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Posts Tagged ‘David Petraeus’

David Petraeus and the Biblical Lessons of Why Men Want Two Women

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

The David Petraeus scandal, where a national hero betrays a solid, devoted, soul mate of a wife to be with a young hot thing who gets his blood pumping seems as old as time itself. In earlier times a general or king would usually have two women to being with to  fulfill two very different needs. The pedigreed wife for children and to rule as a consort – and recall that Petraeus married the daughter of the Superintendent of West Point – and a mistress for passion and excitement. But Petraeus had to resign because our society does not tolerate unfaithfulness. It expects men who are accomplished in their public life to be equally accomplished in marriage by finding find both dimensions in one woman, namely their wives.

The Biblical story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah (which we read in last week’s portion) provides insight into what men search for and the tragedy of not  orchestrating disparate needs into one indivisible woman.

When Jacob first meets Rachel, he seeks to impress her by moving a giant stone, then kisses her, and breaks into tears. He then offers Laban, her father, seven years of work in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage. The years pass by so quickly that ‘they appeared in his eyes as if they were just days.’

Jacob’s love for Rachel is one of deep passion and yearning. It is love as covetousness, lust, and desire. It is the fieriest kind of romantic love. It is also the most tragic. Romantic, passionate, lustful love that is balanced by partnership and intimacy nearly always ends badly. Either because the fires die down, or because the fire burns so brightly that it consumes both participants. Fiery, lustful love rarely ends up with a happily ever after. Jacob feels in his bones that his passion for Rachel must end disastrously. Thus, he is drawn to kiss her, but he immediately weeps. He recognizes that in this imperfect world, perfect love is impossible to attain. He wants Rachel to be his soul mate, but he intuits that he will never fully possess her is destined to lose her.

By contrast, he experiences none of the same passion for Leah. When he is fooled into marrying her, he accepts Leah as a partner and eventually the mother of his children. But his yearning is for Rachel. Leah feels hated and names the first of her three children after her experiences of rejection from Jacob. Reuben is for the God ‘who saw my affliction and granted me a son.’ Simeon is for the God ‘who saw that I am hated.’ Levi is the son whose birth ‘will bring my husband closer to me.’ Only with the fourth son, Judah, which means ‘praise to God,’ do we begin to see a name that gives the child an intrinsic identity rather than one that relates instead to the relationship of his father to his mother.

Leah longs for Jacob the way that Jacob longs for Rachel. But for Jacob, Leah represents a maternal, practical partner with whom he shares a life but has no passionate connection. It reflects, arguably, the way Petraeus viewed his own loyal wife. They have intimacy but no intensity. They have a family but no fervor or fire. He loves her but does not long for her. He does not want bad things to happen to her. He wishes to protect her but she is not the delight of his soul.

Yet Jacobs knows in his heart that Leah, rather than Rachel, is destined to be his soul mate. (No doubt Petraeus knew in his heart as well he was always destined to return to his wife, if she would accept him back). She is destined to bear most of his children, share his life, and share eternity with him by being buried at his side. Leah represents stability and order. She will be Jacob’s anchor. She is his permanence. The woman who tethers him to family. Yet he will never make peace with love that is only functional and not romantic, stable but not passionate.

Rachel is playful, girlish, and evinces, at times, immaturity that is often characteristic of   women whom men desire mightily. She can also be callous about Jacob’s love for her, so confident is she in the  of his desire. When Reuben brings flowers for his mother Leah, Rachel strikes a deal with Leah to exchange the flowers for a conjugal night with Jacob. What Leah longs for, Rachel treats as mere currency. Unlike Jacob who understands intuitively the tragic nature of passionate, romantic love, Rachel thinks they have endless time to be together. One night will make no difference. But Jacob knows the clock is ticking.

Women like Leah ultimately both triumph and suffer. They triumph because in their stability they end up gaining the commitment of men who build families and lives with them. But they suffer because they never feel the passionate desire of their husbands. They never really feel wanted. They never truly feel special. And a woman wants to be lusted after even more than she wants to be loved.

But it is the amalgamation of both types of love that is meant to characterize the successful marriage. Not a man in a relationship with two women, but a man and woman whose marriage incorporates both dimensions. Husbands and wives are meant to have passion and practicality, fire and firmness, lust and love, desire and durability. Rachel and Leah are meant to be one.

The Jewish laws that will follow with the giving of the Torah at Sinai will prescribe half of the month devoted to passion and sexual fire, and half of the month devoted to soulfulness and intimacy. The orchestration of the two is what makes a marriage whole. We are meant to be lovers and best friends, paramours and soul mates, people who ache for each other but settle down with one another to create a life of stability and permanence. Our wives should be our mistresses and our companions, our excitement and our anchor. We never wish to lose our lust, but we also need to accompany lust with love.

It was Jacob’s inability to value both dimensions that lead to many problems in the life of his own family. Jacob seems scarred from his childhood. His father favored Esau, so from his earliest age he tasted rejection. Later, he will repeat many of these mistakes in favoring Joseph, creating even more dysfunction and sibling rivalry among his own children than he experienced with Esau. Likewise, he favors one wife and one type of love. He struggles to appreciate the stability of Leah and gravitates exclusively toward the drama of Rachel. With Rachel he fights and argues. She accuses Jacob of being responsible for her not falling pregnant. He fires back that he is not God and is not responsible for her infertility. But dramatic relationships are addictive and Rachel is the drug of choice. But in favoring Rachel so exclusively Jacob risks becomes emotionally monolithic, never quite mastering the art of relationships. He is, interestingly, far better at adversarial relationships than intimate ones. He outmaneuvers the wily Esau to take his blessing as well as his immoral and cunning father-in-law Laban. He wrestles with an angel and defeats him. He has learned from an early age to survive on his wits.

Like many a man who has experienced insufficient love in his childhood, Jacob finds intimacy challenging. Love for him is more of a high than a deep sharing of self. He seeks the deep thrill of love that comes from a woman of passionate nature like Rachel rather than a woman of deep emotion like Leah. Jacob gravitates to the romantic love of the poets rather than the practical love of real life.

But, whatever man’s plans, God often intends something different. Jacob lusts for Rachel but his future is with Leah.

We men of the modern era can draw the appropriate lesson.

The Petraeus Conundrum

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

There are some fascinating questions that come to mind regarding the current controversy concerning Gen. David Petraeus, and in the coming weeks and months many of the blanks will doubtless be filled in. To be sure, the personal dimension to the story will continue to draw much attention – infidelity and personal failure in high places will always have a certain allure. But there are some serious public issues involved that we hope will be pursued.

It’s obvious that news of this sort would dominate the media once it surfaced. Surely it would have sucked much of the air out of the story of the president’s efforts to rally the nation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It would also have drawn attention away from the president’s newly charged economic appeal to the middle class that had given him some late momentum in his electoral battle with Gov. Romney.

Yet it appears that the news about Gen. Petraeus was circulating long before the resignation, which occurred after the election. Thus, the FBI investigation that led to Gen. Petraeus’s stepping down began in May and continued until late summer, at which point Attorney General Eric Holder supposedly was notified. Yet it is claimed that it was only on November 6– Election Day – that the Justice Department informed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of the investigation; that on November 7the White House was notified; and that the president was first told on November 8.

Maybe. But it certainly seems inconceivable that an investigation of this sort involving the head of the Central Intelligence Agency – including possible criminal liability for compromising classified national security information – would not have been brought to the attention of the president or his senior staff early on. So the issue of whether there was an effort by public officials to suppress the Petraeus story in order to enhance the president’s reelection prospects is squarely before us.

Perhaps more important, Gen. Petraeus appears to be the intelligence source cited by the president and his senior staff as the basis for their refusal, for more than two weeks, to characterize the Benghazi attack as a terrorist act despite evidence that it was indeed a well-planned operation of an Al Qaeda affiliate. Not a few critics noted that to have acknowledged that fact would have been inconsistent with the administration’s position that Al Qaeda and similar outfits had been routed by U.S. military action.

In any event, soon after the Benghazi attack, Gen. Petraeus testified before a congressional committee that the attack was a spontaneous reaction on the part of Muslims angered by an anti-Muhamamad video. Further, Gen. Petraeus was scheduled to testify at two congressional hearings, beginning November 15,on both the failure to anticipate and properly respond to the attack as well as the decision to identify it as something other than a terrorist attack.

With the Petraeus resignation, acting CIA director Michael Morell is now scheduled to testify on behalf of the CIA. Gen. Petraeus has indicated that he will not testify, and as a civilian he will have an easier time avoiding that prospect despite the intentions of some in Congress to demand that he appear.

Was the general’s resignation part of an effort to keep him from having to testify? One need not subscribe to all the conspiracy theories now swirling around these developments. Generally, they are not helpful. But there certainly are questions that need to be looked into.

What Petraeus Really Said

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

When Gen. David Petraeus was portrayed last month as having made statements suggesting that America’s support of Israel was imperiling the lives of U.S. soldiers, the usual anti-Israel suspects had a field day on blogs and websites. Turns out, though, that the general didn’t quite say what was being attributed to him.

As The American Spectator’s Washington correspondent, Philip Klein, reported last week, “a posting on the Foreign Policy website caused a firestorm by reporting that in January, Gen. David Petraeus ‘sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers.’ “

Klein continues: “According to the dispatch by Mark Perry (an advocate of talks with terrorist groups), Petraeus requested that the West Bank and Gaza be shifted to his Central Command (from European Command) so that the U.S. military could ‘be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region’s most troublesome conflict.’

“The report, which was presented as context for the recent blowup between the Obama administration and Israel, was quickly seized on by critics of Israel as confirmation of their view that U.S. support for Israel hinders America’s national security interests…. But on [March 24], Petraeus poured cold water on the controversy….”

Responding to a question by The American Spectator at a press briefing during an appearance at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Petraeus, writes Klein, “said he never requested to have the West Bank and Gaza added to his responsibilities as leader of the military’s Central Command. He said that ‘every year or so’ commanders submit a plan that takes a geographic look at their areas of responsibility, and then there’s discussion about whether it would make sense to redraw the boundaries. For instance, he said, last time Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti were shifted to the Africa Command.

“ ‘Typically, there’s a question of should we ask to have Israel and Palestinian territories included, because what goes on there is obviously of enormous interest to the rest of the Central Command area, which is the bulk of the Arab world,’ Petraeus said. However, he emphasized that it was ‘flat wrong’ to claim he actually requested responsibility for the areas….

“He also refuted the claim that he had sent a request to the White House, saying he ‘very rarely’ sends things to the president, and only does so if he’s specifically asked.

“In addition, he explained that the quote that bloggers attributed to his Senate testimony was actually plucked out of context from a report that Central Command had sent the Armed Services committee.

“‘There’s a 56-page document that we submitted that has a statement in it that describes various factors that influence the strategic context in which we operate and among those we listed the Mideast peace process,’ he said. ‘We noted in there that there was a perception at times that America sides with Israel and so forth. And I mean, that is a perception. It is there. I don’t think that’s disputable. But I think people inferred from what that said and then repeated it a couple of times and bloggers picked it up and spun it. And I think that has been unhelpful, frankly.’

“[Petraeus] also noted that there were plenty of other important factors that were mentioned in the report, including ‘a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place.’

“Petraeus continued, ‘So we have all the factors in there, but this is just one, and it was pulled out of this 56-page document, which was not what I read to the Senate at all.’

“Concerning the charge that American troops are at greater risk due to the perception that the U.S. is too pro-Israel, Petraeus said, ‘There is no mention of lives anywhere in there. I actually reread the statement. It doesn’t say that at all.’”

Klein notes that Petraeus “said the only point was that moderate Arab leaders are worried about a lack of progress in the peace process. ‘Their concern is that those who promote violence in Gaza and the West Bank will claim that because there’s no progress diplomatically, the only way they get progress is through violence,’ he said. ‘And that’s their concern.’”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/what-petraeus-really-said/2010/03/18/

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