A senior military source leaves no doubt about who many in the military community believe is responsible for the downfall of General David Petraeus:The woman who was Petraeus’s biographer and reported mistress, Paula Broadwell.
Petraeus met Broadwell at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2006 as she was wrapping up her Master’s degree.
Both are West Point alumni. Petraeus answered some of Broadwell’s questions regarding counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, interests they both shared.
“I took full advantage of his open-door policy to seek insight and share perspectives,” she writes in her book on Petraeus All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.
Broadwell promptly began her PhD dissertation entitled “a case study of General Petraeus’s leadership.” Two years later, when Petraeus assumed command of the Afghanistan War, the dissertation evolved into a book. That’s when her full access to the General began.
Any of that is spelled out in All In’s forward and Michael Hasting’s nine month old Rolling Stone review of the book.
Following Petraeus’s shocking resignation yesterday, I wanted to get a sense of how the situation is viewed within the military. I also wanted to understand the inside view of reports about the timing of the announcement, which came just after the election and just before Petraeus was scheduled to testify to Congress about Benghazi.
I reached out to a senior military source who has worked with Petraeus, (P4) as he’s referred to within the service, and who helped provide background information for Broadwell’s book. I’ll call the officer “James Downing”). A transcript of our conversation follows:
BI: Did anyone know about the affair before today?
James: I’m not sure anyone really “knew”, per se. But it’s one of those things that, as soon as the announcement was made, I knew in an instant who it was. Everything made sense. Who had exclusive access to him? Who wrote the hagiography on his life? Who framed their entire existence around his persona? It wasn’t hard to make the guess, and the rest is public knowledge now. One day, she’s celebrating her birthday as an accomplished (if you want to use that term) author and PhD candidate, the next she’s Paula Jones.
BI: Did you know Broadwell long?
James: I’ve known her for a few years, probably five or six. When she started work on the bio she called me for background on one of the general’s previous deployments. I probably gave her four hours or so, and we stayed in touch after that by email and an occasional phone call. Over that time, she went from someone very likeable to a shameless self-promoting prom queen. A very disturbing shift in how she carried herself. If she knew P4 was going to make an appearance at an event, she’d crash it without an invitation (she actually did this at the wedding of some close friends of mine) and photo bomb[ed] sic everyone there.
BI: Seems to be plenty of rumours there was more to this announcement, and the timing, than we’ll ever know. Benghazi, the election etc:
James: I seriously doubt it had anything more to it than what we’ve heard. Let’s face it, everyone is human, and we all make mistakes. You’re a 60 year-old man and an attractive woman almost half your age makes herself available to you — that would be a test for anyone. The timing of the rumours of the administration throwing him under the bus after the election is suspect, but in the end I believe she got her claws — so to speak — in him. He had enough honour to know that a cover-up is much worse than a public admission. As a result, I think he can recover and continue to be a player on the national stage, but she’s toast. Her reputation is unrecoverable, in my opinion.
BI: What will be the result for them?
James: As for her, I just hope that she can find peace with herself and that her family can recover. Another sign that something was amiss? She posted pictures of the “happy family” more than anyone I’ve ever seen in my book, that’s over-compensating. The more you try to be something you’re not, the more obvious it becomes.
BI: Anything else to add in closing?
James: I hope both families can recover. Anyone can make a mistake.
There are always two sides to every story, and it will be interesting to hear some perspective from Broadwell’s. She has a husband and children of her own, after all, for whom I’m sure this is very difficult.
The official I spoke with obviously doesn’t speak for everyone in the foreign service, or the military, but his view of the situation is probably common.
The General fell victim to the one thing that can destroy a military leader’s reputation faster than death: Seduction.
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