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Thread: 3 Generals Spurn the Position of War "Czar"

  1. #21
    Council Member Stratiotes's Avatar
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    I am somewhat amazed, knowing a little about this country's history, that the idea of a "war czar" does not make more people scream about civilian control. I am just cynical enough to believe that politicians generally do not make decisions in order to improve results so much as they make decisisons to cover their own butts. I think this could be one such occasion - "it isn't my fault, I left that up to the war czar...." When things go well, they could take credit and when they go poorly, they'd have somebody else to blame. It isn't republican vs democrat - its politics as usual - the one thing that permeates evenly across party lines.
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    As someone who works on interagency issues daily and is trying to get my organization to play a larger role in supporting U.S. National Security, I have to agree with Jimbo. I also agree that the NSC should play a larger role in making things happen. From my perspective, I've seen several factors that have prevented Departments and agencies from getting more involved.

    First, and most importantly, the resources just are not there. You can task all you want, but if there is no money and no staff, nothing is going to get done. This leads to my second observation, most Departments and Agencies do not believe they have a role in National Security issues...they are domestic agencies and therefore do not fund national security activities. Third, as with most interagency activities, parochialism runs rampant and Department and Agency agendas take priority.

    Personally, I think a War "Czar" would be very useful in pulling the interagency together. While I wouldn't call the position a War "Czar," somebody who has a direct line to the President and his full support, can move resources, can ride Cabinet officials without fear of being fired, would be a tremendous benefit. Until a more effective national security system is put in place, interagency cooperation is only going to be effective if a strong personality/leader with direct access to the President is driving the train.

    Could the National Security Advisor play this role? Sure. But if the National Security Advisor was 100% focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, which they'd have to be to be successful, what will the impact be on the rest of U.S. policy?

    Take care,
    Brian

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    Default Call me naive

    As many of you know, the catch phrase for interagency coordination is a "Goldwater-Nichols" for the IA. If the administration can't reform itself, it needs to be reformed from the outside. I don't believe in catch phrases, and I don't believe that there will be reform.

    I think that one of the points that we tend to overlook is that the Founding Fathers created an inefficient government structure (and an inefficient military) in order to preserve the greater concept of democracy. It would be impossible for any of the major subordinate departments to amass the power necessary to overwhelm the rest of the government. The billpayer for this attitude is the fumble bumble in the IA. Yes, it costs money. Yes, unfortunately, it costs lives. It occassionally leads to failure. Price of doing business. Sorry.

  4. #24
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stratiotes View Post
    I am somewhat amazed, knowing a little about this country's history, that the idea of a "war czar" does not make more people scream about civilian control. I am just cynical enough to believe that politicians generally do not make decisions in order to improve results so much as they make decisisons to cover their own butts. I think this could be one such occasion - "it isn't my fault, I left that up to the war czar...." When things go well, they could take credit and when they go poorly, they'd have somebody else to blame. It isn't republican vs democrat - its politics as usual - the one thing that permeates evenly across party lines.
    I too may be jaded, but I think that this is really what is operational here--politics as normal and a need to have a fall guy in case things go south.

    We might consider the choice of title here. Wasn't the Czar the failed Russian autocrat who once epitomized totalitarian (i.e, non-democratic) rule and was supplanted as the bete noir of the West by the Communists?

  5. #25
    Council Member SSG Rock's Avatar
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    Default Call me Simple Simon...

    Gentlemen, I'm just a retired NCO who got his graduate degree at night school. I don't have any experience, just common sense. As an NCO, when my troops aren't performing to the standard, I knocked their heads.

    President Bush, at this juncture doesn't have to worry about making or keeping friends. Why doesn't he knock some heads? Can he? Has he tried that approach?

    Wouldn't the creation of a "Czar" require hammering out new laws? Creating support staff, in short, wouldn't it take a lot of time? And wouldn't the position inevitably be tainted by partisanship anyway? Why go through the trouble to create another position that ultimately will not help?

    I think I'd hold a "come to Jesus meeting" and I'd lay it on the line, demand interagency cooperation on a scale never seen before, and I would tell them if this doesn't happen I'll fire you, and if I can't fire you I'll spend the rest of my term making your life as miserable as I possibly can.
    Don't taze me bro!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SSG Rock View Post
    Why doesn't he knock some heads? Can he? Has he tried that approach?

    Wouldn't the creation of a "Czar" require hammering out new laws? Creating support staff, in short, wouldn't it take a lot of time? And wouldn't the position inevitably be tainted by partisanship anyway? Why go through the trouble to create another position that ultimately will not help?

    I think I'd hold a "come to Jesus meeting" and I'd lay it on the line, demand interagency cooperation on a scale never seen before, and I would tell them if this doesn't happen I'll fire you, and if I can't fire you I'll spend the rest of my term making your life as miserable as I possibly can.
    SSG Rock,

    The problem isn't the "come to Jesus meeting," which the President can easily pull together, it's the lack of ability to followup that causes the problem. That's why a "Czar" would be helpful. He has the full authority and support of the President along with the time necessary to make sure folks are getting their jobs done. My agency gets many tasks from the NSC and White House. Despite the fact they are Presidential/NSC initiatives, they don't always get the support you would think. We often fight for funding just to meet the minimum requirements (and we're not always successful).

    If things worked as they should, each Department and Agency would review the National Security Strategy, figure out how they can support it, and put resources to the task. This simply doesn't happen in most (any?) departments or agencies.

    Until the entire system is fixed, you need somebody who can crack skulls with the President's approval.

    That's my view anyway.

    Brian

  7. #27
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    The Mongolian horde effect...

    Adding bodies to a problem of coordination is adding another variable, another barrier, another point of failure, another blame point, another... you get the idea.

    When something is going wrong the commander gets on the phone, gets in the trench, figures out where things went wrong and fixes it.

    Putting somebody else in charge of a sinking ship doesn't do the baling.

    Pedantic and simplistic makes the obvious simpler. A Czar is a pseudo solution to a real problem that only a real leader can truly solve. The president can not abdicate the responsibilities of running a war to a political appointee.

    But, what would I know I'm a Gen X'er and irresponsible in my enthusiasm for abject hero worship.
    Sam Liles
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  8. #28
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default What happens when no one wants to volunteer for the all volunteer force

    Hi all,
    Good to be back. Trying to get my house in order, go on vacation and then start the PCS and enroute schools - sums up my last couple of three weeks.
    I was thinking about this morning when I read it on the earlybird. Aside from possibly inserting a layer of command that would further delay needed decisions and possibly installing a personality whose situational perspective is far away from ground truth (time and space), yet whose inter-perspective is one of being validated by both his military experience and obligation to try and get it right; how about the idea of opening yourself (those asked to take the job) to becoming a magnet (or shield) for criticism from both sides- what was the term one perspective candidate used "ulcer?
    I think this is important in the context of some of the other things coming to light. Anybody read what retired General Scales wrote recently about ground truth? One of the things he mentioned in addition to the status of equipment & time needed to refit and train was in ref. to the data quoted by DoD ref. retention of experienced, innovative, creative talent that the private sector is competing for. A buddy of mine just called to say he got word his TT tour was going to be 15 months. He is close to 20, I predict he will leave when he gets back. There seems to be a couple break points for most - those under the point with good opportunities are apt to leave prior to a delayed captain's course, those at 20 are not really considering 30 (although I know some 06s who are looking at high 3, etc.) These are good people. Those of us in the middle are playing the wait and see, but it doesn't look good - why, because we see the mill continuing to turn with less compensation ( ex. we lose money when we PCS because we try and make it easy on the family )while we try and balance obligations to family with obligations to our service and nation.
    Here is the part that I think military service members are really starting to look hard at, and I think the response to the "War Czar" is indicative of.

    1) Those who serve or served ( I think its reasonable to include LE and FDP types) understand that they are a minority, most American citizens don't understand the word sacrifice in the sense that we do.
    2) They also don't understand what they inherit by virtue of birth, they have not really faced adversity, get their news in sound bytes, prescribe to the T.V and Internet for morals and values and in general don't understand us a minority - many I've run into are glad we do what we do, but many of those are only glad that someone else does a job that they would never want to.
    3) So why should less then 1% take up the burden for so many for so little in return? Sure when there is no war, its a pretty good life, but most of are aware that the world is fundamentally changed, and war will be with us for a long time to come.

    So why when Congress and the administration play politics with the money we need for training, equipping, etc; when although there are bonuses for retention of some and recruitment of others, but no real fundamental shift in investing in people (a significant raise that competes with Industry/Private Sector), performance bonuses, etc that place people above cash cows should that 1% obligate themselves to the point of exhaustion (anybody seen the new #s on how many 04s and 05s the Army is short - anybody want to guess how we'll fix that?) Retired General Scales is 100% correct on the value he places on people - good equipment is good and part of investing in people, but to do both we'll need a larger % of the GDP.

    I think those who serve love serving, but you have to compensate them better if you are going to ask more of them. I'll bet the Czar candidates thought of Sherman's words when asked - can you blame them? I love the all volunteer military, but I think unless we start looking hard at compensation (not one shot bonuses, but the kind of compensation that people see they are in an organization that invests in them for the long term - yes people are expensive - good ones more so - but you have to have them), I think we'll be forced to consider selective obligatory service. This war is not over in 2008. I think we'll be at war in this populated and competing world and committed to fighting those who would come here and kill us for decades, if we are going to ask a small percentage to shoulder the burden, then we better ante up.

    We have a long term strategic human resource problem that we are addressing with tactical foresight - its a cultural problem.

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    Guys,

    If I were not in the belly of this beast and directly working the clsoest thing to an interagency way ahead for the war we are currently in, I would entertain many of the views that some have expressed. If the voters knew how broke the interagency was, there would be 536 recall elections. Like BScully said, the interagency needs someone to come in and knock heads, somebody to tell secretary's that they and their organization aren't cutting the mustard. You can't really make the additional level of friction arguement when the current alternative is chaos. Thank god, I am out of thye ebltway in the next few months.

    Jimbo

  10. #30
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default An Inability to Learn?

    Per Jimbo's last:You can't really make the additional level of friction arguement when the current alternative is chaos.
    New York Times
    April 12, 2007

    News Analysis

    4 Years On, The Gap Between Iraq Policy And Practice Is Wide

    By David E. Sanger

    WASHINGTON, April 11 — Four years after the fall of Baghdad, the White House is once again struggling to solve an old problem: Who is in charge of carrying out policy in Iraq?

    Once again President Bush and his top aides are searching for a high-level coordinator capable of cutting through military, political and reconstruction strategies that have never operated in sync, in Washington or in Baghdad.

    Once again Mr. Bush is publicly declaring that his administration has settled on a strategy for victory — this time, a troop increase that is supposed to open political space for Sunnis and Shiites to live and govern together — even while his top aides acknowledge that the White House has never gotten the execution right.

    “We’re trying to learn from our experience,” Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said in an interview on Wednesday. Confirming a report that first appeared in The Washington Post, Mr. Hadley said he had been sounding out retired military commanders to assess their interest in a job where they would report directly to President Bush.

    “One of the things that we’ve heard from Republicans and Democrats is that we need to go a step further in Washington and have a single point of focus, someone who can work 24/7 on the Washington end of executing the strategy we’ve put in place for the next 22 months,” to the end of Mr. Bush’s term.

    Mr. Hadley came to his job in the beginning of 2005, after four years as deputy national security adviser, and said from the outset that the Achilles’ heel of the administration had been its failure to execute its policies.

    Now, Mr. Hadley said, he had decided that “while we’ve had plans and due dates and stoplight charts, what we need is someone with a lot of stature within the government who can make things happen.” That official, Mr. Hadley said, would deal daily with the new American ambassador in Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, and the new commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and then “call any cabinet secretary and get problems resolved, fast.”
    Given all that, Jimbo's comment on chaos suggests we have been discussing draining the swamp while the alligators feast on his ass. I think I understand Jimbo's frustration much better after reading this piece in which the Nat Sec Advisor seemed to repeatedly admit difficulty in learning.

    Tom

  11. #31
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    So ... is this Hadley basically declaiming, after 4 years as assistant to Rice and 2 years as NSA that he still does not know how to run the job? That we need someone of "of stature" that apparently he does not have? That there are so many pressing priorities that take precedence over the two wars we are fighting at the moment that he just cannot spare the time? Am I venting here?

    Given the difficulties they are encountering finding someone "of stature", I'm feeling that Jimbo is not going to be getting the help he needs when the Admin's 4th or 5th choice finally assents to the post.

  12. #32
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    So ... is this Hadley basically declaiming, after 4 years as assistant to Rice and 2 years as NSA that he still does not know how to run the job? That we need someone of "of stature" that apparently he does not have? That there are so many pressing priorities that take precedence over the two wars we are fighting at the moment that he just cannot spare the time? Am I venting here?

    Given the difficulties they are encountering finding someone "of stature", I'm feeling that Jimbo is not going to be getting the help he needs when the Admin's 4th or 5th choice finally assents to the post.
    That was exactly my reaction when I read it...

  13. #33
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    “One of the things that we’ve heard from Republicans and Democrats is that we need to go a step further in Washington and have a single point of focus, someone who can work 24/7 on the Washington end of executing the strategy we’ve put in place for the next 22 months,” to the end of Mr. Bush’s term.
    And my frustration grows Tom, as I read this and wonder aloud, "Why the hell aren't we worried about executing the strategy until it has successfully run it's course?" Screw being concerned about election timelines.

    Someone, regardless of party, is going to get a nice squishy ball of wax to play hot potato with.

    I nominate Odom for czar!!!

  14. #34
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    Gentleman,

    I'm a relatively young, federal civil servant with no combat experience, so I typically lay low and learn from the conversations that take place here rather than contribute. However, I think the wrong lessons are being drawn from the articles you've read and discussions to date.

    The issue that needs to be addressed is that the interagency system is seriously broken. There needs to be serious reform before any administration will be able to count on the entire federal government working together in an effective manner. There are any number of different reforms and directives that have tried to solve this problem since 9/11 (and before for that matter). They just haven't worked. The system needs to be fixed. And until its fixed, future Administration's will continue to have the same issues.

    Operating under the reality that the system is broke, but we cannot succeed without effective interagency cooperation, what are the options available? Obviously someone needs to figure out how to fix the system. But that is a longer term solution and will not take effect for years (Look at how long jointness under Goldwater-Nichols took). In the short term, there is only one effective answer that I'm aware of and that is what Hadley suggests. Have one person, with staff, entirely focused on making sure the interagency supports the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan 24/7...that's all they work on.

    Several of you have said that Hadley should be focused on Iraq and Afghanistan. That is just unrealistic. There are numerous National Security issues that the National Security Advisor and his staff must pay attention to...Iran, North Korea, China, Sudan just to name a few. I personally think it would be extremely irresponsible for the National Security Advisor to focus all of his time on Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of the many other issues/crisis facing the U.S..

    In many ways, I give Hadley credit for giving up some of his turf on one of the most critical issues facing the nation to someone else and admitting it's just too much for him to handle. How often does that happen in Washington? Normally I'd go on a long diatribe about how we expect our leaders to be perfect and then criticize them when they admit mistakes or changes in policy/tactics based on lessons learned...but I've already written too much.

    While I certainly don't have any answers to the problem, I do know a few things. First, many administrations have tried to address the lack of interagency cooperation over the years and all have been unsuccessful. Second, even after Bush and Hadley are long gone, National Security Advisors will continue to deal with poor interagency cooperation until the entire system is blown up and rebuilt.

    Take care,
    Brian

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I'm a relatively young, federal civil servant with no combat experience, so I typically lay low and learn from the conversations that take place here rather than contribute. However, I think the wrong lessons are being drawn from the articles you've read and discussions to date.
    Scully,

    In a subtle way, you validate the expansion of the board. I'm glad you are here, regardless of the capacity in which you participate. Keep up the good fight.

  16. #36
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Scully,

    You will get no argument from me that the interagency process needs fixing.

    You will get an argument when you tell me I am missing the point by not seeing that the process needs work. I have seen it and I have worked it inside the beltway and outside downrange where it is very personal.

    Mssrs Hadley and company have for the past several years worsened the interagency process by turf fighting in the extreme. DOD was the lead culprit--especially when it came to the issue of going to war in OIF and then failing to plan for the aftermath. True enough that Hadley has many things on his plate; he sat down at the table and top two items of the menu read, Iraq and Afghanistan. If it takes 2 years to understand that he could not handle the meal, that is too long, especially after serving as Rice's deputy for the previous 4.

    Best

    Tom

    PS

    What really makes all of this even more frustrating is that the very subject--the need to focus on Iraq--was covered extensively in Bob Woodard's book, State of Denial, concerning 2003-2005. And Hadley played a large role in pushing for greater focus from the key players, including his boss at the time National Security Advisor Rice.
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 04-12-2007 at 06:37 PM.

  17. #37
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default Be Careful What You Ask For . . .

    Rather than just note the failure of inter-agency cooperation with regard to the efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps we ought to try to understand why this failure has occurred. If one looks at the basic structure of American government, I believe that understanding should be fairly easy to attain.

    (Sorry for the Pol. Sci. 101 rehash, but we often seem to forget the basics.) The fundamental principle that underlies our government is a separation of powers to provide a system of checks and balances for the whole structure. The separation is not just limited to the three main branches of government. It also exists within each branch. As an example, consider the Federal budget process. Three different Congressional groups are involved in deciding how to spend the taxpayers' dollars--the budget committees, the authorization committees, and the appropriations committees (and they need the approval of the two houses of Congress to boot). The history of the United States is a history of the struggle of the nation to work through these checks and balances to achieve results. The process is the reason that governmental reform efforts achieved results very slowly and in very small increments.

    Before we look for a solution to the current lack of interagency cooperation, we might do well to ask what we would give up were we able to resolve the problem. In Democracy in America, De Tocqueville prognosticated that the United States would not survive for long because of the many small interests competing in the country. As it turns out, America has probably survived for as long as it has because of those many conflicting special interests. They have prevented the nation's being overwhelmed by a tyranny of the majority. Contrast our country’s relatively peaceful internal disagreements with the struggle in Iraq between Shia (empowered majority) and Sunni (largely disempowered minority). Attribution of the conflict to religious differences is, I believe, largely a misapprehension of the social dynamic--conflict is almost always about power.

    When American special interest groups have disputes, talk show hosts are suspended. When Iraqi special interest groups have disputes, Parliament’s cafeteria is bombed.

    Fixing the interagency process may well be possible. However, to do so may run contrary to the very spirit of the American political process as expressed in the Federalist papers and other places, like the Constitution.

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    Hi Tom,

    I understand what you're saying and don't disagree. The point I was trying to make was that regardless of the mistakes Hadley, Rice, Bush, and all the others may have made, they were set up for failure by a system that is broken. Did Hadley make it worse? I don't know from personal experience and will take your word that he has. What I worry about and what drove me to post was the focus on Hadley as the problem. It's typical Washington and often masks the real nature of what needs to be fixed.

    Until we fix the entire system, folks on the ground are going to needlessly suffer. And that is going to occur whether Hadley is the National Security Advisor or it is a future National Security Advisor. All of the interagency issues I've faced have been at a lower level than the NSC and most have been the result of Department vs. Department parochialism, limited resources, and/or lack of proper authority.

    It could also be argued that the Administration has been trying to fix the problem, unsuccessfully, for several years (eg: NSPD-44 and other similar initiatives). Clinton tried to do the same thing under significantly less difficult circumstances and it failed.

    I've made improving interagency coordination something of a personal mission despite my lowly stature in the world. I've attended numerous courses, conferences, symposium and done a lot of reading. The simple fact is, as you know all too well, this problem has been going on for a long time. And while it may be worse under Hadley, it's been bad under everyone.

    The point of this thread was basically to discuss the administration's plan to have a War "Czar." My opinion is that until the interagency system is fixed, a War "Czar" is required (though I'd call it something else). I believe the longer we focus on Hadley and his colleagues in the Administration, the longer it will take for us to actually solve the real problem -- both short term and long term.

    Maybe I simply read too much into the posts on here and am concerned for no reason...it has happened before. I just don't want folks to believe that once Hadley (and Bush) are gone things will be better.

    Take care,
    Brian

  19. #39
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Wm,

    Your points are valid and part of the US culture. That is why the Army has no General Staff and why about three or four decades ago Congress made it known that the Army was not to adopt the beret like other militaries, because it looked "too professional."

    But the position of National Security Advisor and the National Security Council was created to better inter-agency cooperation in the first place. Fixing it in my mind means making it work, not kicking the can down the road with "Czars" and late blooming realizations that a war that has cost so much in lives and money is indeed important.

    I would further submit to you that we fought a much harder war, fielding millions of Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors, created almost from scratch the most technologically advanced functional military forces of the day, and we won WWII in less time than has elaspsed since 9-11. All of that was done before we reorganized the national security structure, a redesign that added levels of bureacracy.

    I guess I would say to you fundamentally that culturally and constitutionally mandated separation of powers is not a defense for sluggish, amateurish floundering.

    Now I am stepping off my soap box...

    Best

    Tom

  20. #40
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    The point of this thread was basically to discuss the administration's plan to have a War "Czar." My opinion is that until the interagency system is fixed, a War "Czar" is required (though I'd call it something else). I believe the longer we focus on Hadley and his colleagues in the Administration, the longer it will take for us to actually solve the real problem -- both short term and long term.
    Brian,

    Agree and understand. I too believe that the system must be reworked.

    Keep trying to fix it! Or at least keep shooting the damn alligators until someone drains the swamp

    best

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 04-12-2007 at 07:43 PM. Reason: add quote

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