By John Grant
At the beginning of the Iraq "surge" in 2007, Senator Barack Obama was leery of General David Petraeus, but now, we learn, he has warmed to the four-star Pentagon celebrity and calls him "Dave."
In meetings, according to an anonymous White House official, when the talk is of Afghanistan, Petraeus "always brings up Iraq" and the surge there, The New York Times reports.
By all accounts a very savvy politician always aware of his image, it is not strange that Petraeus would remind people of the thing he is most revered for, which is the so-called "surge" in Anbar Province of Iraq, the strategy that turned a hemorrhaging disaster into a stabilized, suppurating wound.
Now, he is doing the same thing in Afghanistan except Afghanistan is politically and culturally about six centuries behind Iraq.
When US military counter-insurgency operations reach the latter stages and public questioning and opposition increase, the challenge is to get the "metrics" right or as the Times recently put it, to develop "new and better ways to measure success or setbacks."
In the 1980s, during the El Salvador counter-insurgency war, as paramilitary death-squads were literally littering the streets with bodies, the Reagan administration was required by Congress every six months to "certify" that progress was being made.
To no one's surprise, it did exactly that. The challenge turned out to be easy. They didn't have to show that things were rosy and life was secure; all they had to do was come up with some formulation to convince Congress things were improving in some small way.