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Is it like having a "drug czar" for the war on drugs -- y'know, only it's for the war on war?
May 16, 2007 3:20 PM   Subscribe

"War Czar" -- another term for "highly paid radio operator"? So the Decider in Chief wants to have a War Czar* in the White House. He appointed Douglas Lute after three other general officers turned him down. Note that Lute, a three-star general, is actually inferior in rank to David Petraeus, the four-star who's commanding the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Black Five had some thoughts on this, as did Jules Crittenden.
posted by pax digita (77 comments total)

 
*(which is less of a mouthful than "the newly created position of assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation," after all)
posted by pax digita at 3:20 PM on May 16, 2007


Dagnabit, I just saw I left out the Black Five link.
posted by pax digita at 3:21 PM on May 16, 2007


"We've always been at war with Eastasia."

also

"There is no cabal."
posted by blue_beetle at 3:24 PM on May 16, 2007


Why is it that Republicans see additional layers of bureaucracy as the solution to every problem?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:25 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dunno, and not sure that's only a Republican problem, but they say the first step in fixing things is admitting to yourself that there is a problem, and I haven't heard a whole lotta that from NCA or the flags.
posted by pax digita at 3:26 PM on May 16, 2007


Hey, don't bring our non-existent cabal into this b_b, we had nothing to do with it.

And the very concept of a War Tsar Czar is ridiculous.

"They have a safe haven on the internet," he went on. "No one in the US military has been tasked with the mission of attacking these intangibles. Until we do they will operate with impunity.

"You need a network to defeat a network."


Be careful Second Life, they are coming for you...
posted by quin at 3:30 PM on May 16, 2007


Snow On Why It Took Four Years To Appoint A War Czar: ‘I Don’t Know’
During today’s White House press briefing, spokesman Tony Snow twice confessed “I don’t know” when asked why it has taken four years for President Bush to appoint a czar to oversee the war in Iraq.

Referencing yesterday’s selection of Gen. Douglas Lute, one reporter asked why it took so long “to come up with somebody of his seniority and stature?” Snow said, “I don’t know,” but added that “it seems proper at a time like this” to “task somebody with the job of keeping an eye on all the different players” involved in the war.

The reporter followed up, “Do you think this is a new need and that you did not need someone to do this for the previous four years?” Snow had no response. “Well, again, I — I’m not going to try to — I don’t know. It’s… I don’t have an answer for you.”
posted by ericb at 3:32 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


the first step in fixing things is admitting to yourself that there is a problem

and that, in a nutshell, has been one of this administration's major problems all along.
posted by caddis at 3:33 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this Admin's like my emotionally dysfunctional eleven-year-old when it comes to handling conflict gracefully.
posted by pax digita at 3:38 PM on May 16, 2007


This is so absurd. You know what we need? We need a Czar Czar.

And then, after we see how ineffective he will be we will need a Czar Czar Czar.

Ultimately though we need a Czar Czar Czar Czar Czar Czar. He can rule from his orbiting battle station and will be authorized to kill all the other Czars.
posted by tkchrist at 3:40 PM on May 16, 2007 [9 favorites]


When Bush just needs another person to blame for his failure as Commander-in-Chief.
posted by ericb at 3:42 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
posted by Shecky at 3:45 PM on May 16, 2007


*looks around for peace czars*

Hmmm.. must be in short supply of those.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:48 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ah. Yes, ericb - the Blame Czar. Good idea.

He is of only slightly higher stature than the Choked on a Pretzel Czar.
posted by tkchrist at 3:50 PM on May 16, 2007


ericb writes "Snow said, “I don’t know,” but added that “it seems proper at a time like this” to “task somebody with the job of keeping an eye on all the different players” involved in the war."

Hmmmm... Sounds like the job for a main commander, or maybe a "chief" commander.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:51 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Or a secretary to that commander. Maybe one that knows a lot about defense or something.
posted by quin at 3:55 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Note that Lute has to go through a Senate confirmation hearing. I hope he takes an org chart up to the Hill with him to show us how this command structure works -- as far as I know, it's still NCA (da Shrub) -> SecDef (Gates) -> major area commands (for example, USCENTCOM, which includes Iraq and Iran is commanded by an admiral these days). The JCS are administrative positions; they don't really control operational decisions.

Which is why I made the "radio operator" joke. He's gonna be a high-ranking staffer who "coordinates" stuff. I don't know how well thought-through his job is, but I'm looking forward to a detailed explanation.
posted by pax digita at 3:56 PM on May 16, 2007




ericb, I just clicked on that link of yours -- holy crap, Lute got picked despite having suggested they start a drawdown back when he was J-3 (the Operations hat) at USCENTCOM?

Well, paint me purple and call be Barney...I bet he won't be airing that idea again anytime soon....
posted by pax digita at 4:07 PM on May 16, 2007


Afer WWII, we decided that we had to follow Orwell's advice and so we renamed The War Department and the Secretary of War the Defense Department. Now, with a "War Czar" we are reverting to what we are really all about.
posted by Postroad at 4:09 PM on May 16, 2007


Postroad writes "Now, with a 'War Czar' we are reverting to what we are really all about."

Yeah, except for the weird psuedo-Russian vocabulary, which is more Burgess than Orwell.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:13 PM on May 16, 2007


Maybe call the slot "Praetorian Prefect" instead?

Naaah, been done.
posted by pax digita at 4:14 PM on May 16, 2007


I have always favored a return to The War Department. I mean who fucks with a country with one of those?

I also think we need to have a High Commission of Sexy with me as El-Supremo Sexy Commissar. But I digress. Very, very sexily.
posted by tkchrist at 4:14 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch. Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch! Malkovitch?
posted by phearlez at 4:16 PM on May 16, 2007


How about Military Plenipotentiary?
posted by empath at 4:17 PM on May 16, 2007


Tsar Wars
posted by jaronson at 4:20 PM on May 16, 2007


War Czar = Shit Screen
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:24 PM on May 16, 2007


mr_roboto writes "Why is it that Republicans see additional layers of bureaucracy as the solution to every problem?"

Ridiculous. Republicans are for small government.
posted by brundlefly at 4:31 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


tkchrist: Would I ever like to see THAT dress uniform!
posted by pax digita at 4:34 PM on May 16, 2007


On my floor.
posted by ursus_comiter at 4:54 PM on May 16, 2007


Car Wars?
posted by notsnot at 4:54 PM on May 16, 2007


War Czar = Fall guy
posted by zardoz at 4:57 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's not a ridiculous idea. The US's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is going to continue for quite some time, and it's going to continuing being a mess for quite some time, so having someone on the executive side who focuses solely on the day-to-day administration of mideast policy could be smart.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 4:57 PM on May 16, 2007


OK, not Praetorian Prefect...Procurator of Judea, then.
posted by pax digita at 5:03 PM on May 16, 2007


It's not War Czar; it's Execution Manager.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:06 PM on May 16, 2007


By the way, that Daily Show clip has a very helpful org chart.

I remember when Condoleeza Rice was going to manage Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'm sure the new "War Czar" will be just as successful in The Long War (or whatever the fuck we call it now) as the Drug Czar's been in the War on Drugs.

"Someone needs to tell Steve Hadley that position is filled, it's the commander in chief, unless the decider's become the delegator." Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:16 PM on May 16, 2007


I really wish we would get away from the autocratic terminology.

When did this start? I think my earliest related recollection was a "drug czar", maybe running Ronnie's fantabulous "Just Say No!" crapfest.
posted by Flunkie at 5:18 PM on May 16, 2007


I'm so old that I can remember when the National Security Advisor was put in charge of coordinating Defense and State.

How did that ever work out?.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:18 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wait.

Didn't we already have a war czar? As in, The Commander-in-Chief? You know, that guy that likes to call himself the war President?

Or how's about that guy that heads the Joint Chiefs? Or gee, what about the friggin' defense secretary?

What the hell is the point of this guy, exactly?

What it says to me is that Bush does not like what he is hearing from the SecDef, Gates, and probably whomever is the top military guy. So it's time to appoint a yes-man to tell him what he wants to hear.

Bush truly is the worst President in the history of the United States. An utter and complete, abject failure.
posted by teece at 5:22 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


How about Military Plenipotentiary?
How about Secretary of Defense?

Seriously, isn't Gates basically the "War Czar" . . ? I don't get it.
posted by undule at 5:26 PM on May 16, 2007


Obviously I need to watch the Daily Show a little more routinely.
posted by pax digita at 5:36 PM on May 16, 2007


Y'know, it just occurred to me that another unpopular war had its "Gadfly General," except it was a collective responsibility and administered by the legislative branch, back when Congress actually had, y'know, guts.
posted by pax digita at 5:41 PM on May 16, 2007


High Commission of Sexy

"I can't administrate. Who Cares?"
posted by Firas at 5:42 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


By the way..."Execution Manager"? WTF?
posted by pax digita at 5:45 PM on May 16, 2007


Bush truly is the worst President in the history of the United States.

He's pretty bad, no doubt. However, he has some serious competition with Warren G. Harding (an administration filled with crooks and a personal life which makes Bill Clinton look like a choir boy) and James Buchanan (sat by idly while the nation descended into civil war). Regardless, there is little doubt that history will treat GW harshly.

As for the so called war czar, tkchrist got it right - Blame Czar. Isn't the president supposed to be the Commander in Chief?
posted by caddis at 5:46 PM on May 16, 2007


Yeah, Scapegoat-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States.
posted by pax digita at 5:59 PM on May 16, 2007


Isn't this what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is supposed to do? Didn't Powell serve this purpose as Chairman in the first Gulf War?

You know what this job really is? Is a White House insider position whose job it is to dumb down everything for the president. His job is going to be to translate terms like "IED" and "green zone" into "bomb" and "home base" so Bush can finally understand what is happening.

I actually seriously believe Bush is not at all aware of how things are going. I don't think he gets detailed military briefings daily, I don't think he talks or writes to the Generals regularly, and I don't think he is aware that the insurgent groups are killing each other as well as us. I think he is so unable to deal with bad news that everyone around him has learned simply to not report things to him.

Thus goes the glory of the empire...
posted by Pastabagel at 6:01 PM on May 16, 2007


Didn't we already have a war czar? As in, The Commander-in-Chief? You know, that guy that likes to call himself the war President?

Or how's about that guy that heads the Joint Chiefs? Or gee, what about the friggin' defense secretary?


None of those people can devote themselves full-time to Iraq and Afghanistan, or even close to it. I know we like to hate Bush, but when you have a problem like Iraq, it's not stupid to devote someone on the executive side to it.

The secretary of defense and the chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff aren't the right people, because Iraq isn't solely a military problem at this point, and they don't have the interdepartmental powers that it appears the "war czar" will have. Plus, they can't devote themselves to Iraq anyway, because the rest of the world is still their responsibility as well.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:02 PM on May 16, 2007


Isn't the president supposed to be the Commander in Chief?

The Steve Elvis guy above has a point . . . a "czar" position is somebody tasked with exclusively managing a given issue. The DoD (arguably) doesn't have anyone with sufficient civil authority to coordinate among the (more highly) politized & civilian branches of the executive.

FDR had the advantage of 8 years of incumbency before having to mount his major war effort. The failure of Vietnam was undoubtedly due to putting too much strategizing on the DoD, which felt it had to demonstrably "win" the war within a couple of Friedmans.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:06 PM on May 16, 2007


don't look at me the buck stops over there
posted by any major dude at 6:06 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


heh
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:06 PM on May 16, 2007


...and they don't have the interdepartmental powers that it appears the "war czar" will have...

Not to snark at you personally, but so far I haven't seen exactly what powers the role will have. "Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan Policy and Implementation" (impressive, no?) is sort of descriptive, as far as it goes, but is a three-star really going to be telling four-stars (USCENTCOM, Petraeus) what to do? On the other hand, if he's going be directing the civilian side, why have an ACDU general in the role? He's on the NSC so he's not really in the chain of command (as I used to understand it) anyway, and he sure can't go telling the State Department what to do. Gen. Sheehan had the common sense not to touch this with a ten-foot pole and said why not.
posted by pax digita at 6:15 PM on May 16, 2007


Never got the 'czar' thing.

It's like, "How to get your policies taken seriously? Invoke the name of an extinct foreign potentate!"
posted by Afroblanco at 6:20 PM on May 16, 2007


I know we like to hate Bush, but when you have a problem like Iraq, it's not stupid to devote someone on the executive side to it.

In which case it's still cool to hate Bush for waiting to execute this rare non-stupid idea until 2007, yes?

He's pretty bad, no doubt. However, he has some serious competition with Warren G. Harding (an administration filled with crooks and a personal life which makes Bill Clinton look like a choir boy) and James Buchanan (sat by idly while the nation descended into civil war).

Buchanan offers stiff competition, but he's the only one. Harding, Grant, Nixon, all of them, don't even come close.

When did this start? I think my earliest related recollection was a "drug czar", maybe running Ronnie's fantabulous "Just Say No!" crapfest.

If I remember my old Doonesbury correctly there were "Czars" in the 70s; maybe an inflation czar?
posted by hackly_fracture at 6:21 PM on May 16, 2007


Oh, and dig how Sheehan calls it an "White House implementation manager" -- general officers usually command stuff, don't they? At least that's what my understand of 'em has been. You command people and more importantly lead them, but a "manager" sounds to me like purely a staff puke. Staff pukes have their place, sure -- a good staff wins you wars by making all the nitnoy stuff work just right so that the commander can concentrate on getting his people to destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver. This guy was SACLANT and CINCUSACOM -- command roles, albeit Cold War leftover ones --but he did quite a bit of staff time too, so he undoubtedly understood he'd be a highly placed staffer (my "highly paid radio operator" joke applies). He clearly articulates that he'd be trying to "implement" and "manage" a policy he characterizes as vague from a brand-new position that doesn't have interagency buy-in, at least at the time they pitched it to him.

On preview: Again, not to snark, but how is this a "rare non-stupid idea" exactly? I'm having a terrible time seeing it, probably for the same reason Sheehan did. Creating this position seems to me like an act of desperation more than anything else.
posted by pax digita at 6:31 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the imperfect proofreading -- blame it on the Bushmills.)
posted by pax digita at 6:33 PM on May 16, 2007


What about the kid?
posted by taosbat at 6:43 PM on May 16, 2007


taosbat: Brilliant!

Under another name on another site, I suggested the role be filled in revolving-door fashion by a succession of E-9s (senior enlisted) with a couple of months to go before retirement, since it'd be an advisory role anyway, and E-9s brook no BS from anybody, especially when they've already put in their papers. Plus they have more of a "rubber meets the road" mentality than officers seem to.
posted by pax digita at 6:52 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Execution Manager" = managing your own execution.

Gen Lute will be a designated mouthpiece for television happy talk about Iraq: rope-a-dope til 2008.

Mr. Bush doesn't need a new advisor. He needs to take better advice.
posted by rdone at 7:07 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


a 'manager' sounds to me like purely a staff puke

See also: REMF.

Buchanan offers stiff competition, but he's the only one. Harding, Grant, Nixon, all of them, don't even come close.

But Bush offers a zesty combination of corruption, incompetence, and malfeasance that's hard to match. He explicitly promised to restore responsibility to the Oval Office when he first ran.
I felt like that there needed to be a better sense of responsibility of what was going on in the White House. I believe that -- I believe they've moved that sign "The buck stops here" from the Oval Office desk to "The buck stops here" on the Lincoln Bedroom, and that's not good for the country.
-- George W. Bush
posted by kirkaracha at 7:11 PM on May 16, 2007


Bush offers a zesty combination of corruption, incompetence, and malfeasance

How'd Molly Ivins put it...she once described candidates vying for the Texas Legislature as a competition among "crook, cretin and Fascist" -- with Shrub, we got all three in one convenient, folksy, self-deprecating, reality-resistant package. 614 days and a wake-up....
posted by pax digita at 7:21 PM on May 16, 2007


People forget that Czar is a derivative of Caesar. I'm not sure that giving the general the title of Caesar is particularly healthy for a democracy.
posted by empath at 7:32 PM on May 16, 2007


Clap If You Love Torture
posted by homunculus at 7:53 PM on May 16, 2007


taosbat: Blushes

If you put my old Command Sergeant Major (CSM) in charge...there'd have been no GWOT: OBL's bird-pecked and sun-bleached skull on a pike at the main entrance to the White House would long since be an almost unnoticed reminder to passers-by.
posted by taosbat at 7:55 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I blame Bush.
posted by Balisong at 8:10 PM on May 16, 2007


as per the "El-Supremo Sexy Commissar" of the High Commission of Sexy.

tkchrist: Would I ever like to see THAT dress uniform!


The epaulets are to DIE for. And the Chrome helmet is just the right amount of tasteful bling.

However, knowing you as I do, it's the knee high leather boots, detachable cod piece with matching bustier, and edible pasties (with the Commission logo on them) are the features you'll be bragging to friends about.

ROWRRR!
posted by tkchrist at 8:25 PM on May 16, 2007


detachable cod piece

Aw, man.. I thought that was the dip bowl.
No wonder my guacamole turned sour and brown.
posted by Balisong at 8:36 PM on May 16, 2007


Just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic...
posted by Doohickie at 9:24 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


global warming czar, this is beer czar, do you read me?
posted by bruce at 9:57 PM on May 16, 2007


Thus goes the glory of the empire...

We're supposed to have bread and circuses. Yummy, delicious bread and distracting, entertaining circuses.

Instead, we get to watch Rudy Giuliani make fun of John Edwards' hair.
posted by swell at 10:35 PM on May 16, 2007




People forget that Czar is a derivative of Caesar. I'm not sure that giving the general the title of Caesar is particularly healthy for a democracy.

In the thread about Putin comparing US foreign policy to you-know-whom, I suggested then that the Roman Empire might be a more valid comparison.

(tkchrist, I hope that uniform's got a Sam Browne belt -- it'd be just the right touch.)
posted by pax digita at 3:06 AM on May 17, 2007


global warming czar, this is beer czar, do you read me?

five by five... grab me a cold one, it's getting hot out here.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 3:54 AM on May 17, 2007


This looks like a political end run around the joint chiefs - et.al.
Hell, why not call him a political officer and cut the B.S.?
oh, wait, right. It’s all B.S.
Well, we really don’t need those stinking bureaucrats who are still living in the reality based community getting in the way of the execution of policy anyway.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:50 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Putting a military general in this position seems like a step in the exact wrong direction. Shouldn't we have learned by now that the military can't fix this? Why not appoint someone with skills more likely to identify and solve the actual problems?

Everyone (including the military) seems to admit that there is no military solution here. So Bush's bold move is to put another general in the mix.

The Bush administration has certainly given "wtf?" a happy playground.
posted by Devidicus at 8:53 AM on May 17, 2007


Why not appoint someone with skills more likely to identify and solve the actual problems?

Sorry, No Dems need apply. No one will have the job thus Bush must command an active duty officer to fill assume the position.
posted by nofundy at 10:25 AM on May 17, 2007




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