Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Petraeus: What's in a Name? A Greek Tragedy

General David Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director, apparently because of an affair with a Paula Broadwell, gives new meaning to the word “embedded.”  Broadwell, an army intelligence reservist, was “embedded” with the general in Afghanistan for a few years while ostensibly co-authoring a biography. She remained "embedded" in some way when he became CIA director. 
Centaur by Elvira @snowskadi.deviantart.com

The double entendres--the double meanings and play on words--are inevitable.  

Broadwell's writing, as well as her behavior, raise questions.  She has written, for example, that the general’s “sheer energy, whether applied to soldiering, scholarly pursuits, public outreach or mentoring,” are breathtaking.  Public outreach? Mentoring? So we can now add to that sentence “sheer energy” in bed, too?  In fact, the reviews of the Petraeus biography, "All In," add fuel to the flames when read in the current context.  (See for example Kimberly Dozier's review in Huffington Post, 11/29/11.)  In hindsight, they raise doubts about the wildly-enthusiastic-bordering on-the-ecstatic nature of the biography as well.   

Petraeus in Greek mythology was a centaur, one of those half-men, half-horse warriors who drank too much, partied too long, but also fought hard in battle.  Petraeus the centaur. Petraeus was also related to Poseidon, so there’s a sea-worthy connection of some sort according to scholars. I learned while doing a little research that General Petraeus’s father, Sixtus Petraeus, was in fact a navy captain during World War II.  A confluence of influences, from Athens to America, from 5th century BC to the present, on land and on sea.

General David Petraeus’s contributions to our country are widely acknowledged, from the President on down. It’s a shame he was undone by his “sheer energy” and the policy of “embedding” civilians and reporters in the fields of battle.  

It's a Greek tragedy, worthy of Homer and Shakespeare.  It seems to be about 
betrayal: "Et tu Brutus?"  About enemies who bring down heroes, as in Othello and Julius Caesar.  About humans defying the gods.  About an inner flaw, buried deep but powerful, that brings down our earthly giants.  

Petraeus betrayed us, and a whole fabric of duplicity is unraveling. But more tragic, Petraeus betrayed his own values. 

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