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Risk vs reward: What was Petraeus thinking?

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

The General David Petraeus love triangle keeps sprouting new angles. But many of the questions boil down to one: how could the director of the CIA possibly believe his affair would go undetected?

Military minds make war with careful calculation: risk versus reward.

In an extramarital affair, says psychiatrist Ivan C. Spector, MD, the reward is obvious: sex.

"It's the greatest high in the world and this is positive reinforcement," said Spector. "It reinforces the behavior to cheat more and more."

But the risk? That's a lot harder to nail down. One-time military man and former Houston FBI chief Don Clark wonders how Petraeus figured he and his mistress could keep things under wraps.

"When you look at it from that perspective, you've got to think – as they often say – what were they thinking?" asked Clark.

The flip answer – "They weren't!" – is also the true answer, insists the psychiatrist.

"We have a very small forebrain but the back of our brain (which drives our primitive impulses) and our spinal cord are really big," said Spector. "They overpower that frontal lobe. And we have aggression and sex coming out of the back part. And that poor little forebrain trying to stave it off, and it just can't fight it. It's like a little midget trying to fight a giant."

In Spector's view, the giant won in the Petraeus case. And Clark's fear? A "giant" potential problem for national security.

"One might suppose that if you're having that much contact with an individual, it's highly likely that some information could have gone out to a source that it should not have gone to," Clark pointed out.

Loose lips? The feds are investigating that possibility. As for the misplaced love, Dr. Spector has an explanation for that.

"The man has been successful at everything he's ever done. He might be a bit of a megalomaniac and think he can get away with anything."

After all, in today's networked world, who's afraid of Big Brother? Even "little sister" can hack the code.

"Little kids know how to handle all those different types of technology machines and computers," observed Don Clark.

"Everybody's exposed these days," added Ivan Spector. "There are no secrets."

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