Mr. Bush Finally Finds His Military "Czar"

By McManus, John F. | The New American, June 11, 2007 | Go to article overview

Mr. Bush Finally Finds His Military "Czar"


McManus, John F., The New American


In mid-April, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley announced the Bush administration's intention to appoint a high-level military official who would take over the management of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Hadley offered the post to retired Marine Corps General John J. "Jack" Sheehan. With no hesitation, the former NATO commander turned it down. About his refusal, he commented, "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going. So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said 'No thanks.'"

The post, widely dubbed "War Czar," is designed to grant authority to an official who could issue orders to the Pentagon, the State Department, and other government agencies. The stated goal is to achieve better direction of the war efforts. But isn't this job supposed to be the responsibility of the president of the United States? Doesn't the Constitution designate him as "the commander in chief" of the military? Is it possible that this new position has been created as a way to shift blame for a failing White House policy to someone else?

Perhaps General Sheehan figured this out and decided against being the administration's patsy. Two other retired generals, Jack Keane of the Army and Joseph Ralston of the Air Force, may have reached the same conclusion before they subsequently declined Hadley's offer. Military personnel don't acquire a general's stars by being stupid.

Hadley said of the post he was trying to fill, "It's something I would like to have done yesterday, and if yesterday wasn't available, the day before." After racking up three refusals in three tries, he even declared a willingness to give the post to a civilian. As he was wondering where he and Mr. Bush would find someone to take the post, the senior White House official responsible for the two wars, Hadley's deputy Meghan O' Sullivan, announced her intention to vacate her post.

All of this occurred in mid-April. On May 15, however, the White House announced that the search was over. Lieutenant General Douglas E. Lute, the Pentagon's top operations officer, accepted the job after meeting with the president the day before. Mr. Bush said the appointee who will report directly to him daily is "a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done." He added that General Lute had already "played an integral role in implementing combat operation plans in Iraq and Afghanistan. …

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