Bush picks Pen­tagon’s Lute as ‘war czar’ to bridge gaps

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joseph Curl and S.A. Miller

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

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