The Petraeus story has started a big discussion about the conduct of American males. But the problem here isn't just another powerful man brought low by his libido.
The problem is that this was the man in charge of Afghanistan. This was the man representing the United States of America, the nation that is supposed to be rescuing Afghanistan from radical Islam.
And radical Islam is going to use this to clean our moral clocks.
Associated Press quotes Waheed Muzhda. You've never heard of him; I'd never heard of him, but he's a former foreign minister for the old Taliban regime who's also been participating in the peace process. He's now quoted as saying the Petraeus affair is evidence that American civilization is crumbling.
This is from an AP story: "It is shameful" he says, "for a military general with such a big name and authority to violate the rights of his wife. These types of values are totally different from the values of Islam and our culture. If this happens in our country, the punishment is stoning."
The AP story quotes another Muslim cleric in Kabul: "Such immoral sexual relations take place in societies with no Islamic values...The US has no such authority or dignity to say they want to bring human rights and womens' rights to the world."
Of course we know that what Petraeus did in no way reflects our core values as a nation, and I find it hard to believe anyone would buy the idea that stoning is how you fix such things.
But when you're in a fight to persuade the very conservative people of Afghanistan that we are a superior moral alternative, playing into the enemy's stereotype doesn't help you win.
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