Petraeus Sex Story a Convenient Distraction From Foreign Policy Failures


Precisely at the point when the re-elected Obama Administration should be leading a reassessment of U.S. foreign policy errors, it is instead suddenly engulfed in a pathetic sexcapade that all too conveniently serves to distract attention from the long string of embarrassing failures of Washington’s endless war against politically active Islam and kowtowing to the Israeli right wing.

Automatic supporter of hard-line Israeli conservatives Eric Cantor bought his way to reelection to the House, reportedly spending $1.7 million, in comparison to less than $300,000 for his Democratic opponent. Netanyahu’s effort via his ally, the gambling magnate Adelson, to unseat Obama may have failed, but he did not lose as badly as first appearances suggested. How much of Cantor’s enormous war chest came from Israel is unclear, but the top seven contributors to his 2008 campaign were all followers of an Israeli rabbi who moved to the U.S., and not one of them lived in Cantor’s home state of Virginia. Currently, Cantor has close financial relations with Adelson.

Just after the election, Cantor revealed information about what was presumably a secret FBI investigation of CIA Director Petraeus that immediately, if perhaps only temporarily, ended Petraeus’ career. The relevance to this bizarre Cantor Connection of Petraeus’ courageous 2010 classified warning that supporting the hard-line Israeli policy against the Palestinians was harming U.S. national security would seem far more worthy of investigation and punishment than his private relationships with women. Was it all an Israeli plot [Antiwar.com]?

Whatever the explanation, Cantor’s attitude toward Israel is far more scandalous than the adultery of Petraeus:

Wolf Blitzer also counsels, “those American Jewish political activists who are the most successful in supporting AIPAC are those who are Zionists first, Democrats or Republicans second” (Blitzer: 132). This describes Eric Cantor (R – VA) perfectly. When President Obama offered Tel Aviv lucrative incentives in order for them to temporarily halt colonization of the West Bank, Cantor pledged to support the Israeli Prime Minister over the U.S. President. Cantor effectively vowed to protect Israeli interests against U.S. interests. One can think of no other historical example of a Congressional representative pledging loyalty to a foreign leader on an issue of such international significance, in direct opposition to his own President. Even Ronald Reagan, the mythical idol of all Republicans, had told Israeli proxies to mind their own business and stop interfering with the United States’ own self-interest (Blitzer: 135-136). [Media Roots9/7/12.]

Shall we hold our breath waiting for Cantor to recuse himself from voting on U.S. aid for Israel on the grounds of conflict of interest?

The actual behavior of Petraeus is deafeningly pathetic justification for his resignation, as neatly pointed out by Taylor Marsh:

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency cannot be caught philandering with a woman who has less discretion than a 22 year-old intern. Sloppy impulse control and a midlife obsession he can’t control is one thing, but when you’re caught involved with a woman with the emotional maturity of a high school cheerleader you have no business being in charge of the top U.S. spy agency, particularly when you don’t know better than to use email to conduct your flirting. [Taylor Marsh 11/13/12.]

The real scandal is the way two critical U.S. foreign policy questions featuring Petraeus at their core are being evaded by the Obama Administration: the harm being caused to U.S. national security by its knee-jerk alliance with Israel and by its endless war against politically independent Islamic activism. The way the sex story is focusing attention away from these critical foreign policy issues is just a bit too convenient to be accepted at face value. In any case, by chance or intentionally, it is a tragedy for the American people.

Juan Cole is the only commentator so far that I have identified who has pointed to the broader issues [see his Democracy Now interview 11/12/12] that Americans should be focusing on in any discussion of Petraeus: his role in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. As the media continues its superficial manipulation of a minor sex story, the two questions of prime importance for the U.S. are being buried:

  1. What are the lessons that we should learn from the Petraeus strategy for fighting the Iraqi and Afghan wars, both of which seem destined to go down in history as defeats for the U.S.?

  2. Did Israel play a role in the affair for the purpose of destroying the career of one of the few top U.S. officials known to have warned against the negative impact of Israel’s extreme right-wing, militarist policy line on U.S. national security?

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