On President Bush’s ‘war czar’ …
From a knowledgable TPM Reader …
I havenât read exhaustively on this, but it seems that the lede is getting buried in stories about the appointment of LTG Lute as war âczar.â Itâs not that the administration had to lower their sights to a 3-star. The amazing thing is that they had to fall back on an active duty general â a guy they could order to take the job. All the previous names floated were retired folks who had the luxury of turning the offer down.
Iâve never met Lute, but his resume is solid. Itâs particularly noteworthy that his last three jobs have all been joint positions. He will probably be an effective organizer. But as a currently serving 3-star, he will be at best a coordinator, outranked by many of the key people he needs to coordinate.
It is somewhat troubling how more and more of our senior national security positions are being filled by military folks still on active duty or just recently retired (CIA, DNI, etc.). There needs to be a balance in backgrounds, and weâve probably pushed past the right level.
And from tonight’s Nelson Report …
there’s a fascinating debate ongoing from “the uniforms” and from sensible civilian staff types. One major concern is the conflation of appropriate civilian and military roles.
Providing “best military advice” is the military’s responsibility, and also a right. The responsibility of the civilian leadership is to provide military leaders with enough knowledge of “national policy” to be able to advise, and to understand military matters well enough to understand that advice…and to give it proper and thoughtful consideration.
As we see with the Congressional debate and posturing over how to use the budget to set a schedule and “benchmarks” for success in Iraq, Capitol Hill now shares with the majority of the public the view that the Bush Administration’s civilian leadership did not live up to any of its responsibilities…aided and abetted by serious dereliction of news media and Congressional oversight duties.
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 Iraq…is 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.
The days ahead will be most interesting.”