Generals Gone Wild

“Gen. John R. Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said early Tuesday was ‘inappropriate communication’ with Jill Kelley, the woman in Tampa, Fla., who was seen as a rival for David H. Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.”

— New York Times, November 13, 2012


As they say on the Internet, OMG. Just when you thought it couldn’t get much wilder, the Petraeus-Broadwell affair has become even more complicated. Sure, we already knew about Jill Kelley, but General Allen? Where will it end?

The way things are breaking in this story, by the time you read this everything may have changed. And everyone and his brother will have done some funny bit on it. But I’m going to plunge in anyhow, all in. Which reminds me, in another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up category, All In is the title of Broadwell’s biography of her paramour.


What does it all mean? As I wrote in an e-mail to my wife this morning when I sent her the link to the Times article, no wonder things haven’t gone so well for us in the Middle East. Who has time for war?

There are a several interesting aspects of this case that bear our attention.


1. The media’s obsession with carnal matters. No matter what else is going on, and in spite of the fact that climate change seems to have arrived and is threatening us with planetary apocalypse, as soon as there is a sex scandal the media plunge in as if there were no tomorrow (or perhaps because, in a decade or so, there really might not be). Of course, this is understandable. We all need distractions from our own concerns about the world, not to mention the trouble we’ve been having with our computers and septic tanks.

Actually, I shouldn’t be criticizing this media obsession, since by writing this, I am joining in. But come on, I’m a humorist, and just how many laughs can you get out of end-of-the-world jokes?


2. The role of modern telecommunications, starting with e-mail. That Times piece says that what was turned over to the Pentagon were “20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley, who is married and has children.”

Meanwhile, a major factor leading to Petraeus’s downfall were e-mails exchanged between Broadwell and Kelley, where the former was telling the latter, in a way that Kelley found threatening, not to flirt with her guy. This led to an FBI investigation which turned up steamy e-mails between Broadwell and Petraeus.

Which leads to the obvious question: Why are all these people using e-mails to express their illicit passions, threaten others perceived as interlopers, etc.? Hasn’t anyone ever hard about the phone?

And then, just to add insult to injury, according to a New York Daily News story, “David Petraeus’s stunning downfall took another salacious turn Monday as it was revealed the FBI agent who began investigating the disgraced spy chief allegedly sent shirtless photos of himself to the woman who sparked the probe (Jill Kelley).”

What is going on? Can’t guys at least keep their clothes on? And if they have to take them off, do they have to send photos — again using modern telecommunications to get themselves in trouble? (Remember Anthony Weiner?)”


3. Alpha males still seem to have some appeal, even to mature women, who are not lightweights by any means themselves. These are not sweet young innocents we’re talking about here. Broadwell is 40 and a highly accomplished woman. Kelley is 37 and a major Tampa socialite. Both are married to prominent physicians, but, hey, when it comes to alphaness, it’s pretty hard to beat a four-star general (even a retired one like David Petraeus).


4. Finally, the Petraeus-Broadwell affair answers, once and for all, the question that women always ask whenever they hear of yet another famous guy who admits that he’s had an extramarital affair: Can’t these guys keep their pants zipped?

The answer is no.

Case (if not pants) closed.