The war in Iraq has come to this: The commander in chief has become the commander in acquiesce.
President Bush has declared publicly that Gen. David Petraeus has the final word. Whatever the general wants, he will get, according to Bush. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other civilian advisers are only secondary, if that.
General Petraeus is a bright, politically savvy commander and patriot who has the respect of even opponents to the war. Some in the Republican right are already talking him up as a future president.
Let's examine this more. The nation has had a mixed experience with generals in the White House and on the campaign trail.
Dwight Eisenhower was a World War II icon and respected leader, but he said he wasn't a politician. Still, he is largely considered to be a good leader by most historians. On the other hand, Ulysses Grant was a Civil War hero who saw scandal in his second term in the White House, and historians don't look on him with much favor.
Retired Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay ran for vice president with Alabama's George Wallace in 1968 and was a disaster on the campaign trail because his gaffes at press conferences were known to embarrass even Wallace. Retired Adm. James Stockdale ran with Ross Perot in 1992 and was so befuddled as a candidate he wondered aloud what he was doing in a debate with the major party nominees.
As for Petraeus, he will testify before Congress this week on the current status of the marathon war. The degree of success or failure of the surge will be topic 1 along with how long 140,000 American soldiers will remain in Iraq. The general will surely offer stronger evidence for progress than Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker offered on Sunday. Crocker said the United States was saving $100 million and providing jobs to the Iraqis by collecting refuse. He was serious.
Another question likely to be asked is about the mental health of soldiers who return home after several tours in the sectarian conflict. A piece in the New York Times on April 6 painted an ugly picture of the stress of several tours of duty.
Congress and the nation should listen to Petraeus this week carefully on what has been done and should be done both because Bush has a closed mind on the matter and because Petraeus could be a presidential candidate someday.