Once upon a time, it was kind of a big deal when Gen. David Petraeus came to town to testify before Congress about "the war." That was when the wars in Iraqistan weren't exactly young, but also hadn't yet execeeded the 100-Year-War, and hadn't stretched into a kind of national security wall paper that no one notices, cares about or wants to change.
(What democratically elected official will actually heed polling showing two-thirds of Americans don't think the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting? I really wonder. But welcome, brethren.)
Seems naive, but there was some buzz around that first appearance Petraeus made before Congress to present his views of the war in post-"surge" Iraq -- as though it meant something in terms of advancement or milestones or something. But no. It was the first of many, many similar assessments. How similar? Read on.
On September 7, 2007, the New York Times used the words "fragile and easily reversed" to describe the general's assessment.
Whether Petraeus used the phrase himself at that time, he hasn't stopped since.
On December 23, 2007, Petraeus said gains in Iraq were "tenuous" and "fragile."
On April 8, 2008, Petraeus told the Senate that progress had been made in the seven months since he last testified but that they remained "fragile" and "reversible."
On August 20, 2008, the New York Times headlined its story, "Exiting Iraq, Petraeus Says Gains Are Fragile."
On April 9, 2009, Petraeus said progress in Iraq was "fragile and reversible."
On March 16, 2010, Petraeus, perhaps feeling stale, moved things around a little, telling Congress: "The progress in Iraq is still fragile. And it could still be reversed."
Onto Afghanistan, and guess what?
On March 15, 2011, in his first official assessment of the war in Afghanistan, Petraeus told Senate Armed Services Committee: "While the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible.”
On March 16, 2011, Petraeus told House Armed Services Committee: Security in Afghanistan is "fragile."
Is it just me, or does the mind-numbing repetition sound like a bad joke, or maybe an outtake from The Twilight Zone? Something isn't working here: as in, the policy, the strategy, the elected officials and the general. That's all.
At least we know what Gen. Petraeus's nickname will be.