OUT OF GAS….The Washington Post reports that the White House is casting about for a “high-powered czar” who would have authority over both military and civilian operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only problem is, no one wants the job:
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 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.
….Besides Sheehan, sources said, the White House or intermediaries have sounded out retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and retired Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, who also said they are not interested. Ralston declined to comment; Keane confirmed he declined the offer, adding: “It was discussed weeks ago.”
Sheesh. Even Keane doesn’t want the job, and the surge was his brainchild in the first place. That’s quite a vote of confidence.
The other brainchild of the surge, Frederick Kagan, thinks the czar idea is a dandy one: “Hope they do it, and hope they do it soon. And I hope they pick the right guy. It’s a real problem that we don’t have a single individual back here who is really capable of coordinating the effort.”
Count me skeptical. The fact that the White House is incapable of coordinating the war effort is indeed a real problem, but aside from the wee issues Sheehan mentioned — Bush doesn’t know what he’s doing and Cheney still has too much influence — ask yourself: is one more matrix manager really going to do any good? We already have Secretaries of State and Defense, we already have a military chain of command, and we already have an NSC that’s supposed to coordinate all this stuff. Does anyone truly think that a shiny new White House staffer with no budgetary authority, no bureaucratic support, and little in the way of institutional levers of control is going to be able to magically get everyone on the same page sometime in the next few months? It’s a suicide mission, and the fact that Bush apparently thinks that a bit of org chart shuffling will make a significant difference in Iraq is just one more sign of how deeply out of touch with reality he is.
And speaking of that, Sheehan confirms — to the surprise of no one, I imagine — that the out-of-touch faction is indeed still firmly in charge of things:
In the course of the discussions, Sheehan said, he called around to get a better feel for the administration landscape.
“There’s the residue of the Cheney view — ‘We’re going to win, al-Qaeda’s there’ — that justifies anything we did,” he said. “And then there’s the pragmatist view — how the hell do we get out of Dodge and survive? Unfortunately, the people with the former view are still in the positions of most influence.”
We are so screwed.