President Bush has selected an Army lieutenant general to be his war czar in charge of overseeing the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. White House officials said...
WASHINGTON — President Bush has selected an Army lieutenant general to be his war czar in charge of overseeing the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
White House officials said Tuesday that Bush has tapped Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute for the new position. The job was created to consolidate authority for coordinating the wars and easing conflicts among the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies.
The Bush administration has avoided the term “war czar.” Bush called Lute the “full-time manager” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A three-star general, Lute will have the titles of assistant to the president and deputy national-security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation. It was unclear whether he’d report directly to Bush or to national-security adviser Stephen Hadley.
“General Lute is a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done,” Bush said.
Lute’s selection will take some pressure off Hadley, who had the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts on his plate along with other pressing foreign issues, such as the nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran.
If he keeps his current rank, as expected, Lute will be in the difficult position of overseeing people who outrank him, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace, a Marine four-star general, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq.
Lute’s relationship to Vice President Dick Cheney, who has played a major role in shaping U.S. policy in Iraq, also is unclear.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute
Experience: Director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 2006; director of operations, U.S. Central Command, June 2004; deputy director of operations, U.S. European Command, January 2003; commanded Multinational Brigade East in Kosovo for six months in 2002; commanded the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, part of XVIII Airborne Corps, at Fort Polk, La., 1998-2000; commanded the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas, 1992-94; fought in Operation Desert Storm, 1990-91.
Family: Wife, Jane Holl Lute, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations at the United Nations.
Education: B.S., U.S. Military Academy; master’s degree in public administration, Harvard University.
The Associated Press
Lute’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Lute, 54, of Michigan City, Ind., has been director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff since September. Before that, he was stationed at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., overseeing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
He’s earned degrees from West Point and Harvard University and is widely respected in the Pentagon for his intellect and understanding of the intricacies of the Middle East. He’s frank about the situation in Iraq, often willing to point out that operations could fail or that Iraqis may fail to meet U.S. expectations.
Indeed, in choosing Lute, Bush picked a key internal voice of dissent during the administration review that led to the recent troop buildup in Iraq.
Reflecting the views of other members of the Joint Chiefs, Lute argued that a short-term increase would do little good and that any sustained increase in forces had to be matched by equal emphasis on political and economic steps, according to officials informed about the deliberations.
Lute’s selection ends a long White House search for a war czar. Some senior military officers who were approached said they weren’t interested.
Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Lute has a stellar background in combat operation and agency coordination.
Yet Lute won’t be able to deal with civil agencies the way he did with military officers, and his lack of budget authority or ability to reshape regulations could limit his clout, Cordesman said.
“In effect, you’re a czar in a support role to field commanders and an ambassador 7,000 miles away,” he said.
Jon Soltz, who leads an organization of veterans critical of the administration’s war policy, said there is already a war czar: Bush. “The troops are now depending on Lt. Gen. Lute to do something the president wouldn’t: listen to commanders who are telling him we need more diplomacy, not escalation,” said Soltz, an Iraq veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org.
Material from The Associated Press and The Washington Post is included in this report.