Letters

Petraeus’s fall: a confusion of leadership with conquest the seems to bedevil only men

Reflecting on retired General David Petraeus’s resignation as director of the CIA, Kevin Cullen offers a thoughtful exploration of the tremendous stress that repeated deployment to hostile war-torn areas places on individuals and their marriages (“Scandal highlights the strains of modern war,” Page A2, Nov. 11).

Despite those arguments, I find myself marveling at yet another prominent man apparently unable to control his impulses in order to uphold his vow of marital fidelity.

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In this case, Petraeus chose both to violate those vows and, on a high-stakes stage, to disregard his obligation to remain irreproachable as a national security official and a genuine national hero.

What is it that leads so many powerful men to put their hard-won achievements at risk?

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What is this irresistible impulse that seems to attack men almost exclusively? Who is the last powerful woman from the world of politics, business, or academia that anyone recalls taking a fall of this nature?

It’s certainly possible that women are just better at hiding it, but I suspect that a peculiarly male confusion of leadership and conquest is what continues to place these offenders squarely in the middle of their self-made messes.

Judy Perlman

Cambridge

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