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John Burroughs

New York artist Leonard Rosenfeld created this portrait of David Petraeus in 2004, inspired by Petraeus’s demand: “tell me how this ends.” As recounted by Washington Post reporter Rick Atkinson in a January 7 story:

“Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is President Bush’s choice to become the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, posed a riddle during the initial march to Baghdad four years ago that now becomes his own conundrum to solve: ‘Tell me how this ends.’

That query, uttered repeatedly to a reporter [Atkinson] then embedded in Petraeus’s 101st Airborne Division, revealed a flinty skepticism about prospects in Iraq–and the man now asked to forestall a military debacle.

In asking that nettlesome question four years ago–’Tell me how this ends’–Petraeus alluded to the advice supposedly given President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the mid-1950s when he asked what it would take for the U.S. military to save the beleaguered French colonial empire in war-torn Vietnam: ‘Eight years and eight divisions.’”

The painting, entitled “General Petraeus: When will this be over,” was one of the works offered in a December 2004 art auction benefit for Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy and Western States Legal Foundation (it is no longer available). It is part of Rosenfeld’s “Soldiers and Terrorists” series. Another portrait, entitled simply “Petraeus,” is on Rosenfeld’s website.

To address the question: The U.S. role in the war should end with rapid U.S. withdrawal, followed by a deep-going examination of the U.S. propensity for waging war in all parts of the world. The invasion of Iraq has demonstrated beyond doubt that the U.S. intervention in Vietnam was not some temporary aberration.