Wednesday, May 16, 2007

War Czar Doug Lute

Phillip Carter writes:

INTEL DUMP: Doug Lute: dream the impossible dream: The Washington Post (and others) report that the White House has tapped Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute to be its "war czar." In that position, Lt. Gen. Lute will be responsible for quarterbacking the "interagency process" — a Byzantine system of communication, coordination and policymaking which, in theory, is supposed to produce coherent national security strategy execution. According to the Post:

In the newly created position, Lute will coordinate often disjointed military and civilian operations and manage the Washington side of the same troop increase he resisted before Bush announced the plan in January. Bush hopes an empowered aide working in the White House and answering directly to him will be able to cut through bureaucracy that has hindered efforts in Iraq.

The selection capped a difficult recruitment process for the White House, as its initial candidates rejected the job. At least five retired four-star generals approached by the White House or intermediaries refused to be considered. Lute, a three-star general now serving as chief operations officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in effect will jump over many superiors as he moves to the West Wing and assumes authority to deal directly with Cabinet secretaries and top commanders.

"General Lute is a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done," Bush said in a statement.

In choosing Lute, Bush picked a key internal voice of dissent during the administration review that led to the troop increase. Reflecting the views of other members of the Joint Chiefs, Lute argued that a short-term "surge" would do little good and that any sustained increase in forces had to be matched by equal emphasis on political and economic steps, according to officials informed about the deliberations.

Lute believed the situation in Iraq reflected the same mistakes as the ineffective and disorganized response to Hurricane Katrina, according to a source familiar with the debate. Like others at the Pentagon, he also was aggravated because civilian agencies, in his view, had not done nearly enough to help stabilize Iraq. And he was outspoken about the increasing strains on the U.S. military, officials said.

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said Lute raised his concerns during talks before his selection. "He had the same skepticism a lot of us had," Hadley said. "That's one of the reasons we designed the strategy the way we did." By joining the White House, Hadley said, Lute can ensure that economic and political elements of the plan are implemented. "In some sense, he's part of the cure for the problems he was concerned about."

Until Bush decided this spring to create the position, the highest-ranking White House official working exclusively on Iraq and Afghanistan was a deputy national security adviser reporting to Hadley. Lute, by contrast, will have the rank of assistant to the president, just as Hadley does, and report directly to Bush, while also holding the title of deputy national security adviser.

Okay, I'm still scratching my head over this one. None of my thoughts are new on this, but I thought I'd air them anyway:

1) Isn't this guy [Bush] supposed to be the "war czar"? If he can't make the interagency process work by knocking a few heads and firing a few cabinet officers, who can?

2) What's going to happen the first time that Lt. Gen. Lute doesn't get his way? Imagine a hypothetical where Gen. David Petraeus asks for more Justice Department personnel to promote the rule of law , and Al Gonzales tells him to go swimming in the Tigris. What's a 3-star general to do? Will the White House back Lute and tell Al to cough up the people? Or will Lute get steamrolled? Assuming the latter happens, will he suck it up and soldier on, resign quietly, or resign noisily?

3) How are the other agencies going to react to having yet another general in charge of policy? Maybe about as well as State reacted to having Jay Garner appointed as the head of ORHA during the early stages of the war? I understand that the military is the main effort right now in Iraq. I also understand that's a deeply flawed organizational paradigm, because counterinsurgency is a political endeavor, and it may make a lot more sense to put a political animal (someone like Robert "Blowtorch Bob" Komer) in charge. (What? You've never heard of Blowtorch Bob? Read this! And this!)

4) How broken is the U.S. national security apparatus that we need a "czar" to run it? Is the NSC that f---ed up that it needs a 3-star with some juice in the Pentagon to make things work? (This is a rhetorical question; the only possible answer is yes.) Or are the agencies that stubborn? (Again, yes.) Where and how did the National Security Act and Goldwater-Nichols Act run aground that we've come to this? (Long story.) Could it be that we have the greatest military in the world, capped by the most ineffective and bloated bureaucracy ever created?

Good luck Lt. Gen Lute — you've got a tough fight in front of you.

And Adam W:

Someone needs to tell President Bush that if you're sitting in the Cabinet Room and you don't see a President, then it's you. Regarding your second point, I recall that a major criticism of the brief Jay Garner era was that, as a lower-ranking military man, he couldn't plausibly exert any sway over higher-ranking officials below him on the org chart. I don't see how this situation is much different.

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