Wow, the White House is really struggling to find a parallel that lowers our expectations and puts them in a good light...unfortunately, a better grasp on history and political science might be helpful.
BBC (h/t C&L Commenter):
The head of US forces in Iraq, Lt Gen David Petraeus, has told the BBC that fighting the insurgency is a "long term endeavour" which could take decades.[..]
(H)e warned that US forces were engaged in a "tough fight" which will get "harder before it gets easier".
His comments come as US calls for a rapid troop withdrawal gather strength.
Gen Petraeus was keen to emphasise that the ongoing unrest in Iraq is not something he expects to be resolved overnight.
"Northern Ireland, I think, taught you that very well. My counterparts in your [British] forces really understand this kind of operation... It took a long time, decades," he said.
Here's the problem of using the Northern Ireland analogy: For how long did a band of less than a 1000 IRA militants keep peace at bay? The Troubles were in the late '60s, and that wasn't the beginning. We're not dealing with a few hundred insurgents in Iraq. Also note in the interview (the hyperlink in the above article), Petraeus keeps conflating the issue by talking about al Qaeda, which by all non-White House accounts, is not responsible for most of the violence.
The thing that I've never got a clear understanding (and for which I blame the media for not asking the right questions) is when is it that we know we've won? By definition, since we are occupying their country, anyone who fights against us is an insurgent. Do we know it's time to quit when there are no more insurgents (and what does that mean for Iraqi population)? Is it when there is no more sectarian strife? In the 5,000 year history of the region--aside from when under the thumb of dictators--has there ever been a time with no sectarian strife?