The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

War Czar Search

Over the last week, several American media sources revealed that the Bush Administration is attempting to establish a "war czar" to oversee the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A suitable candidate is to be  a "Special Assistant to the President," a similar government classification as the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, otherwise known as the National Security Advisor.  This new "war czar" would report directly to the President and to National Security Advisor Steven Hadley; possess the authority to issue directives and orders to all government agencies involved in the wars, including the Departments of Defense and State; and direct planning, coordination and executionwar policy. The overall aim is to increase intra-governmental coordination working toward an eventual "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global war on the terrorists.

Currently, the executive branch official coordinating the war effort is a deputy national security advisor who reports directly to Hadley.  This sub-cabinet official, Meghan O'Sullivan, lacks status and the force of law to issue binding orders to cabinet principals, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Marine General Peter Pace.  O'Sullivan was initially involved in the post-invasion occupation administration in Iraq. Any initiatives she would like to enact must be issued up her immediate chain of command to Hadley and directly from him to President Bush. From there the orders go through the National Command Authority (NCA--In order: The President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and Combatant Commanders of the unified commands of the U.S. Armed Forces, in the specific cases of Combatant Commanders of Central Command, European Command, Special Operations Command, Transporation Command, etc.)

O'Sullivan's work in her role has thus far been wanting, hence the Administration's plan to appoint a new Special Assistant in charge of the war.  The media has reported that up to five four-star generals on the retired list have declined to accept the appointment, including former Combatant Commander-European Command (who is always Supreme Allied Commander-Europe), General James Jones, U.S.M.C. (Ret.).  It is believed by commentators that the Administration is attempting to absolve itself of all culpability in its disastrous war policy the past five and half years in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are resurgent, and in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.  Such a "war czar" creates an official position that could be blamed for policy failure by the time the Bush Administration leaves office in Jan. 2009.

The "war czar" idea has several problems with it, not including limiting the liability to President Bush's "legacy." First, like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and a whole new level of bureaucracy for intelligence security overseen by the National Director of Intelligence, such a "war czar" smacks mostly of a public relations move.  In all three cases, the problems were not and are not failure of the design of the original laws meant to implement security policy. The main problem has been lack of enforcement of the laws that exist.  For example, under the 1947 National Security Act laws and follow-ups that created the Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) overseeing that agency was simultaneously made the coordinator of all national intelligence agencies and was appointed chief advisor to the President for intelligence matters. If the laws were properly followed and enforced, the system would have worked better to our advantage, perhaps even concerning intelligence failure in BOTH the 9/11/2001 attacks and the invasion of Iraq. Instead, DHS and the NDI created a new bureaucracy, extra layers of "coverage" to insulate the people at the top of our civilian executive branch from their failure.  There should be very little doubt that creating a "war czar" will tend to the same degree to obfuscate responsibility and inhibit effective policy and its execution where it matters most--leadership and vision at the very peak of our government.  Indeed, the problem may be that the laws concerning the national security establishment are not properly followed in the first place. One law that would be bent by a "war czar" system is that important part of the U.S. Constitution that makes the President "commander-in-chief" of the naval and land (and by default other) military forces of the United States.

The very implication of a "war czar" should disturb people, and disturb them especially that retired military officers are the prime candidates for the position. "Czar" is a Russian word for "Caesar," the Roman consul (general) who overthrew the Roman Republican and set the stage for the Imperial system. (The Roman emporers titled themselves "Caesar.")  It is very unlikely that a military officer brought up in the tradition of a civilian-controlled military such as that run by the United States would overthrow the republic or stage a coup against a legally funcitoning government. Giving someone such titles and power, however, have proved in history past to be fraught with danger for constitutional government and the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Besides Julius Caesar, such notorious "military protectors" have included Cromwell, Napoleon, and Ludendorff, to mention the more notorious ones).

If there is to be a Special Assistant for the war effort, choosing the right person becomes all important.  Since the four-star generals are declining, if he is even alive still (I haven't checked), former Marine Lt. General Paul van Riper is seen as one of the shrewdest and most imaginative strategic minds on the military's retired list. It does not necessarily have to be him, but someone like him with the original and creative perspective on strategy would be necessary.

If it is decided that a civilian candidate would be better, Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the type of world-wide authority on military and politico-military affairs that would be ideal--someone outside of government who has the knowledge, reputation and abilities to think critically about grand strategy.

We will have to wait and see what happens with the "war czar" proposal, and hope an pray that it works. The Cepia Club will follow this issue for our participants.

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