Now that we have a real war to fight we can start thinking seriously again about running generals for president. Generals are only credible candidates in good wars - meaning heroic wars that we win - in a reasonable time.
As genuine heroes from heroic wars, MacArthur and Eisenhower appeared to be perfect candidates. But Korea's Matthew Ridgeway and Vietnam's William Westmoreland could forget it.In fact the limited wars ushered in by the Cold War seemed to eliminate generals from future consideration.
We don't know yet whether the gulf war is a good war or a bad war - but if it's a good war, Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, the 56-year-old commander in chief of the allied forces in the Persian Gulf, is one of the best possibilities we've ever had. At 6 foot 3 and 240 pounds, he looks the macho role - yet he is intellectually impressive.
He even prophesied eight years ago that the the United States might one day find itself at war in the Middle East if an unfriendly nation succeeded in taking over a neighbor.
Not only that, in televised briefings and interviews, he shines. Excellent with the language, he also has a humorous touch to lighten things up. His supporters think he has the tactical brilliance of Patton, the strategic insight of Eisenhower and the modesty of Bradley.
Well, he may not be that modest. He has been known to pour over his own clippings, underlining criticisms and perceived slights, and write memos about them to his subordinates. He is also has an epic temper.
But what would a general be without one?
He has also been called Churchillian. In one memorable address to the troops of Operation Desert Storm, he said, "I have seen in your eyes a fire of determination to get this war job done quickly. My confidence in you is total, our cause is just. Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm."
The man who is also known as "The Bear," inspires a great deal of admiration among both his troops and his fellow officers. Far from being one-dimensional, he was athletic at West Point, sang tenor and conducted the chapel choir and loved listening to Wagner and Tchaikovsky.
But before you start banking on Schwarzkopf for president - better take into account the downside.
In spite of impressive leadership experience, generals have one major drawback to being good presidents. They are accustomed to giving orders and having them carried out promptly by subordinates without question, whereas politicians understand that they have to negotiate everything.
The effective president is the one who uses diplomacy, tact, cajoling, intimidation and a variety of other methods. But he knows that he won't always get his way and that he will have to give up some things to win others.
That is the art of politics.
As the Revolutionary War hero, George Washington started the process and set some leadership standards but was not as flexible or as great as Lincoln.
U.S. Grant was the least successful even though his military leadership of Union forces during the Civil War ushered in new military tactics and permanently changed the course of war.
Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, was effective precisely because his political experience was much greater than his military experience.
We suffered through William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor - and almost got Winfield Scott, John C. Fremont and George McClellan.
In 1952, Douglas MacArthur could have been president if he hadn't considered himself too old. Eisenhower, the next best choice, was considered a mediocre president until a recent re-evaluation suggested that his "hidden-hand leadership" was actually more effective than previously thought. Although he was better than most generals, he was the exception, rather than the rule.
So as the gulf war lingers we can keep our eyes on Stormin' Norman, but history teaches us it would be wiser to pass on the idea.