Typically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years." ~ Gen. David Petraeus, June 2007I seriously doubt the Gen. Petraeus will allow the words "decade" or "ten" to pass his lips in the next few days, but three months ago he made one of the few honest predictions for the future of the Iraq War when he said it would last for at least another decade.
In early testimony Gen. Petraeus is asking for another six months. It should be remembered that six months ago he asked for six months, hence these September hearings. Since the start of the Iraq War "six months" has been the unit of currency for selling the next phase of the war. When Gen. Petraeus says "six months" he is making a political sales pitch and not a military analysis. Six months ago, six months from now, nothing significant changes in these time periods. No possible combination of events can occur in the next six months that will calm the ongoing civil war/insurgency.
Ten to twenty years is the minimum necessary to quell an insurgency in a freshly conquered colony. In that time, a new generation of leaders will have grown up with little or no recollection of a time without foreign occupation. These young men can be co-opted or taught to accept the reality of the foreign Raj. By then the older generation who fought for country, sect, or tribe will have either died or aged so they can no longer lead the fighting.
Gen. Petraeus got his history wrong when he said the counter-insurgency effort in Ireland took ten years. The Irish insurgency against British rule started in 1534. A better argument for him would be the American colonization of the Philippines. The United States took the country from the Spanish in 1898. The Filipino nationalistic insurgency that followed was not fully suppressed until 1913. That suppression required a brutal war against the Filipino people that included butchery on both side and the creation of concentration camps by the United States Army to imprison Filipino citizens. It took a full generation after the initial conquest for the Filipino people to learn to love being ruled by the United States.
That is the best case scenario. A full decade from now to end the war and an additional thirty years of occupation for the Iraqi people to learn to love us. Worst case scenario is several centuries of war. This is what the future of the Iraq War will be and no amount of politicking from Gen. Petraeus can change that.