“After a frustrating search for a new ‘war czar’ to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” President Bush has chosen the Pentagon’s director of operations, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.
The choice of Lute is notable because of his previous advocacy for troop withdrawal in Iraq. As Atrios first noted, in August 2005, the Financial Times reported that Lute said the U.S. was planning to draw down troop levels. “You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It’s very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.”
Lute echoed this notion in January 2006, telling PBS’s Charlie Rose that “we would like to see a smaller, lighter, less prominent U.S. force structure in Iraq.” Lute argued such a move would “undercut the enemy propaganda that in fact we have designs on Iraqi resources or Iraqi bases and so forth.” It would also reflect a lesson “we’ve learned in post-conflict scenarios like…the Balkans” to avoid “the dependency syndrome.”
Watch it (remarks start at 6:00):
UPDATE: VoteVets’ Jon Soltz: “Those of us who have a rudimentary understanding of the military and Constitution know that there is already a war czar. The position has a different name, though — commander in chief, or as the president says, ‘the commander guy.'”
UPDATE II: Noah Shachtman at Danger Room has more.
DOUGLAS LUTE: Whatever the political arguments, Charlie, there are at least two good operational reasons that we would like to see a smaller, lighter, less prominent U.S. force structure in Iraq. One is this perception of occupation that a large American force brings with it. Today, there are about 140,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq. We would like to bring that down and undercut the enemy propaganda that in fact we have designs on Iraqi resources or Iraqi bases and so forth, and that in fact we`re really just masquerading as an occupation force. So we want to undercut that perception.
The other thing, though, Charlie, is that we’ve learned in post-conflict scenarios like Iraq but elsewhere, in the Balkans and so forth, that if you’re not careful to avoid what we call the dependency syndrome, that American soldiers will do it all, they’ll do all that they can and then some. This is the sort of person we recruit into the armed forces today. And as they do it, those who we really want to do it, the Iraqi security forces, will be content to stand by and watch.