>It's up to David Petraeus now. One can argue the merits and the import of a civilian-led military (and find no disagreement here). But if General Petraeus had collapsed during that Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month and not gotten back up, the war would be over.
When he ascended to command in Iraq, with a name torn from ancient Rome and a plan pulled from the spirit of Frederick the Great (misattributed, "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!"), he brought order to chaos. Not just on the battlefield, but in living rooms, around water coolers, and on military bases the world over. David Petraeus, with his Ph.D from Princeton and a Ranger tab on his shoulder, assuaged fears that the combat zone was a partisan playground and the United States still shackled to Vietnam. Here was a man who'd taken a bullet, been awarded Valor medals, and doesn't vote so as not to get dragged into the undertow of Washington politics.
Today, it helps that Petraeus did the impossible. It helps that his plan worked. It helps that only yesterday, no less than Vice President Joe "Let's partition Iraq and get out of there" Biden now considered Iraq to be a great achievement of the Obama administration. But there's the rub. When George W. Bush backed General Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy, the president had by then lost much credibility as commander in chief. To the public at large, Iraq was a "civil war" or a "war for oil" or "unfinished family business" or a "distraction from Afghanistan" or all of these things. General Petraeus, therefore, was presented as more than four stars and a set of Airborne wings. He became the new face of the war, superseding even the president.