Friday, September 14, 2007


I find it fascinating that all questions of American strategy in Iraq are said to depend upon the observations of one man: Petraeus.

The omission of General is no sign of disrespect. It's meant to call attention to the seer-like status that seems to be associated with the name Petraeus. I'm reminded of Calchas, the seer whom the Achaean forces consult at the beginning of the Iliad:

Calchas, son of Thestor, bird-reader supreme,
Who knew what is, what will be, and what has been.
Petraeus even sounds plausibly mythic (though General Petraeus' parents are Dutch-American, not Greek or Roman): Petraeus is the name of a centaur in Hesiod's Shield of Heracles and Ovid's Metamorphoses.

[Iliad translation by Stanley Lombardo.]

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