"We Won't Take That History Lightly"

03/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

LONDON--Yes, that pesky "history" thing rears its ugly head, this time in a quote from General David "Surge" Petraeus in today's Washington Post. It's neat that he should pause to remember history at this juncture, after he's helped perpetuate an Iraqi adventure that completely ignored the history of the British Empire in the same part of the world in the 1920s.

Sure, the Iraqis held an election last week that was quiet and orderly, if setting new records for low voter turnout. We have taught them a rudiment of American democracy. Now all we need to do is send over some lobbyists and our job will be done.

Meanwhile, the thrust of the Post story is on the "dire" assessment of President Obama's national security team of the Afghanistan situation. The report suggests a new, perhaps convincing, reason why the Bush team chose to redirect its attentions to Iraq in 2003. Quoting the new super-envoy, Richard Holbrooke:

"It's going to be a long, difficult struggle. . . . In my view, it's going to be much tougher than Iraq."

Maybe the veer Iraqward was just a matter of trying to choose the easy war.

History, that mad teacher, has a sense of humor.

The "grim" assessment may be welcome news. Obama's pledge to surge in Afghanistan was an understandable campaign thrust against the recklessness of leaving the job there undone, but seven years have passed, the Taliban has regenerated, Pakistan has degenerated. They weren't sitting around quietly waiting for America to rediscover them. History may not look kindly on our attempt to reopen a window -- the opportunity for an outside force to remake Afghanistan - -that appears to have closed. General Petraeus has read enough to remember that area as "the graveyard of empires." One deja vu adventure per decade is enough.