Why is it that adultery can ruin a man’s career but rarely a woman’s? In so-called civilised countries, that is. (In Saudi Arabia an adulterous woman is stoned to death.) An American diplomat slated to become the next ambassador to Iraq, Brett McGurk, lost his chance because of an affair with a reporter, who is now his wife. Why is it suddenly criminal to sleep with the opposite sex? Gays the world over must be over the moon. Who says that government officials are stewards of the public trust and that includes what they do in the bedroom?

Poor Petraeus. A lifetime of public service gone down the drain for knocking off a leggy social climber. Dwight Eisenhower did it with his female driver, Kennedy did it daily while president, not to mention Warren Harding and Grover Cleveland, the latter fathering a child outside marriage while in the White House. Bill Clinton does not rate a mention because his women were such slobs, and that includes Hillary. General Patton was a fabled womaniser, as hard-charging tank commanders are bound to be, with the exception of Erwin Rommel, whose uxorious behaviour contradicted his aggressive tactics while leading the greatest fighting unit ever — 25th Panzer of 7th Panzer Division.

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There was no crime or breach of security in the Petraeus affair, hence no hint of blackmail. So why resign? His wife’s ancestors were generals in the Civil War, and those guys got quite a bit back then when away from home. The Spartans even openly borrowed older men’s wives in order to give them children and produce strong warriors. Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver, had a high opinion of this practice, and called it an act of liberality, laughing at those who thought the violation of their bed an intolerable affront. Lycurgus had a high opinion of the man, who being grown old and having a young wife, should recommend an agreeable young man that she might have a child by him. The English upper classes still follow this practice, and it was one of the reasons I moved to Britain back in the Sixties. In the end no one really gives a damn. Except for the press and the media who have nothing else to talk about here in the Land of the Depraved.

The greatest Greek sleuth ever, Taki, thinks the neocons set Petraeus up once he called Israel a liability in the Middle East. The irony is that ‘General Order No. 1’ prohibits troops from fraternisation, all sex, alcohol consumption, pornography and generally from all activities that might make the boredom of service more bearable. The military code of conduct varies between countries, but it’s a general rule that one does not commit adultery with a brother officer’s wife. So why is Prince Charles still in business? He cuckolded Andrew Parker Bowles, who probably got a promotion as a result, which goes to show it depends on who does the deed, not the deed itself. Petraeus was set up by Paula Broadwell, who was most likely set up herself by Washington neocon insiders who knew what they were doing. The funny thing is that if Petraeus had had a homosexual dalliance with a writer who brought along his own ghostwriter, as Broadwell did, he’d still have his job in Langley. No one would dare say a word, starting with the NY Times, or Gay Times, as it prefers to be called.

Talk about American exceptionalism. In 22 states adultery remains a criminal act, and that includes my own favourite, Virginia. Which means most of the Kennedys should have died in jail by now. And it gets worse. General John Allen, the Marine who succeeded Petraeus in Afghanistan, is under a cloud for — now get this — sending flirtatious emails to some Lebanese hustler back in Florida. In other words, they don’t even have to catch you with your pants down, it’s now the thought that counts. What utter crap.

Of all social institutions, marriage is that of which the laws are the most difficult to determine, because they go against nature. I often ask the mother of my children when she complains about my behaviour whether she would prefer me to be a lousy husband and a faithful one, or the opposite. She lies and says the former. Then she laughs. Shelley asked how long the sexual connection ought to last. He said that a couple should stay together as long as they were united by love — and he meant only sexual love — and called it an intolerable tyranny if a man and a woman stayed together after the sexual attraction had worn off ‘and the most unworthy of toleration’. I agree to a certain extent. As he said, constancy has nothing virtuous in itself. The way to keep a good relationship going is for the man to fool around when he gets the urge, and to keep shtoom afterwards. Never admit it and you will make the wife happy. Forget what she says. It’s what you say that counts. And say nothing. Petraeus committed no crime or breach of national security. If it ever came to blackmail, he should offer the names and pictures of other women he’s had while away from home fighting for his country. It’s called the Sukarno defence. A good man has gone down for doing what comes naturally.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated