WASHINGTON -- A brief smile of satisfaction may have crossed George W. Bush's face when President Barack Obama said "Get me Petraeus" to take command of the war in Afghanistan. Bush picked Gen. David Petraeus to implement and successfully carry out the troop surge in Iraq at a time when it seemed all was lost and the former president was under fire from his many critics to pull out -- including Obama who incorrectly predicted his effort would fail. Bush's name was strangely absent from nightly news reports on Obama's decision to turn to the man his predecessor had chosen to tackle an almost impossible assignment. But there were lessons in how Bush made his decision that Obama never really understood or accepted.
In sharp contrast to the agonizingly long, three-month war strategy review, when Obama was struggling to figure out how he wanted to approach the war in Afghanistan, Bush took a more direct route. He said his decisions were drawn from the advice of his generals on the ground. Petraeus is the godfather of counterinsurgent warfare and had written a thick, detailed strategic book on how it should be fought -- militarily, diplomatically, economically and directly by working with local leaders. Equally important, he is as much a highly skilled diplomat as he is a military strategist. He maintained close relations with Afghan and Iraqi leaders, as well as political and diplomatic leaders throughout the Middle East. He is respected on both sides of the political aisle on Capitol Hill.
"Petraeus is more of a diplomat, as opposed to a war fighter," a senior civilian adviser to the U.S. military in Afghanistan told the Washington Post. He is, in other words, the complete package. Bush chose wisely in picking him, and Obama is finally taking his advice on this one.