[Vision2020] War Czar Wanted, But a Tough Position to Fill

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Mon May 7 11:38:49 PDT 2007

>From the Army Times at www.ArmyTimes.com -

"So far, there have been no takers for the job.

'It's the nuttiest idea ever,' said James Carafano, a defense expert at the
conservative Heritage Foundation."


War czar wanted, but a tough position to fill

By Deb Riechmann - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday May 6, 2007 16:29:11 EDT

WASHINGTON - Now that the White House is searching for a "war czar," it begs
the question of who has been coordinating U.S. involvement in Iraq and
Afghanistan the past four years.

A team of West Wing players led by national security adviser Stephen Hadley
has tried to keep turf-conscious agencies marching in the same direction on
military, political and reconstruction fronts. A few Bush aides say
privately, however, that the White House probably should have recruited
someone to oversee the war effort a year ago.

Critics say the administration's job of coordinating the war has never gone
smooth enough or fast enough. And now two key members of the White House
team focused on the war are leaving.

"The problem is not broad strategy and policy, it's that the bureaucracy is
so inefficient and there's been so little follow-up that the machine doesn't
work," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said. He believes red tape in
Washington is the biggest obstacle to winning in Iraq.

Gingrich has joined others in suggesting that a single person report
directly to Bush - and perhaps the next president - and ask: "What are the
choke points? What regulations do we need to fix?"

The new job comes as Bush's combat troop buildup is trying to bring a degree
of calm in Iraq so political reconciliation and rebuilding can take root.

"We're at a point now where we've got a plan," Hadley said. "Execution of
that plan is now everything."

Hadley said he wants to make sure that if any request from the war zone bogs
down among agencies, there is someone who can speak for the president to get
it solved quickly.

"That's the kind of thing that I do, but I can't do it full time," said
Hadley, who must monitor hot spots around the world.

Hadley interviewed several candidates in the past few days. He has contacted
at least six retired military leaders - either to learn what they think
about the job or to try to persuade them to take it.

"This is really more of a head cracker than a czar - a bureaucracy cracker,"
said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy analyst for the Brookings
Institution who likes the idea.

"They want one point person to contact everyone else to tell them that we
need these 17 things by Tuesday to comply with the president's top foreign
policy priority," said O'Hanlon, a former adviser to the Iraq Study Group.
The panel concluded that duplication and conflicting strategies at federal
agencies were undermining confidence in U.S. policy.

So far, there have been no takers for the job.

"It's the nuttiest idea ever," said James Carafano, a defense expert at the
conservative Heritage Foundation.

He said a war coordinator at the White House would be outside the regular
chain of command. "It confuses lines of authority. It's like adding a fifth
wheel on a car."

Trying to integrate government operations inside the White House is a
prescription for disaster, he added.

"You're too far from the battlefield. You're in the wrong time zone. You
can't make timely decisions. You don't have the staff," he said. "The
administration will be over before they even have the communications and
everything in place to do this."

Vice President Dick Cheney said in a recent radio interview that after a war
coordinator is named, the basic chain of military command would continue to
run from the president to the secretary of defense and down to commanders in
the field. But he noted that the state, defense and other U.S. agencies have
roles in Iraq, such as helping the Iraqis set up a sound judicial system.

"Pulling all of that together, we think, requires somebody here in
Washington who would report directly to the president, and then have the
authority to make certain everybody is delivering what they promised to
deliver on time," Cheney told WLS-AM in Chicago.

Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, wonders why anyone would want a job in an
administration nearing lame-duck status; Bush's term ends in January 2009.

"We've had czars before," Cordesman said. "It doesn't do any good to have a
czar unless they have a clear focus and can override members of the

Retired Marine Corps Gen. John J. Sheehan was approached about the job, but
declined because he thinks that decision-making in Washington lacks
connection to a broader understanding of the region.

"These huge shortcomings are not going to be resolved by the assignment of
an additional individual to the White House staff," Sheehan wrote in The
Washington Post, explaining his reasons for not wanting to be considered.
"They need to be addressed before an implementation manager is brought on

The person who becomes assistant to the president for Iraq and Afghanistan
policy implementation will join many new faces on the Iraq front:

. Gen. David Petraeus recently took command of U.S. forces in Iraq.

. Ryan Crocker is the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

. Adm. William J. Fallon is now commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

. Defense Secretary Bob Gates has been on the job for only five month.

. The State Department also has a new chief of Iraq reconstruction, Timothy

At the White House, the Iraq team is shrinking.

Meghan O'Sullivan, one of Hadley's deputies who handled day-to-day
coordination of Iraq, recently announced she is leaving. On Friday, Hadley's
deputy, J.D. Crouch, said he was departing next month.


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho


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