David Petraeus was diplomatic in his language and careful to honor the primacy of civilian authority over the military. But the commanding general of multi-lateral forces in Iraq has left little doubt that if a new president wanted to withdraw from Iraq faster than would reflect Petraeus's considered military opinion, his family would be happy to have him home.
ABC's Bill Weir interviewed the Gen. Petraeus as part of a Good Morning America special today marking the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. The opening segment focused almost exclusively on the costs of the war. Some producer had apparently calculated that the war has cost 19 times the annual budget of Los Angeles. Who knew? But a subsequent segment did highlight some of the progress that has been made, notably in terms of former insurgents now come over to the multi-lateral side. Then came the Petraeus interview, which ended with this exchange.
BILL WEIR: You serve at the pleasure of the president. If our new president, a year from now, says general, I want out of here in a year. What do you say? Is that even feasible?
DAVID PETRAEUS: Well I think you have to look at what the conditions on the ground are at that time, obviously, and then offer your best professional military advice. And we always have the option of allowing them to pick someone else for his or her best professional military advice. As I told congress back in the confirmation process in January of 2007, that if at any time someone wanted someone else's best professional military advice, I'd be happy to allow that to happen. I am also coming up on three-and-a-half years in Iraq on top of a year in Bosnia, so my family would be, would not be disappointed I don't think if, you know, Dad were to come home --
PETRAEUS: For awhile.
This could be shaping up as a key issue in the presidential campaign. My two cents say a winning campaign theme would not be: "vote Dem: I'll ignore David Petraeus's advice and replace him!"