The White House has been quietly attempting to appoint a “high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies.” It hasn’t publicly disclosed the position, which was today reported by the Washington Post, because it hoped to “find someone President Bush can anoint and announce for the post all at once.”
But so far, the White House hasn’t found anyone willing to take the job. At least three retired four-star generals have turned down the White House’s offer, including a key administration ally and escalation proponent:
Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane: Keane is an “influential member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board” who met with President Bush in December and convinced him to send more troops to Iraq. He was a strong opponent of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations, giving the report an “F” grade and saying, “It’s a cover story to accept defeat.”
Retired Marine Gen. John J. “Jack” Sheehan: Sheehan rejected the offer because 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.” He stated, “There’s the residue of the Cheney view — ‘We’re going to win, al-Qaeda’s there’ — that justifies anything we did. 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.”
Retired Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston also rejected the position, but refused to comment to the Washington Post.
A war czar can’t fix the Bush administration’s mess in Iraq. As Carlos Pascual, former State Department coordinator of Iraq reconstruction noted, “An individual can’t fix a failed policy. So the key thing is to figure out where the policy is wrong.”
(Kevin Drum has more.)