Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marital infidelities and the military

I have to confess that my post yesterday was a little tongue-in-cheek. Yes, I did think that the women who tempted those generals were not "worth it" (judging by their looks, at least), and I do believe that many, if not most, men in the totally over-sexed Western society end up being sexually frustrated to the point of becoming unable to control even their most basic sexual urges. It is an irony that an completely over-sexed society like the American one ends up producing men who are as sexually frustrated as the Saudis who live in a society which is fantastically repressive in sexual matters...

Anyway, I was thinking about the implications of my thought that these women were not "worth it". As opposed to Anna Kushchenko who would be "worth it"? Can marital infidelity ever be "worth it"?

This brought to my mind an interesting conversation I had once had a long time ago and which I want to share with you.

About twenty years ago or so I had the opportunity to spend a few months working on a project with a former Deputy Commander of the US "Delta Force". I used this opportunity to interview him at length about his career, Delta Force operations and his views on many other topics. One day, we were sitting and discussing the type of soldiers Delta recruited and trained. This was a topic of special interest to me since I had become good friends with an ex-commander of the Soviet KGB Spetsnaz unit "Kaskad" and that through this friendship I had become quite well informed about how Kaskad recruited, trained and operated (The comparison between Delta and Kaskad is not what I want to discuss here, but I will say that the difference in philosophy between these two crack units was immense). Anyway, after listing all the characteristics required to be considered a candidate for Delta, my colleague suddenly said the following: "... and, of course, we never take divorcees".

I thought that I must have misheard, to I asked him to repeat and, sure enough, he repeated that divorced soldiers could not apply to Delta. I have to admit that I was quite astonished and I asked him to explain why divorced soldiers could not become Delta operators. This is the reply he gave me (almost verbatim, I vividly recall this conversation):

"You know, we typically spent anywhere form six to nine months away from our families, and this puts a great deal of stress on everybody. Sadly, a lot of families are not capable of living with these types of hardships, and we would never blame one of our operators if his wife decided that she could not continue to live like that. However, we have a zero-tolerance policy for any marital infidelities or divorces if initiated by any of our men. Why? Because there are only two occasions in a man's life when you take a sacred oath: to your wife, and to your country. If a man is capable of betraying his sacred oath to his wife, he is also capable of betraying his sacred oath to this country, and we don't need men like that in Delta".
At that time I was not married, but I have to admit that his logic made perfect sense to me. You are either of the type who considers your oath as unbreakable or you are not. I have now been blissfully married to a wife which I totally worship for 19 years, and I have to admit that it has been ridiculously easy for me to remain true to my marital vows (I love my wife more with every passing day), but I also have seen friends struggling in their marriages, some even divorcing, and I have to say that each time I see somebody breaking his marital vows I also see somebody whom I simply could never fully trust since he already committed perjury at least once. I personally find the logic of this Delta officer absolutely rock-solid.

Let me immediately add here that I have no idea at all whether this is actually what takes place in Delta or not. I have a hard time believing that Uncle Sam would spend an immense amount of time, efforts and resources training a Delta operator only to kick him out for doing that which is so prevalent in the rest of US society. The officer I interviewed was the only Delta operator I ever spoke to, and maybe he was expressing some wishful thinking of his. I really don't know. But my post today is not about Delta, its about this basic fundamental question:

What does marital infidelity tell us about a man? Can we really make some broad conclusions simply based on the fact that a man cheated on his wife or not? In other words, can a man who cheats on his wife be considered a man of honor or not?  Can such a man be trusted?

To the risk of alienating many of those who will read this, I have to say that I personally believe that cheating on one's spouse is a fundamentally dishonoring act, something which is never "worth it", something which cannot be excused in any circumstances.

In marriage, both spouses literally give themselves to each other. They voluntarily "renounce themselves" for the love and sake of the other, and they accept the same gift from the other person. Think about it: for decades Mrs Petraeus (to use this example) probably lived only for the love and sake of her husband, and he accepted that. He came home, and she fed him. He was sick and she nursed him. He was sad and she encouraged him. And yes, he wanted sex and she gave herself to him. For the full duration of their marriage, the spouses renounce their own wants and needs, and give totally themselves to each other. And then, Mr. Petraeus, like some pimply teenager, suddenly decided that his sexual urges are an emergency which need to be addressed no matter what?!

Forgive me if I come across as a bigoted, intolerant and judgmental enforcer of reactionary morals, but I can think of no circumstance which could excuse the cynical and deeply dishonorable betrayal of a sacred oath (and many years of acceptance of the loving dedication of a spouse) for the sake of some late-life sexual gratification.

Before the modern era (which I think began after World War I), adulterers were often expelled from the officer corps. Yes, I know, many men did have mistresses, often not even well hidden. And the old European society did have a deep hypocritical streak about it. But at least officially the concept of personal honor and the honor of being an officer were upheld. Whereas today, all that is asked from an officer is the ability to be a skilled solider and commander. Personal integrity or honor really do not matter any more.

Now, I understand that the kind of personal immorality which we now see from Generals Petraeus and Allen is to be expected from a military culture which openly accepts homosexuals and refers to them as "gay". I know that the post-Christian Western society has basically degenerated to the point where it is unable to articulate anything around the concepts of "right" or "wrong". A society begins by declaring that "God is dead" and you end up having "leaders of the free world" like Clinton and his infamous "cigar".

But the fact that our society as a whole has gone crazy and is basically unable to categorize something as right or wrong does not mean that this is true in all the segments of society.  This is not true on a personal and family level were there are still plenty of people living according to ethical and moral principles, and this is not necessarily true of the military where somewhat abstract concepts such as "honor" often mean the difference between life and death.

Men in combat are fundamentally dependent upon each other. For example, it is a sacred principle in most elite combat units to never leave a man behind. One common feature of the training of both Delta and Kaskad (nowadays its name has been changed to "Vympel") is that it is centered on the failure or success of the entire group rather than of the individual. This type grueling training is specifically designed to created unbreakable bonds between the various operators who, once in combat, will act as one entity, fully willing to sacrifice oneself for the sake of the others. I find that most interesting as the type of psychology which is developed in special operators is, in fact, exactly the one which traditional Christianity aims to foster between spouses!

Many people are aware of the following verse in the Epistle to the Ephesians of Saint Paul:"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands" (Eph: 5:22) but far less people are aware of the verses which comes right after that:"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it .  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.   So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. (Eph: 5:25-28).  Not only does Saint Paul say that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church (!), but he even adds that a husband should sanctify and cleanse his wife making her holy and without blemish.  In other words, even if the wife has "spots" (defects, sins, weaknesses, etc.) Paul exhorts the husband to not only not turn away from such a wife, but to endeavor to make her "without blemish" by his Christ-like infinite love and self-sacrifice for her.  Amazing, no?

There are no excuses here for "my wife is fat" or "she is a bitch", or "I need companionship".  Just as in a special operations unit you do not leave a fellow-operator behind because he is a "jerk" or somebody with whom you had a conflict.  Both in marriage and in elite combat units the "other" is more important than the "self".

The reality is that personal immorality in general and sexual immorality in particular, has devastating effects not only on society in general, but also for the military as in institution.  Sure, our leaders still speak of "honor", but what kind of honor can they be speaking of when they basically deny the very existence of the concepts of "right" and "wrong"?  How can a sexually immoral person be a national leader or a commanding officer?  How can a sexually immoral person even pretend to be a father?

If sexual immorality is debasing for society as a whole because it undermines the very core building unit of any society - the family - it is also especially devastating for the military whose corporate culture is based on the concepts of honor, duty and self-sacrifice. It is really no wonder that the actual performance of the US military has been so bad since, at least, Korea, when it is mostly lead by men with no principles and no morals.

Admiral Fallon called Petraeus "an ass-kissing little chickenshit".  This is as good a definition of an immoral person as I have heard.  Think of Clinton, of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of Sarkozy, of Moshe Katsav, of Berlusconi and all the rest of them: aren't they all ass-kissing little chickenshits?

I strongly believe that real men (yes, I believe in that concept), at least in my definition, do not cheat on their wifes and I also believe that real men are by definition always deeply moral and principled in all their actions, be it as officers, as husbands, fathers or friends.  Ideas such as "God is dead" or "beyond good and evil" sound very "cool", but their practical application always means the decay and eventual death of the entity which attempts to live by such fallacies.  You begin with such nonsense, and you end up being ruled by an entire generation of ass-kissing chickenshits.

The Saker