The 44th President

January 13, 2009, 1:52 pm

War Czar for Bush to Keep His Job

President-elect Barack Obama will be keeping another holdover from the Bush administration on his national security team — Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, who will keep his job coordinating Iraq and Afghanistan policy out of the National Security Council, according to transition officials.

But unlike his role in the Bush administration, where, as assistant to the President for Iraq and Afghanistan, he reported directly to President Bush, General Lute in the Obama administration will report to Mr. Obama through the president’s National Security Adviser, Gen. James L. Jones.

General Lute’s appointment to a job that was essentially President Bush’s war czar was criticized two years ago by Democrats who said the job should have been handled by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and that the appointment of General Lute signaled that the White House had lost control of the war effort.

But Obama transition officials said that General Jones’ decision to keep General Lute — who he has worked with in the past on Iraq-related issues–reflects his belief that there should be some continuity in military policy, even if the new administration is pursuing different Iraq and Afghanistan policies. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that General Jones plans to take an active role in Afghanistan and Iraq issues.

General Lute has recently completed a review of Afghanistan policy for President Bush, and one Obama transition official said that there were elements of that policy review which General Jones might seek to keep.

From 1 to 25 of 32 Comments

  1. 1. January 13, 2009 2:43 pm Link

    The doubling of the US troop commitment to Afghanistan countinues with no evidence of any official debate.

    — Steve Bolger
  2. 2. January 13, 2009 2:54 pm Link

    So much for change…

    — changeless
  3. 3. January 13, 2009 2:56 pm Link

    Personnel decisions based on Pentagon’s wishes despite changes in civilian leadership. Soft coup, anyone?

    — Mike
  4. 4. January 13, 2009 3:33 pm Link

    Does anyone think that if Obama had run in the primaries on a platform of keeping Bush’s Secretary of Defense and War Czar, he ever would have received the nomination?

    Obama isn’t the guy you thought you were getting, Democrats. The war continues.

    — AK
  5. 5. January 13, 2009 3:39 pm Link

    Just wondering when the compromises will end. And wondering why there should have to be compromises in the first place. A few, sure, in the sake of ‘non partisanship,’ but with the Democrats it’s business as usual: they seem unable to stand up for themselves, again and again. Keep the same military leaders in place and look for Afghanistan to be Obama’s Iraq.

    — Dave
  6. 6. January 13, 2009 4:09 pm Link

    It’s funny: when Bush first went into Afghanistan (which preceded Iraq) everyone said it was a mistake and would turn into a “quagmire” that would result in the deaths of 1 million Afghan civilians (I distinctly remember listening to a multidue of opinions to that effect on PBR in Boston). After the Taliban was initially routed, many of the critics quietly revised their views. These same critics of course took the same position when we went in to unseat Saddam and bring freedom from tyranny to Iraq (NYT in the forefront). Ever since they have been harping to the same effect.

    NOW, when, after Bush has already arranged for an ultimate withdrawal from Iraq, and we begin to see increasing stability in an Iraq that is no longer threatening all of its neighbors, those liberal Democratic critics who were against both “adventures” from the beginning, want to expand the intervention in Afghanistan that is increasingly being revealed to have been a long-term failure insofar as it was intended to eliminate terrorist and make us safer.
    It would seem more appropriate to pull out of Afghanistan and make it abundantly clear that the next time an attack against the US is traceable to folks who were trained or in anyway supported by folks in Afghanistan, we will obliterate Afghanistan and defoliate its opium poppies. Then stop wasting our blood and treasure on a futile endeavor.

    — Jeff F
  7. 7. January 13, 2009 4:12 pm Link

    This is a very wise decision. It retains a key adviser who provides essential continuity while adjusting the reporting structure in a preferred direction.

    Despite the “selective memory loss” of naysayers here, P-E Obama made it crystal clear during the election campaign that he would bolster the US troop commitment in Afghanistan. Anyone who thinks the Obama Administration will not pursue the Taliban and al-Queda in Afghanistan wasn’t paying attention very well during the election campaign.

    Mr. Obama has already scheduled his first foreign visit after taking office which will be to Canada shortly after the Inauguration. Canada has been a stalwart ally in Afghanistan war and has, proportional to its population, suffered significant troop casualties and deaths. While they are getting war-weary, and the Harper government is in serious trouble, Obama will be asking them to lengthen their commitment timetable.

    In asking this of a key ally - he needs to demonstrate the depth of the US commitment. Retention of General Lute is an important signal of this.

    — George
  8. 8. January 13, 2009 4:13 pm Link

    It was never an issue of changing leadership - 4th Gen. Wars are, civilian based and fluid - the US just needs to adapt.

    — David
  9. 9. January 13, 2009 4:25 pm Link

    It should be WHOM he has worked with in the past.

    (”But Obama transition officials said that General Jones’ decision to keep General Lute — who he has worked with in the past….”)

    — Horace
  10. 10. January 13, 2009 4:30 pm Link

    The military’s job is to kill people and blow stuff up. What matters is who they get sent to kill, and why. Unless you’re going to get rid of the military altogether, it’s got to be run by somebody, and report to somebody. Why blame the generals, they won the military war very quickly. They aren’t nation builders and apparently neither is anybody in the State Dept. No need to roll heads in the military just because Bush was a fool.

    — Marco
  11. 11. January 13, 2009 4:43 pm Link

    The reference to a “soft coup” by Mikey (Comment #3) is a classic example of the military paranoia often expressed by the far left. Obama is deliberately choosing to allow some institutional continuity with Bush’s war effort. This allows Obama to project both strength and independence from his core left wing supporters.

    — Viking’70
  12. 12. January 13, 2009 5:03 pm Link


    — Steve Hunter
  13. 13. January 13, 2009 5:10 pm Link

    Ideally, the military deters war with its mere capacity to break things and kill people.

    — Steve Bolger
  14. 14. January 13, 2009 5:14 pm Link

    More pertinent than petty personnel matters — let’s get our troops out of Germany, Japan and almost everywhere else. They are redundant and hugely expensive, protecting only their own jobs and the jobs of arms dealers worldwide. Get rid of the military? Most of it, yes we can!

    — Mark
  15. 15. January 13, 2009 5:17 pm Link

    Superb decision. He’ll know the best what to unwind.

    — Bigyan Bista
  16. 16. January 13, 2009 5:41 pm Link

    John Edwards said in one of the primary debates, “If we’re just going to replace their insiders with our insiders why bother to have an election?”.

    Obama has taken that to heart. He doesn’t even bother to replace their insiders at all, saving a lot of trouble. When he does, it’s with re-treads from the Clintons. In other words ‘our’ insiders.

    More of the same. You didn’t really expect any radical departures did you? It’s the empty suit behind the soaring rhetoric.

    — no more business as usual
  17. 17. January 13, 2009 5:45 pm Link

    I concur with George; this continues to show that President-Elect Obama will retain key advisors from the previous administration to facilitate future policy changes. Additionally, it makes sense to shift General Lute under his National Security Advisor, General Jones. So far I am impressed with a majority of President-Elect Obama’s picks for his national security team, he is making smart choices. I disagree with Marco’s belief that the military only kills people and blows up stuff. The military doctrine clearly includes stability operations and civil support operations (on equal terms with tradition offensive and defensive operations) that are not about killing people or blowing up stuff. It has been clearly stated that we cannot kill our way out of the problems we find ourselves in Iraq or Afghanistan. Stability operations must be part of the military’s core competencies. In fact, our history is filled with clear examples of stability operations (i.e. Nation Building) from supporting Civil War Reconstruction, to military operations in Cuba and Philippines, to occupation of Japan and Germany. For the military to think it can ignore stability operations (i.e. Nation Building), is simply neglect (similar as ignoring counter-insurgency operations after Vietnam). Marco is correct that the State Department is the lead on Stability Operations (by doctrine), supported by the military. I conclude with a thought, I find it interesting when the Secretary of Defense clearly states that we need a more capable State Department that is much better resourced; hard for the State Department to take the lead on stability operations when they lack the necessary capability.

    — Daniel
  18. 18. January 13, 2009 5:50 pm Link

    Don’t you think it is time to stop thinking in terms of “czars”?

    — norman ravitch
  19. 19. January 13, 2009 6:12 pm Link

    So, what’s new? Still waiting for the prophet to come? To part the waves or whatever? Every one wants the top job, but we have to be picky. Given the low level of human intelligence on these matters, it is not surprising that we often get messed up.

    de nihilo nihil fit (Lucretius)

    — Chameleon
  20. 20. January 13, 2009 6:26 pm Link

    Having a WAR CZAR is still as redculous now as it was when he was appointed. He has been as invisible as our First Lady has for the past eight years.

    — Dude77007
  21. 21. January 13, 2009 6:43 pm Link

    I wonder if this signals a radical shift in military policy where Osama Bin Laden actually gets captured, resulting in a quick decapitation of Osama head whereas Obama FedEx’s (Priority Overnight) Osama Bin Laden’s head to a now former President Bush with a note that is inscribed: Change That We Can Believe In!

    — Aaron Johnson
  22. 22. January 13, 2009 6:43 pm Link

    When you have so many fires to put out all at once including potential depression with high unemployment, reconciliation with past allies and friends, winding down an unnecessary war while preventing a conflagration in the Afghanistan, Pakistan area, the capture of Osama, potential WMD finding its way to our enemies. This is not the time to bring in all new appointees that have to be brought up to speed. How can you be ready on day one with all new people that lack background info and experience to deal with what hits them, and most importantly, it is time to stop the partisanship and work as a unified country to find our way back to being the best we can be. President-elect Obama is a wise man.

    — allison
  23. 23. January 13, 2009 6:55 pm Link

    Please, give Obama some credit. The tradition of presidential policy is continuity. Obama never pretended to be a ‘revolutionary’ and while he should not keep real key national security Bush nominees (Gates seems to be OK, certainly better than Rumsfeld), it may be useful to keep some while put them in their proper place.

    At the early stages of the recent presidential campaign the war in Iraq was a major issue. It has been now replaced by the economy - much closer to home. The money wasted in Iraq will be never recovered - Bush will be responsible for it for the history but he is not going (just like Mr. Madoff) to give it back to us.

    Obama has to focus. The issue of full withdrawal from Iraq represents a difference of just several months between Obama’s intentions and the recent treaty with Iraq.

    As for Afghanistan, presidents (all of them) do not carry public discussion of their future command decisions, for better or worse. Doubling our presence in Afghanistan is a serious matter but nothing to Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War based on irresponsible advice from geniuses like McNamara who likes now to cry in public for what he has done.

    I think that our Constitution gives too much power to the President as a Commander in Chief but, as long as it is not amended, this President will do exactly the same thing as his predecessors for more than two hundred years.

    — Ladislav Nemec, CA
  24. 24. January 13, 2009 7:35 pm Link

    Alexander the Great failed in Afghanistan, the British failed in Afghanistan, the Russians failed in Afghanistan. What makes America think it can succeed in Afghanistan?

    — Lawrence Coleman
  25. 25. January 13, 2009 7:57 pm Link

    The more things CHANGE
    The more they stay the SAME
    Meet the NEW boss,
    Same as the OLD boss.

    Gitmo to close, but it’ll take a year.

    — Michael

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