Bush as commander-in-chief
What would you want a president to do if he were losing, or not winning, a war? You would want him to acknowledge the reality on the ground as the first step to fixing it and as a crucial sign to the American public that he’s not averting his eyes from what is happening (i.e. actually say we’re not winning). You would want him to remove any obstacles within his administration to a total, up-and-down evaluation of his strategy (i.e. fire Rumsfeld). You would want him to undertake a thorough review not unduly rushed by political considerations (i.e. delay in formulating and announcing his new policy even if it’s embarrassing to do so). You would want him to remove the generals responsible for the failed strategy (i.e. fire Abiziad and Casey). You would want him to identify a key flaw in his former strategy and move to fix it (i.e. if that flaw is lack of troops, send more troops). You would want him to do this even if it meant he had to eat crow about things he had long said about troops levels and deferring to his generals (i.e. as Bush is about to do). You would want him to hire the most talented general he could find who believes in the new changed strategy and is committed to implementing it (i.e. hire Dave Patraeus).
Bush is doing all of these things. It would have been much better had he done them six or eight months ago. But changing your mind when you’re a pundit is just a matter of penning an op-ed. Doing it when you’re president means turning around the ship of state and that takes time. The things Bush has been doing have been impressive (and I say this as someone who has been pounding on his war management for a while now, mostly because he hadn’t done the above listed things). All the more so considering that he is doing it in a terrible political environment characterized by the GOP losses in November.
Will the surge work? We don’t know. But Bush seems determined to do everything he can to make it work, and appears now to be actually running the war.