December 1, 2020

Petraeus’s Bathsheba Syndrome by Mackubin Thomas Owens

“What led a successful general at the height of his power and influence to have an affair that undid all he had accomplished.”  Ludwig and Longnecker, as well as others writing subsequently, have argued that the psychological impact of gaining power, despite many positive effects, also may unleash a dark side: the belief that one is too big to fail, that the normal rules do not apply. Thus even a leader of high moral character may succumb to the temptations that accompany the acquisition of power. The findings of Ludwig and Longnecker regarding the moral corruption of the powerful go a long way toward explaining Petraeus’s behavior.”

Read the article  by Mackubin Thomas Owens in National Review Online


  1. Terry Burns says:

    When the scandal with General Patraeus broke the first thing that came to my mind was “here we go again” another powerful figure blowing himself up with poor judgement. This article does a great job of relating a an age old down fall to a current situation. This scandal is a perfect example of the “Bathsheba Syndrome” a timeless example of a break down of character and a timeless teachable moment.

  2. MJ Pallotta says:

    Great article–concise and to-the-point. There are several interesting facets to this story, but one that is not surprising at all is that yet another top leader got caught in an adulterous affair. Just as Paula Broadwell was transfixed in her excessive admiration for him, his staff also seems to have been under his spell; several undoubtedly knew what was occurring and were unable (unwilling?) to stop it. Then again, how do you ask your highly-revered boss to get his moral compass pointing back to north?

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