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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?

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


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