Well, it couldn’t last, could it? After President Barack Obama’s re-election, America looked ready for a mini-honeymoon: both parties working to avert a national nosedive off the “fiscal cliff,” a media cooling down from election-induced psychosis, and the rest of the world — which largely supported Obama over Romney — looking at us a little more kindly. Then we found out America’s golden boy, CIA director David Petraeus, had been going well above and beyond the call of duty with his official biographer, Paula Broadwell.
As the story unfolds, General Petraeus is looking less like the man whose counter-insurgency tactics modernized America’s military and more like your typical, slightly pathetic, middle-aged adulterer — you’d think America’s top spy would have done a better job of keeping his dirty laundry in the hamper.
Now that it’s airing out in the open, the foreign press is all too eager to analyze Petraeus and what his misstep says about the U.S. Remember: the CIA isn’t exactly beloved in other countries. Here’s what the world had to say about an embarrassing farce that will probably drag on well past its sell-by date.
- Writing in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Murtaza Haider pulls no punches. The lead of his article begins: “The moral order is out of order in the United States where cheating on a spouse can cost you your job; whereas causing the death of thousands of innocents poses no harm to your career.” Pointing to civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, Haider asks Americans if Petraeus’ infidelity is really what we should be concerned about. Then again, he concludes, better that we focus on the marital troubles of our leaders than waging new wars. Scathing? Yes. Accurate? Let us know what you think about Haider’s piece in the comments section below.
- Real life is always better than fiction, says J. Brooks Spector in South Africa’s Daily Maverick: a decorated war hero, his faithful wife, his other woman, his other other woman, a shirtless FBI agent . . . and the cast keeps growing in what Spector terms a “military-espionage version of a Georges Feydeau farce blended uneasily with a John LeCarré spy thriller.” But all this leads to a more troubling question: what exactly do our top officials spend their free hours doing? Should the leader of the CIA, Spector asks, really have time to “set up a dummy email address so as to exchange love letters like an adolescent schoolboy?”
- If only Petraeus had actually been exchanging actual love letters. His method of communication with Broadwell is hardly surreptitious, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; in fact, it’s known to “terrorists and teenagers” around the world. A Canadian intelligence official is on trial for attempting to pass secrets to the Russians by using a shared Gmail account, as Petraeus did. Yes, Dave, there’s no IP trail. But if the FBI has access to your e-mails, that won’t stop them from wondering about the naughty ones that begin: “Dear Paula . . .” Even without the feds on your tail, another CBC story explains, technology has made adultery harder than ever. Something else that’s gotten harder? Writing biographies, says the historian R.B. Fleming in a letter to Canada’s Globe and Mail: “There’s one thing you can’t fault Paula Broadwell on,” Fleming jokes, “and that’s the thoroughness of her research. Now that she has raised the bar so high, life. . .[has] become more difficult for us more circumscribed biographers.”