Everybody who blogs about the war against Iraq has been writing about Petraeus, the Roman general who has appeared in the nation's capital. A quirk of the space time continuum, no doubt, but a fortuitous one for Bush.
OK, OK. According to Wikipedia, Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Army, is someone who has been in the Who's Who of the military for a long time, and it is only his last name that sounds Latinate, maybe only to my ears. But for the folks in Peoria (assuming there is no large military base in Peoria and that expression can still be used to mean ordinary small town Americans), Petraeus might as well have entered through a wormhole a few days ago.
I would date him circa the time of Diocletian, but that is a best-case scenario. Diocletian is a fellow Bush might want to aspire toward -- an autocratic ruler who staves off inevitable decline, then goes into peaceful retirement in Crawford.
Anyway, Petraeus. Late yestreen (Conticinium) I sat by lamplight reading some of this officer and gentleman's collected works -- the oral ones in any case.
Two weeks ago, I provided recommendations for the way ahead in Iraq to the members of my chain of command and the Joints Chiefs of Staff. The essence of the approach recommended is captured and it's title: "Security While Transitioning: From leading, to partnering, to overwatch."
Here is more:
Some of this is a little bit distasteful. It is not easy sitting across the table, let's say, or drinking tea with someone whose tribal members may have shot at our forces or, in fact, drawn the blood -- killed our forces.
We learned a bit, in fact, about this from my former deputy commander, Lieutenant General Graham Lamb, former head of 22 SAS and the director of special forces in the United Kingdom. And he reminded us that you reconcile with your enemies, not with your friends. That's why it's called reconciliation.
Indeed. Nor is it easy to sit across a table from someone your own forces have drawn the blood of, though I am sure that point is implied. The mutual bloodletting has been confusing, especially in the heat of combat, when a lot of the time no one is sure who is drawing whose blood.
But Petraeus's optimism is justified. An instructive and little-known example from history: the Russians reconciled with the tribesmen in Afghanistan. It took a while - two steps back, one step forward - but finally the mujahedin said, over sweetened tea one day, OK, let bygones be bygones. Essentially.
Or maybe not. Actually, I totally made that up. But my point: you dont hear Pashtun fighters railing so much against the Soviets. Not right now.
And that is real progress, folks.
The same will happen in Iraq, through a different mechanism. The Sunnis and the Shias will meet and reconcile. And then they will call us into the room and thank us. For overwatching.
So keep the powder dry, don't get out the mufti yet, and prepare for transitioning from partnering to watchover. I'm "at-watching" my calendar right now: by Martius or Aprilis we should have some answers.
Of which Anno Domini I do not know.