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.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The War Czar, Divided Command and Strategy

On May 15, 2007, President Bush selected Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute as his new so-called "war czar." Lt. Gen. Lute's official position, if approved by the U.S. Congress (which must ratify commissioning of general-grade officers), will be Assistant to the President AND Deputy National Security Advisor. Under Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Steven Hadley, Lute is mandated under this new arrangement for development and implementation of policy on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He will report directly to President Bush on a daily basis.  As of now, it is unclear from the available news if Lute would also be directing the "global war on terrorism" (GWOT--the official government name for that entirely different conflict).

Lute will be moving from his current posting at the Department of Defense as Director of Operations (J-3) of the Joint Staff, the military bureaucracy which manages policy and implementation for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Lute, a career armored cavalry officer, previously held the post of Director of Operations for U.S. Central Command before assuming his current job in Sep. 2006.  As most people are not aware, the J-3 responsibilities is the heart of the U.S. military "brain."  The Joint Staff is the overall planner/coordinator for all U.S. military operations.  The Joint Staff is the primary "purple" that brings the U.S. Navy/Marines, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Air Force together to fight as one unified military unit.  The J-3, while not directly in the chain of command (which is the U.S. President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Combatant Commanders of the Unified Commands--e.g. Joint Forces, Europe, Pacific, Central, Strategic; the primary war-fighting  Area and Functional Commands that comprise all the U.S. armed services), the Director of Operations is the chief implementer of taking Presidential orders and directions for political grand strategy and translating them into a national war plans and war-making strategy. While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, is by law the President's chief military advisor, Lute in his current role is the guy who makes waging war possible as the Chairman's "chief of staff."

    Lute's appointment has followed over month of fruitless searches by President Bush to find a "war czar." The press has reported for weeks that a handful of retired four-star generals have declined the job. Lute, a three-star Lieutenant General, under this new very political arrangement, will be empowered to issue orders to all government agencies, including the Pentagon and its civilian and military employees.  President Bush is supposed to have wanted someone with enough credibility and seniority, someone with enough respect within the military, to direct the policy and implementation of strategy in the two concurrent wars, under President authority. The recently vacated coordinator of Iraq policy, held by relatively junior National Security Council staff member, Meghan O'Sullivan, did not have the credibility, the clout, or in the end the confidence of President Bush to act in the name of the Commander-in-Chief (the President himself).

    As we pointed in our last Clublog posting on this topic, appointing a "war czar" might really be a cheap trick of the Bush Administration for avoiding ultimate responsibility for how the war turns out by the time Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009. What the appointment of Lt. Gen. Lute amounts to at this point is a political way for Bush to blame someone else for the final result of a disastrous and irresponsible strategy for the entire series of wars. Iraq, as everyone is aware, is a grand strategy (read: political) catastrophe. Afghanistan is going down that road. By being able to blame someone else, Bush and those who suggested the "war czar" idea, could preserve whatever "legacy" of the Bush presidency it is still possible to manipulate history into believing.  But Bush will have a bonus for this appointment if the war continues to be a political disaster: He will finally be able to pin the entire ending failure on the military. That is a subject for a later Clublog posting.

    Let's consider, however, that Bush's intentions were honest, that he appointed a Magnus coordinator to truly try to salvage victory from defeat by placing a competent officer in charge. Lute is clearly competent by his record. Does appointing a military officer help further that?

    So far, political criticism for even allowing the war to happen, and happen the way it did, can be truthfully heaped on the general officer corps of the U.S. military. Generals like former CJCS Richard Meyers and former Central Command Commander Gen. Tommy Franks (and all of the others "present at the creation") from the accounts and criticism of mid-grade officers, never challenged the Bush Administration policy in the first place. They allowed the war to proceed against the better judgement that they are entrusted to have. Now, one of their own corporate officers is not only in charge of the military policy with the authority of the President's constitutional power, that officer is in charge of all the civilian agencies and personnel as well, including the Department of State.

    I see two problems with this. First, the failure in the war has not been so much the actual employing and fighting of troops. If that is indeed the case in retrospect, then why does not Chairman Pace run the military side? Why put a military man in the White House?  Second, the real problem is not the "economic" employment of strategy (see Club theories on Strategy Matrix for an explanation of this) but in the "political" realm of grand strategy. It has been the political policy all along--in foreign policy, in political-military policy, in Congressional and Presidential leadership--that is truly losing this war. Does a military man like Lt. Gen. Lute understand this? Is he prepared to fix that side of it--everything from Israeli-Palestinian issues to energy policy to supporting dictators in the Middle East? If not, then Lt. Gen. Lute will be known as the man who took the fall on his sword for Bush, and we will lose this war even faster than we are losing it now.

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