The nature of military and spy craft -- Sun Tzu and Clausewitz would agree -- is that it's never what it seems. As this unfolding clusterfuck makes clear, an institution devoted to the use of violence and an obsession with secrecy can literally be caught with its pants down by the most ridiculous of petards that even its huge public relations machine can't save it from.
Paula Broadwell and her spy, General David Petraeus
By now everybody knows the story. A female West Point graduate with a lithe, athletic body pumps up a PhD thesis on General Petraeus into a book, amazingly titled All In. She gets intimate with the general, then sends anonymous threatening emails to a sexy socialite camp-follower at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The second woman, she feels, is moving in on her general.
It's appropriate, here, to recall that Henry Kissinger said the greatest aphrodisiac is Power. Henry would know.
The MacDill camp-follower then emails her favorite FBI agent, a bulldog known for vigorously hunting terrorist suspects and for fatally shooting a man near a gate at MacDill under strange circumstances. When the agent's suspicions are not adequately addressed, he contacts right-wing Congressman Eric Canter. Something fishy is going on, he tells Canter. It may be some kind of political cover-up. Maybe the anonymous caller is a terrorist agent from Kenya.
At this point, the case is out of control and enters into Patriot Act snooping mode. Soon, Afghanistan commander Marine General John Allen is being scrutinized for sending tumescent emails to the MacDill camp-follower -- along with some 10,000 pages of other stuff.
Making things more interesting, as all this elite heavy breathing was being revealed, the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, was hitting theaters all over America with a thunderous, special-effects PR campaign. As everyone knows, the imperial west's favorite spy with the license to kill is a master cocksman in the bedroom known for embedding vixens from p*ssy Galore to Holly Goodhead.
Unfortunately for her, Paula Broadwell has a name almost worthy of a Bond film. This, along with her athletically hot physique, makes the "Band of Boners" story that much more fun for the American public. But it's a classic case of mass distraction worthy of study for what's not being talked about.
Honor Blackman as p*ssy Galore and Daniel Craig as James Bond
Of course, James Bond and the vast industry of violent and sexy fantasies found in novels, films, television, video games and the internet is all fiction. But what many ordinary citizens who love fantasy sex and violence don't understand is that the constant pumping of all this fantastic, sexy, violent garbage into their heads has contributed to the building of unprecedented levels of expectation and delusion in their real lives. Life does copy art. Nowhere is this more tragic than in the realm of current politics.
Western males are dazzled and awed by the suavity of Bond and his ilk when it comes to violence and sexual conquest. We males walk out of movie theaters having absorbed a little bit of the Bond power. The same goes for whatever male protagonist we've watched for two hours. Bond is like old wine, and we've now moved on to more intoxicating heroes who are even more violent and much less suave. The hired killer is a favored archetype now. For example, popular crime writers like Lawrence Block have evolved the classic loner knight protagonist, the private eye, into book and film series about men who are simply hired killers. Block's character Keller is an ordinary suburban male who enjoys stamp collecting between going around the country to pull off hits.
Military theory in our national security state is changing in similar ways. The old, post-WWII days of large armies hit a wall with the Bush-era wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. State violence has become more focused, less reliant on size and more reliant on small, highly-trained and extremely secret assassin teams with sophisticated support systems in intelligence and logistics. Stealth is the word. This evolution has occurred coincident with the incredible public rise of David Petraeus to beloved four-star general and, ultimately, as the civilian head of the CIA.
Stanley McChrystal's career went up like a rocket -- and fell -- in a similar arc. He began interestingly as a one-star PR spokesman for the invasion of Iraq. Soon, he was running a highly secret war of hunter-killer teams in Anbar Province. This became known, thanks to the military's cooperating secrecy and PR campaigns, as "the surge." Iraq was the death knell for massive military deployments. Focused, secret killing by special-ops teams and remotely piloted lethal drones was the new way to fight wars. McChrystal went from one star to four stars virtually overnight. Much of this change has been concentrated and headquartered at the dual bases of Central Command (covering the Middle East and SW Asia) and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, ground zero for the Petraeus Affair.
The affair makes it clear that United States is still deeply haunted by Puritanism. Much of the coverage takes delight in the prurient elements of the story, which would seem counter to true Puritanism. But a glance backwards suggests that paradox is nothing new. Consider Samuel Richardson's Pamela, a very racy novel from the 18th century about preserving the honor of young womanhood; it was read from the pulpit where it ironically, we're told, raised a few boners. Then there's The Starr Report, a racy expose by prude Ken Starr from the '90s.
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