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Why the War Czar is a bad idea
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ralph Peters asks the right questions about the War Czar:
The fundamental issue is this: How much authority will the war czar have? If the usual pattern prevails, the feudal domains on the Potomac will nod politely when he speaks, but ignore him when their parochial interests are threatened.

Will he be able to order the State Department to send its cowering personnel to fill the empty slots they've left in Iraq? I guarantee you that the answer is "no."

Will he be able to command the intelligence agencies to refocus their in-house priorities to better support our troops? Nope.

Will he be able to shift Pentagon resources to support the wars we face instead of the fantasy wars we'd like to fight someday? Not a chance. The services know how to defend their toy boxes, and the Capitol Hill porkmeisters would knock out any teeth his office might have.

Will he at least be able to persuade the Department of Agriculture to send enough experts to Iraq to make a difference? Not if the Aggies ain't in the mood to plant date palms.
The entrenched bureaucracy, which hasn't done any of the things Peter's notes at the direction of the President, is now going to suddenly discover cooperation and eschew empire building (and turf protection) and get in line to do the bidding of some politically unknown general to whom none of them report?

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Previous Comments to this Post 

Perhaps this tells us something about relations between the DOD and the White House. Secretary Gates is known to support fully the Iraq study group findings, and has said things that are seemingly off message about the "surge" and US policy. If the White House distrusts the Secretary of Defense, but doesn’t want the political cost of firing him, this could be an attempt to end run Gates’ influence. I doubt it would work, but since the idea does seem so bad on its face, we need to think about why they think it necessary, especially late in the administration.

Another possibility is that the news from Afghanistan is worse than we’ve heard, and they fear a summer of increased turmoil there, which will really strain policy makers trying to maintain the surge and keep Afghanistan from going out of control. Either way, this move suggests that the White House has lost control of the situation — we’re rudderless at a very important time.
Written By: Scott Erb
It doesn’t matter that the War Czar will have no power. Just as with the other czars we’ve had, this appointment is more about symbolism than substance, and is likely nothing more than Bush’s cynical (and lame) attempt to persuade the American people that he is looking to do things differently.
Written By: steve
URL: http://
More likely this is just a misguided attempt to actually have somebody below the President to be in charge of civil and military affairs.

Without control over the budgets of the affected agencies, this is going nowhere.
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
Again, I share the scepticism of the post, but point out that IF he can get the bureaucracies to work together it might be beneficial. On way, is that the War Czar might compile a list of actions requested and not acted upon, present it to the President and have the POTUS issue a set of EO’s on it. The reality is that the POTUS only has so much time to invest, each day on this issue. IF the Czar can bring him action requests, specific, it may move the process forward. This is under the theory that organizations only do things that the boss checks, and the POTUS is appointing an full-time "boss" to check on acts and omissions.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe: normally, I would agree with your point, but what else, other than his amnesty program for illegals, is Bush focusing on right now? Iraq has pretty much been Priority #1 for him from the beginning.
Written By: steve
URL: http://
We have been in Iraq for four years now, and Afghanistan even longer. If Bush hasn’t been able to govern his government by now, appointing some designated hitter isn’t going to help. Particularly for a Lame Duck with an unfriendly Congress.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

Joe: normally, I would agree with your point, but what else, other than his amnesty program for illegals, is Bush focusing on right now? Iraq has pretty much been Priority #1 for him from the beginning.
In retrospect, Bush gave up his Presidency for Iraq. After his initial tax cuts, his "ownership society" and other plans for radical reform were sidetracked and ultimately died. One will always wonder what kind of Presidency he’d have had if not for how Iraq took over and weakened him on all other fronts.
Written By: Scott Erb
"Will he be able to order the State Department to send its cowering personnel to fill the empty slots they’ve left in Iraq?"

Okay, beyond the war czar idea itself....

Why can’t this be done? Is it impossible to order an employee to do a job? Or would they resign en masse?

While I am also skeptical of this position there are a few points to consider:

a. We don’t know why the want this position...maybe there is certain specific, bureaucratic/technical issues that this guy can achieve. But to me this wouldn’t call for a "Czar"...maybe a coordinator.

b. If Bush couldn’t do things because of the entrenched bureaucracies, why worry about the war czar? Why not let someone else do such a thankless job? (Yes, yes, Bush could do better, etc....but is that really true? Personally, I find that the world turns on and on whether or not the president is effective.)

c. Could it be his job will be to act as a turf referee between DOD and others?

Written By: Harun
URL: http://

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