The First World War was, of course, famous for trench warfare. A protracted stalemate rather than a series of decisive battles. The politicians and monarchs were mostly content to "let it bleed" rather than be innovate enough to bring the war to a military or diplomatic end.
We are once again in trench warfare.
Since the president's troop surge in Iraq began this past February, we have all waited like gimps in an infirmary for General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to descend from Mount Iraq. Toting, we hoped, stone tablets with directives with which to lead us to the Promised Land.
No such luck.
Petraeus's testimony before congress on Monday was a mixed bag. Its drama diluted by the slew of similar mixed bag reports recently released by the GAO and the ISFIAC among others. The gist of all:
Yes, the surge -- or is it, The Surge? -- is helping to quell violence. Though it's hard to gauge exactly to what degree as the violence in Iraq tends to decline in the heat of summer and measured year-to-year deaths for both civilian and military are actually higher than last July/August.
No, the Iraqi government has not taken advantage of whatever lull there is to strengthen its position and secure long term political gains.
So, then, from Petraeus nothing definitive which either side could use to force the debate here at home.
The president and his cronies can't say the continued bloodshed will produce tangible results. The Democrats and their lackeys can't say the surge -- The Surge -- is an abject failure.
And with the President having nothing politically at risk, with the Congress lacking the votes and the spine to truly force the issue...
Well, our men and women in uniform remain stuck in their trenches.
Petraeus says the 30,000 "surge" troops should stay in place until at least next July. Nearly 120,000 will remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
The foreseeable future being the next decade.
Ironically, as the Petraeus/Crocker show goes on, President Bush is making double-super-secret trips to Iraq (double-super-secret despite the fact it's supposedly safer there now) where he's floating the idea of drawing down troops.
Bush can now claim he'd like to reduce our footprint in Iraq, but Petraeus -- the one guy in the Gov. who's got even a shred of credibility -- is telling him he can't.
And the war goes on.
Settle in, folks. It's likely to be quite the wait before our Armistice day.