David Petraeus is one of the most decorated generals of his generation and one of the most admired and respected, both at home and abroad. There was no problem he wouldn't tackle and no problem he couldn't solve. He was well read and had an encyclopedic knowledge of all things military. He was, as some put it, a general's general.
And he also loved the attention that was always lavished on him from paupers and street urchins to kings and heads of state. He was a man for his time and he never dodged the spotlight, embracing it like he would a battle plan, and this eventually led to his undoing.
To think you are all things to all people requires a giant ego and from all reports, Petraeus certainly had that, as do most people in the public eye. Politicians certainly do. For a man or woman to believe that they are the answer to all problems and should be elected to solve those problems certainly isn't indicative of an inferiority complex. And even though Petraeus wasn't in elective office, he was a politician deluxe with the ego to match.
And then along came Paula Broadwell, an attractive woman of 40 and a West Point graduate like he, who wanted to write his biography and he agreed. The affair these two had shocked the world and led to his resignation as CIA director.
Also caught up in this web was Jill Kelley, social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base who received harassing letters from Broadwell who believed she was making a play for Petraeus as well, General John Allen, Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, who exchanged tens of thousands of pages of emails, most of them romantic, with Kelly and Frederick Humphries, an FBI agent who sent shirtless photographs of himself to Kelley.
So Petraeus was having an affair with Broadwell, who saw Kelley as a direct threat to their relationship while the general and the FBI agent were both wooing Kelley for relationships of their own.
Three powerful men, two generals and an FBI agent, brought down and publicly humiliated and embarrassed because their giant egos got the best of them; a conundrum that many men fall victim to.
These guys were alpha males, dominant and in charge, and accustomed to having things they wanted. Petraeus wanted Broadwell, General Allen and FBI agent Humphries wanted Kelley and Broadwell wanted Kelley to stay away from Petraeus.
Mostly overlooked in the scandal were Petraeus' wife, and Broadwell and Kelley's husbands.
All of this happened because of the imperfections of the human condition. Petraeus was 60, married to a woman who had become dowdy and was being wooed by a beautiful woman 20 years his junior.
Regardless of your status or your station in life, that's a temptation that would be hard for many men to overcome. Even though he was a workout addict and was in exceptional physical condition, the calendar doesn't lie and he most certainly was concerned about his attractiveness to other women. So when Broadwell moved in, he couldn't resist.
I know many of you think his behavior was immoral and scandalous and perhaps it was. But when younger women make themselves available to older men, it takes character of gigantic proportions to turn away from those opportunities. Whether their relationship was based on love, physical desire, or a need for Broadwell to be affirmed by a person with tremendous power and authority we may never know.
But it was enough for him to turn his back on his wife and family to be with a woman with a husband and family too.
Our base drives and emotions often get in the way of common sense and rational thinking because many of us have succumbed to those temptations as well.
It may not be right but we often find ourselves powerless to resist.