During today’s White House press briefing, spokesman Tony Snow twice confessed “I don’t know” when asked why it has taken four years for President Bush to appoint a czar to oversee the war in Iraq.
Referencing yesterday’s selection of Gen. Douglas Lute, one reporter asked why it took so long “to come up with somebody of his seniority and stature?” Snow said, “I don’t know,” but added that “it seems proper at a time like this” to “task somebody with the job of keeping an eye on all the different players” involved in the war.
The reporter followed up, “Do you think this is a new need and that you did not need someone to do this for the previous four years?” Snow had no response. “Well, again, I — I’m not going to try to — I don’t know. It’s… I don’t have an answer for you.”
As Iraq veteran and national security analyst Phillip Carter writes, “How broken is the U.S. national security apparatus that we need a ‘czar’ to run it? Is the NSC that f — -ed up that it needs a 3-star with some juice in the Pentagon to make things work? (This is a rhetorical question; the only possible answer is yes.) Or are the agencies that stubborn? (Again, yes.) … Could it be that we have the greatest military in the world, capped by the most ineffective and bloated bureaucracy ever created?”
Q: Back on Lute, why did it take so long, now into the fifth year of the war, to come up with somebody of his seniority and stature?
SNOW: I don’t know. I mean, I think what happened is again, as you’re taking a review, it became clear to us that as you develop, as you move into a new phase of the war — keep in mind, we are still in the process of deploying people in this “new way forward,” as the President called it, and therefore, it seems proper at a time like this, also, to task somebody with the job of keeping an eye on all the different players who are involved in it. What we do have is a different set of policies governing what’s going on in Iraq. It is something that is government-wide in its scope, and therefore it is appropriate to have somebody coming in in a new position in support of a new philosophy and a new way forward in Iraq not only to monitor progress but to do everything possible to assist those on the ground to help them succeed.
Q: Do you think this is a new need and that you did not need someone to do this for the previous four years?
SNOW: Well, again, I — I’m not going to try to — I don’t know. It’s… I don’t have an answer for you. I’m telling you that’s what he’s here to do now.