Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Offer No One Will Accept...

The White House wishes to create a new "Czar" to oversee the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strangely, it seems no one wants the job.

The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration's difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military.

The reason these general passed on the high profile position should be entirely clear. There is no actual need for a "War Czar" to perform duties that are already (presumably) being performed by the President, his staff and the Joint Chiefs themselves. Thus, the position of "War Czar" must be meant to serve some other purpose. And the retired generals who have been solicitied for the position sniffed that purpose out quite readily. The "War Czar" is meant to be the scapegoat. The Fall Guy. The person who will be blamed when the President is forced to acknowledge what a mess he has created in Iraq, and how he has wasted hundreds of billions (we'll be lucky if it doesn't hit a trillion) of dollars and thousands of American lives in his failed crusade for democracy among the Arabs. The "War Czar" will be the carcass thrown at the bellowing war hawks when the administration or its successor finally pulls the plug on the sordid debacle.

It's a suicide mission for any general's career and reputation and they know it.

"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.

The sudden urge to create the position shows the rising levels of desperation within the administration regarding the situation in Iraq, and its inability to navigate a road out of the mess.

The White House has not publicly disclosed its interest in creating the position, hoping to find someone President Bush can anoint and announce for the post all at once. Officials said they are still considering options for how to reorganize the White House's management of the two conflicts. If they cannot find a person suited for the sort of specially empowered office they envision, they said, they may have to retain the current structure.

The administration's interest in the idea stems from long-standing concern over the coordination of civilian and military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan by different parts of the U.S. government. The Defense and State departments have long struggled over their roles and responsibilities in Iraq, with the White House often forced to referee.

The highest-ranking White House official responsible exclusively for the wars is deputy national security adviser Meghan O'Sullivan, who reports to national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and does not have power to issue orders to agencies. O'Sullivan plans to step down soon, giving the White House the opportunity to rethink how it organizes the war effort.

The mess in Iraq isn't going to get better any time soon. The ridiculous notion of a "War Czar" reveals just how clueless the adminstration is regarding the handling of the conflict, and the level of incompetence that led the nation into this disaster in the first place. America doesn't need a "War Czar;" it needs a competent Commander-in-Chief, which, at the moment, it surely lacks.


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