scandal surrounding General Petraeus raises some interesting issues. Generally what you find are remarks about the arrogance of power. I agree that it exists and is present in this instance. Already though, there is the inevitable question: “How could he be so stupid?” The General himself called it “extremely poor judgement.” In my opinion stupidity and poor judgment are minor players in the drama. They are a smoke screen to keep us from looking at the real problem.
Petraeus was attracted to his paramour because she was athletic, intelligent, attractive, fawning, adoring and twenty years younger. Also she was his for the taking which she undoubtedly made abundantly clear. For a man of his power and status, such a woman is like the penthouse suite at a five star hotel. Expensive rooms come with many perks, some of which you can take with you when you leave but most of which are left behind for the next occupant. Initially, Paula Broadwell was merely an attractive and available option who had far too much private access to the General. Being a man of great discipline, he told himself he could easily fend off the allure but enjoy it’s perfume nonetheless. It was a perk of his position to be adored by such woman. A shrug of the shoulders, a dismissive wave of the hand, and the good General soldiers on carrying the burden of keeping the admiring women at bay. So why did this woman conquer his defenses? Was she special? Nah.
Sure what the General did was stupid but all of us do stupid. It’s a daily curse. It was also poor judgement but I defy the General to display a life that does not have reams of bad judgments made over the years. The real problem? He thought he was tough.
The more successful the man, the more likely he is deluded. This is a man of rigorous self discipline. He was a conqueror. No doubt there was no destructive habit that he could not overcome using the supreme unrestricted will power he possessed. He knocked over walls. He stomped on enemies. He was THE man, Lieutenant General David Howell Petraeus!
There was one power so great that it defeated him as easily as swatting a wounded mosquito. The sin nature. The enemy of David Petraeus is the enemy of us all and we carry it everywhere with us. He had no defenses against his sinful passions because, he probably did not think them much of an opponent and (I don’t know for sure) he may not have known Christ. He thought he could taste a bit of sweetness without consequence and he could hide it from view forever. I can only imagine the fear welling up inside him when the FBI first contacted him with what they knew. He had used a drop box for his email. How did they access it? (That by the way should startle anyone who has any illusions about privacy.) Doesn’t matter. They did. You’re done.
As for Paula Broadwell, she was intoxicated with the fantasy of reflected power and glory. She could be near him and maybe dear to him and enjoy all he possessed. Except… by possessing that which was not hers, she was the instrument that eradicated the power and glory of the man probably for good. Further, to her great pain and anger, she discovered that she was not as dear to him as she hoped. I feel for her but I hope she learned something. It’s the lesson that the “other woman” often learns. Romantic fantasy lies. Doing evil will not gain the good.
This very public drama teaches a potent lesson. Jesus Christ came to a dark and enslaved mankind to offer us light and freedom. All of us need His power to fight back against our own sin nature. All of us need His wisdom to take prudent steps to protect us from our own weaknesses. No one is immune. All are like sheep. A sheep is a stupid animal with bad judgment. Sound familiar?
Isaiah 53 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. (NASB)