Bush picks Pentagon’s Lute as ‘war czar’ to bridge gaps
President Bush has chosen Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Pentagon’s director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a newly created post several other top military men rejected.
“Gen. Lute is a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done,” Mr. Bush said. “In his new position, Gen. Lute will be the fulltime manager for the implementation and execution of our strategies for Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Gen. Lute, a three-star general who fought in the 1991 Gulf War, has extensive experience in the military. He became director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September, and before that, served for more than two years as director of operations at U.S. Central Command. In that position, he oversaw combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other regions.
The 54-year-old West Point graduate, however, must first be confirmed by a Democrat-con- trolled Senate, as Congress continues to battle Mr. Bush over war policy and a $100 billion emergency war-funding bill the president already has vetoed once because of its troop-withdrawal timetables.
The selection of Gen. Lute comes just weeks before the U.S. militar y completes a troop buildup in Baghdad, with the last soldiers in a 20,000-man force arriving next month. A Bush administration official said the idea for the “war czar” originated with National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley as a way to better focus U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jon Soltz, who leads an organization of veterans critical of the administration’s war policy, said there is already a “war czar” — Mr. 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 Mr. Soltz, an Iraq veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org.
Gen. Lute is viewed by military officers as mainly a staff officer with little combat experience.
“I think it’s a shame that they could not have taken a com- mander fresh from Iraq or Afghanistan, preferable a fourstar, who has that type of expe- rience to execute the war on terrorism and who could bring that savvy and experience to the White House,” said Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army officer and military consultant.
Mr. Maginnis said Gen. Lute’s main challenge will be coordinating policies amid the political battles between Capitol Hill and the White House, as well as dealing with generals and civilians at the Pentagon.
At least three retired four-star generals were approached by the White House, but all declined to be considered for the position, according to press reports last month. Each was said to have expressed concer ns about the administration’s continuing woes in the two war zones, including bureaucratic red tape and meddling from civilians at the Pentagon.
Conservatives in the administration criticized an earlier choice for the post, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Sheehan. Gen. Sheehan is a liberal officer who wrote an opinion article after he rejected the post criticizing the Bush administration for its handling of the Iraq war.
Another option was Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, a former European command chief.
Bill Gertz contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.
Gen. Douglas Lute