Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The position of War Czar

There are proper roles for the military and for the civilian government leadership. The role of the military is to understand the technical military details in depth and to provide honest and clear advice to the civilian leadership. The role of the civilian leadership is to understand both the military advice and the national policy requirements that might or might not require military action, and to provide clear guidance and political support to the military for those military actions that are undertaken.

The Bush administration has been filling many policy positions with military people, which suggests that they don't understand the difference between the kinds of management needed to accomplish tasks and the kinds of management needed for the policy level of government (or the strategic level in business.)

From Josh Marshall we get some of the doubt regarding why so many policy positions are being filled by military people, and why a War Czar is needed at all.
What we hear repeatedly expressed as the danger now...both with this nomination, and with constantly rhetorically making Gen. Petraeus responsible for "the plan" in that the military will be held accountable for the policy. As a military friend privately comments, "This is simply wrong".

There's also a serious debate going on within military circles about what might be termed Constitutional issues...a debate which could well get to the Congress, since the Senate will be required to hold hearings and to approve Lute's nomination. Here's the private comment of a very well-known retired general, which has resonance for Japan's debate over revising Article 9:

"The czar business is certainly unprecedented and is either a tacit admission that the in-place structure does not meet the needs of the time or is a political maneuver by a desperate president shuffling the deck chairs.

This is serious stuff, indeed, for it calls into question the basic construct of the US military for over half a century.

It remains to be seen what Lute's brief will be and given Title 10, what authorities he is given. In any case POTUS is tampering with fundamentals and it will have serious consequences that I hope have been fully analyzed and understood.

Certainly the Congress which gave birth to the National Security Act and all the legislation that followed has to weigh in on this.

Given the anti-Bush temperament of that body, I find it stunning that the President has given it another reason to attack him for not knowing what he is doing.
Of course, it isn't like they have been placing competent civilians in the civilian policy positions either. Look at Alberto Gonzalez, Don Rumsfeld, Michael D. Brown (FEMA) and Monica Goodling (DoJ).

Lt. Gen. Lute is, by all reports, a quite competent General. It is interesting that the Bush administration couldn't bring back a retired General. The ones they asked all refused, so they had to reach down below four stars and choose an active duty officer who they could order to take the job.

Lute's appointment proves that the current National Security Advisor, Steven Hadley, isn't competent as National Security Advisor (well, Duhh!) so they are trying to bring in someone to do his job for him. They are very likely also bringing in a goat to blame when America has to pull out of Iraq, since the Bush administration insists on calling our occupation of Iraq a war and defining our abandonment of the occupation as "losing the war." With Lt. Gen. Lute installed as War Czar, it won't be Bush's fault that we have to withdraw (and by their definition, "lose") in Iraq.

If you like train wrecks or car crashes, the Bush administration has been fun to watch. It is a long, slow-motion train wreck. The disaster is assured. The only question is how large the casualty count will be.

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