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War Czar? (update)
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, April 11, 2007

This has got to be one of the dumber ideas floated by the administration to date::
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration's difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military.
A war czar? Mr. Bush, you are the war czar! For goodness sake, now Bush is trying to delegate responsibility for the war to another layer of bureaucracy with no established lines of authority (especially Constitutionally) and he expects the State Department and the Pentagon to simply agree to such an arrangement? Doing this will make things run more smoothly? How?

The President of the United States has the responsibility to formulate and execute, in conjunction with the State Department, the foreign policy of the US. That is also the case with State Department in times of war. The same responsibility is exclusively the president's in terms of the military, the Department of Defense and any war we're engaged in.

He can't delegate those responsibilities by appointing someone between him and them to run the war effort.
"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.
With all due respect to General Sheehan, no that's not the fundamental issue. The fundamental issue is this is contra to the Constitutional duties of the President and simply adds another layer of "command" which, in reality, does nothing positive.

If the president wants an advisor or two, that's one thing. But this simply makes no sense whatsoever.
The White House has not publicly disclosed its interest in creating the position, hoping to find someone President Bush can anoint and announce for the post all at once. Officials said they are still considering options for how to reorganize the White House's management of the two conflicts. If they cannot find a person suited for the sort of specially empowered office they envision, they said, they may have to retain the current structure.
The problem the WH is trying to address is the fact that the State Department doesn't want to take direction from the Pentagon and the Pentagon doesn't want to play nice with the State Department and the disagreements are hindering the war effort.

That's a leadership problem. And the White House's answer is to try to push it off on someone else?
To fill such a role, the White House is searching for someone with enough stature and confidence to deal directly with heavyweight administration figures such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Besides Sheehan, sources said, the White House or intermediaries have sounded out retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and retired Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, who also said they are not interested. Ralston declined to comment; Keane confirmed he declined the offer, adding: "It was discussed weeks ago."
Look Mr. Bush, you ran twice to take and keep this job. With this job comes leadership responsibilities you can't dodge or hand off. Step up and take charge of the problem. State Department won't cooperate? Find people who will. DoD playing games? Let the game players know in no uncertain terms the game has just changed. Be a freakin' leader for heaven sake and quit trying to hand it all off to someone else.

Do. Your. Job.

UPDATE: James Joyner takes a bit of an exception to my characterization above:
Now, Bruce is right that the president has the necessary authority to issue orders, although it’s not quite as simple as “Step up and take charge of the problem. State Department won’t cooperate? Find people who will. DoD playing games? Let the game players know in no uncertain terms the game has just changed.”

Presidents can’t and shouldn’t micromanage wars. Nor is this a purely military exercise, which could ably be overseen by the combatant commander and the SECDEF. Interagency coordination is vital here.
Of course, I'm not asking the President to micromanage the war, what I'm instead asking the President to do is manage those who are in charge of the folks prosecuting the war on a daily basis. It is his job to get them to produce the results he desires. That includes insuring they're doing what is necessary to effect the interagency coordination which James properly points out is "vital". If not and if things aren't moving in the direction he wants to see, then he should do what is necessary to see that changes.

Perhaps, instead of a Czar, he needs to direct Dr. Rice and Mr. Gates to put a cooperative interagency coordination committee together and give it the direction and attention (from both) to make it work. Or perhaps there's a better idea. But a "czar" is not the answer.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
I thought nancy Pelosi was "war czar" along with Sec. State?
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
With all due respect, McQ, I don’t think this is a dumb idea at all.

Congress has been openly challenging the President’s Article II authority and part of shoring up public support for the war is winning the hearts and minds of a lazy, inattentive, and ill informed public. Part of Congress’ argument all along has been that Bush isn’t "listening to the generals" and part of the White House’s BIGGEST problem in communicating with the public has been the lack of a single identifiable military figure whom they can look to to counter the media’s general-shopping.

I think that politically, it’s nothing short of brilliant. I also think I wouldn’t want this job in a million years.
 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/
McQ:

I concur with your assessment of the idea (although I would agree with Sheehan’s view of the situation as well).

Cassandra,

How has the Congress challenged the President’s Article II powers? If you mean via the spending bill, I would note that that in within Congress’ Article I powers. There is a built-in tension between the branches, even over foreign policy issues.

Also: it is wholly unclear to me how a new central figure will help with PR over the war (let alone in terms of actual policy).
 
Written By: Steven Taylor
URL: http://poliblogger.com
Cass:
Part of Congress’ argument all along has been that Bush isn’t "listening to the generals" and part of the White House’s BIGGEST problem in communicating with the public has been the lack of a single identifiable military figure whom they can look to to counter the media’s general-shopping.
So he’s a PR figure? And what has that to do with his supposed role in overseeing the State Department effort in the war (something I’d contend that no general is qualified to oversee)?

Don’t forget the job description is:
... to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies...
That’s not a PR job. That’s the President’s job.

Want to make the guy an adviser? Have him handle the PR campaign? Fine. That’s one thing. But that isn’t what they’re talking about as the role of a czar here.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
There is a built-in tension between the branches, even over foreign policy issues.
The main problem though, is that there are tensions within the Executive Branch over foreign policy issues. The entrenched careerists are part of the problem. So, you have a State Dept who says that things are to violent for them to deal with, and a Defense Dept who would rather say, well, the major combat ops are over, we are out of here.

What it sounds like he’s trying to create the "Department of Everything Else" ala, Thomas Barnett, or at least name a person in charge of nation building/peace keeping/reviving failed and failing states.
The obvious goal?

Somebody to supersede and transcend the obviously under-powered, unambitious, overwhelmed and wholly dysfunctional interagency leadership process currently mismanaged by a senior National Security Council staff member (as anonymous as they come), whose departure, along with just-finished strategic reviews, is the declared bureaucratic trigger for the search.

Yeah, right!

But just as clear as the administration’s desperation to get some unity of action across Defense, State, and USAID through unity of command in some new SECEVELSE, is its continuing unwillingness to really invest this putative "czar" with any real power (thus, the turn-downs).

Bush wants the "man on the white horse" (Iraq-the-System-Perturbation continues to roil our system almost as much as the Middle East), but hasn’t made the leap of logic to the full department.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
I agree with McQ this is the President’s job, he could, HOWEVER, do what was done in Japan in 1945-1950. He could appint a Proconsul like MacArthur. The problem is State and DoD are not agreeing or cooperating, it does go deeper, the Federal Executive is not cooperating.

Iraq has need of foresters, economists, administrators, engineers, public health workers, the list runs the gamut... ALL things that the Federal Government has, but the various Executive agencies, don’t want to cooperate and send folks "out there" leaving the DoD to do the heavy lifting.

A Proconsul/Czar would be the person that has the authority to require, USAID, and the US Public Health Service, and CDC, and the Fish and Wildlife Department make it’s personnel available to recruiters from DoD and the Iraqi Government, seeking volunteers for deployment to Iraq, to provide valuable skills.

So I’m not sure that the idea is a bad one, I simply think the idea of calling him the "Iraq Czar" is a bad one. I think that the President ought to by EO appoint Petraeus or Colin Powell to the post and designate that this pwerson has the power and authority to oversee ALL aspects fo the Iraqi operation. I’m not sure that it would work to include Afghanistan....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"the White House is searching for someone with enough stature and confidence to deal directly with heavyweight administration figures such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates"

That is a pretty funny line if you read it right. Perhaps his poll numbers among administration officials are slipping.

"But its harrrd! And it’s getting borrring! I wanna do something else! I wanna do important stuff like help our little brown Mesican brothers and sisters become citizens, and run our schools."

***************************


We could call him a "Commander in Chief"(Of course that may be a little confusing, since we already have one)! Czar sounds kind of foreign and scary. We could call his organization something like "Central Command", and order the various cabinet secretaries to give him everything he wants, and to order their respective people to obey his orders.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Afghanistan is drugs. English buy alot. It should be a DEA running th war. It’s a war on drugs and that’s who knows how to win the war. Probems are CIA and people like Chayes.
 
Written By: Dew
URL: http://
Isn’t that guy called CENTCOM’s commander?

William J. Fallon to be precise.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Isn’t that guy called CENTCOM’s commander?
No, Fallon commands all MILITARY forces in that theatre....now if you need a reforestation project undertaken and there isn’t the 3489th Combat Engineer Detachment (Reforestation) available for deployment then:
1) either some engineer has to SWAG it, or
2) some combat arm dude/dudette has to SWAG it; or
3) It doesn’t get done.

Because Adm. Fallon can’t just call up folks from the Dept. of the Interior to help carry the project forward. That’s just the way things are, Fallon commands grunts, not civilians.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Et tu McQ? In others you call it BDS. What is it when it looks out of the mirror at you?

Why one might almost call this an irresponsible, unconscionable and, frankly nauseating attempt to avoid responsibility which will most likely end up getting troops in Iraq killed.

If, of course, one wasn’t too busy saying things like that about the people who are trying to end the war instead of contiue it indefinitely with no idea how to lead us to victory there.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
If, of course, one wasn’t too busy saying things like that about the people who are trying to end the war instead of contiue it indefinitely with no idea how to lead us to victory there.
Well Retief, that only fits if you can point out how this qualifies as BDS. Claiming it does won’t suffice.

Then you have to show a pattern of me claiming everything from global warming to birth defects to the Imus fiasco on Bush.

Unless you can that, you’re comment, while sufficiently snide, has no credibility and thus loses any rhetorical impact it might have had if only you’d have had a point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I guess I’ll have to look in my copy of the DSM-Malkin for the diagnostic criteria. But really, you just told us that Bush is trying to pass the buck and abandon his responsibility to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What else could such critism of The Decider be? You just told us that Bush can’t or won’t do his job and finish the wars he started. Maybe you’re right and opposing such a policy is not motivated by BDS in your case. Maybe other people who have opposed this president, who you have suggested are motivated by such a disorder, just saw that sooner.

Just to avoid confusion, I took that quote of yours from this post. Did you show a pattern of Congressional Democrats claiming everything from global warming to birth defects to the Imus fiasco on Bush? In fact just claiming it works just fine for everyone who uses it, as it is not an argument but a way to dismiss arguments and avoid responding to them.

Perhaps you are right and I was too snide. At any rate, congratulations on the scales falling from your eyes WRT Bush’s inabilites.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
You just told us that Bush can’t or won’t do his job and finish the wars he started.
Didn’t say that at all. What I said was it was his job to do, not anyone else’s, such as a "war czar".
At any rate, congratulations on the scales falling from your eyes WRT Bush’s inabilites.
Of course Retief. This is the very first time I’ve ever criticized the administration or Bush, right?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Oh OK. So it’s his job to run the wars and he’s looking for somebody else to do it. But that’s not because he can’t or won’t. OK.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Oh OK. So it’s his job to run the wars and he’s looking for somebody else to do it. But that’s not because he can’t or won’t. OK.
"Looking" or thinking about something isn’t the same as not doing it in this universe, Retief.

The purpose of the post was to say "huh uh, don’t even think about it". Obviously that’s been lost on you.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
How about having four people turn the job down? How far toward doing it is that?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
"No, Fallon commands all MILITARY forces in that theatre...."

So the solution is to appoint a civilian who will not have authority over the military? Why not just give Fallon command of all US personnel in the theater?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"No, Fallon commands all MILITARY forces in that theatre...."
So the solution is to appoint a civilian who will not have authority over the military? Why not just give Fallon command of all US personnel in the theater?
That’s OK too, I was responding to the comment about the CENTCOM Commander...Fallon is the Commander of CENTCOM, that alone...War Czar Fallon would be double-hatted as CENTCOM Commander AND War Czar. Because right now CENTCOM and it’s command do NOT have that authority. And it could not be granted to the CENTCOM commander, I don’t believe...it would take a modification of Goldwater-Nicholls to change the role and duties of CinC’s. So if you want Fallon that’s fine, but as I said it can’t be Fallon as CENTCOM CinC, but rather as Fallon as War Czar for Iraq.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
How about having four people turn the job down? How far toward doing it is that?
Yeesh ... speaking of BDS, you just don’t get it, do you?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Why not just give Fallon command of all US personnel in the theater?
Well I would guess US law might have something to say about State Department personnel being put under military command, for starters (I’m not sure but I would bet there’s a prohibition of some sort). And then there’s the simple "you’re not in my chain of command" problem which career State Department personnel would have no problem playing (especially when facing a temporary assignment with an out-of-department boss).

What’s Fallon going to do, put ’em in front of a firing squad? Send ’em home?

It’s an accountability as well as a leadership issue which is the job of the President to resolve.

Bush needs to hold both Gates and Rice accountable for the success of his plan and integrating it within their two departments in a workable way. He should be leaning heavily on each to work together and do what is necessary to make that happen. What’s disturbing is he apparently either hasn’t done that to this point, or if he has, he’s been ineffective.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I’m not quite sure how you delegate responsibility to someone who reports to you. A leader can delegate authority (real or perceived, and both have their uses in a politically charged atmosphere) but not accountability - it’s always clear where the buck stops, especially when the President is on the firing line 24/7. It seemed to me the issues involved were dual:

1. Coordination/communication

2. Political perception

I’m struggling to think of a situation where you’re managing a huge federal bureaucracy and those two things aren’t vitally important. No doubt one will come to me in time :p

 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/
Step up and take charge of the problem. State Department won’t cooperate? Find people who will. DoD playing games? Let the game players know in no uncertain terms the game has just changed
Hmmm....and if Bush "fires" the people at State and DoD, he has another Attorneys General situation on his hands, right? Get bogged down in yet another investigation for political purges in handling the war? Turn the fired staffers into more Joe Wilsons? Or maybe he bypasses and marginalizes them....and the amount of "annonymous" leaks to the WaPo and NYT triples.

The time to purge everyone at State etc. is at the start of your 1st term.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
I’m not quite sure how you delegate responsibility to someone who reports to you.
My point is there is some authority you don’t delegate as a leader. I’m arguing that this is a level of authority that shouldn’t be delegated to another but retained by the President because he is the person ultimately responsible.

I’m also saying he should make it work, not delegate the job to someone else. As I said above:
It’s an accountability as well as a leadership issue which is the job of the President to resolve.

Bush needs to hold both Gates and Rice accountable for the success of his plan and integrating it within their two departments in a workable way. He should be leaning heavily on each to work together and do what is necessary to make that happen. What’s disturbing is he apparently either hasn’t done that to this point, or if he has, he’s been ineffective.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Why is it when ever we face a problem we have to appoint a Czar to handle it. The idea of have a Czar to oversea the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is insane. If further divides a divided command. It is military dictum a divided command is the recipe for disaster. The Romans learned this lesson from Hannibal at the battle of Cannae
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/
"And then there’s the simple "you’re not in my chain of command" problem which career State Department personnel would have no problem playing.."

And every other non-Army person, whether there there is a czar or not. It is hard enough to get personnel from other military services to be totally cooperative, much less people who do not have the same culture of obedience. We are in agreement here. It is Bush’s job. If he can’t get his subordinates to play nice and cooperate, he needs to get new subordinates. If he or anyone else in the White House thinks a new face with a new title will somehow make everything better, without doing the same things to create unity and coordination of effort that would have to be done under the present setup, they have probably spent too much time in Government or academia. It’s the same old bureaucratic MBA bs; reorganization will solve all your problems.

Surely a war is important enough to deserve the personal attention of the President, at least as important as immigration, education, etc. Evidently Bush really misses Rumsfeld.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
And the problem is NOT confined to the political appointees. The career Civil Service are untouchable, between union rules, whistleblower laws, civil service policies, affirmative action, etc. Bush could give a direct order and the average GS could ignore it.
 
Written By: SDN
URL: http://
A couple of comments, one for the article and one for one of the ensuing comments. First the main article. What war? Did I miss a formal declaration of war? We would not be where we are today if the branches of government had done their jobs.

To the poster who sees Afganistan as a drug war and the DEA as the answer. This would be the same DEA who has run a multi decade drug war in this country with no effect other than to reduce our civil liberties, this is laughable.
 
Written By: Timothy M Smith
URL: http://
I agree with McQ.

Blaming the State Dept. is a cheap shot. Iraq is unsafe enough that civilians don’t want to go there. The reason is: they don’t want to die. The U.S. military, for a whole variety of reasons, is more equipped to handle the threat of death than other federal agencies.

Appointing an Iraq czar won’t help get more civilians into the Iraq effort. It’s irrelevant. It’s another layer of bureaucracy.

What this demonstrates more clearly is that the DoD and executive branch is still way, way too redundant, duplicative, and clogged. The whole system needs to be heavily pruned. DoD is so much bigger than the rest of the executive branch that it’s no surprise that the rest of the gov. has trouble keeping up with them.
State has 10,000 employees, DoD 3 million.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I think most people here are missing the point, including the original poster. As far as responsibility and authority, of course it lies with the president. The buck stops there, or it should, unless the occupant tries to duck it. But of course, the president can and should deligate, and someone was already supposed to be responsible to coordinate between the various agencies, with the authority to tell the cabinet secretaries what to do and to speak with the voice of the agency. That person is that National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, who heads the National Security Council, made up of high-level representatives from all of the relevant agencies that are supposed to be involved in the war effort (i.e., State and Defense).

One can quibble with his competence (as probably should be done with most people in Bush’s immediate circle), but this was supposed to be his job, and has been his job over the last five years. He had in turn delegated that to one of his assistants, Meghan O’Sullivan. She wants out, perhaps because she doesn’t want any more part of the incompetent and bungled execution of a disastrously insane and stupid policy, but in any case that’s why the white house is looking for a new War Czar.

As this CBS News Story put it, "A search for a "war czar" is an admission by the Bush administration that the National Security Council has failed to do its job." And as a general who turned down the job has said, the reason why the NSC has failed is because "Rumsfeld destroyed the NSC". Rumsfeld referred to the NSC as "the inter-agency process", and he did everything in his power to undermine it, and under the feckless leadership of Stephen Hadley, the NSC basically caved (although it’s hard to do much when your organization is under continual attack by the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense, and the President doesn’t lift a finger to defend you).

The problem with the war czar idea is that this person will have responsibility for the execution, but (a) no actual authority more than what Stephen Hdaley already head, and if the president didn’t back up his National Security Advisor, what hope is there that he would back up this new War Czar, and (b) no authority to change the underlying policy. This has already caused some tongues to wag that what is really behind this attempt to find a new War Czar is that Stephen Hadley is trying to find someone to shift the blame to. If he isn’t able to do the job, he should resign and let the president find a new National Security Advisor who can do the job. And if it really is the president’s fault that he isn’t providing the right leadership and managing his cabinet secretaries and staff properly, then a new War Czar isn’t going to do a bit of good —- and the best this person will be able to do is to shoulder the blame that should be resting on the President’s shoulders.
 
Written By: Theodore Tso
URL: http://thunk.org/tytso
I think most people here are missing the point, including the original poster. As far as responsibility and authority, of course it lies with the president. The buck stops there, or it should, unless the occupant tries to duck it.
Yeah I’ve read all the "inside baseball" excuses for putting someone else between the CiC and the war. And that’s all they are. Interestingly you bring up the most compelling point not to do it (originally brought up by Hadley), namely Hadley has been trying to do it and failed. So he wants to hand if off to someone else. Now if Hadley, a consummate insider who apparently had the authority and the president’s ear, was unable to do it, what chance does some retired general unknown to any of the players have?

To the general’s credit, they can spot an untenable position when they see it.

In fact, Hadley and Bush are both saying they’re just too busy to manage the war and the bureaucracy and want to hand it off to someone else.

Sorry ... no sale. As you point out, the one with the ultimate responsibility and authority is the president. It is his job to make it work or get people who will ... not Hadley or anyone else’s.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

 
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