August 11, 2007

Bizarre Czar

Hatched by Dafydd

There is not going to be a military draft.

Congress opposes it; it would never get through committee. The president emphatically opposes it. The JCS oppose it; the soldiers in the field don't want to fight alongside undertrained conscripts.

In fact, I don't think it's even possible for a conscript Army to fight the way we now fight -- which is highly technical, swift, silent, almost like an army of special forces. A military draft makes no sense whatsoever. The only person overtly calling for it is Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY, 95%)... and he only wants it because he thinks it will scare the pants off parents of teenaged kids, and they will stampede Congress into surrendering in Iraq.

So what the heck is this insanity?

Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.

"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table...."

Uh... on the table? In anybody's mind but Gen. Lute's?

Did he clear it with the Commander in Chief to go on National People's Radio and announce that reinstating the military draft is an option worth considering and is on the table? Did Gen. Lute even warn President Bush or Secretary of Defense Bob Gates that he was going to say such a thing?

Who is Gen. Lute anyway? He's Bush's new "War Czar," although his actual battlefield experience seems somewhat scant, at least according to his official biography. There is nothing dishonorable about Lute's service; but there is also nothing that gives me confidence he knows what the heck he's talking about in the real worlds of Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when it comes to fighting with conscripted troops:

  • He graduated from West Point in 1975, just after the Vietnam war ended.
  • He went into the Armored Cav... in Germany.
  • Fifteen years later, he finally deployed and fought in Desert Storm (so that's a couple months of combat -- almost as long as John Kerry!)
  • Lute then kept Texas secure from invasion for a few years and protected Washington D.C. from being overrun, before shifting to a new combat position in Louisiana. He was then posted to the Big Red One, back in Germany.
  • He went to Kosovo in 2002, two or three years after that war ended; then back to Europe a year later.
  • Finally, in 2004 -- after thirty years in uniform -- he was back in a real combat zone:

    In June 2004, he began more than two years as Director of Operations (J-3) at US Central Command during which he oversaw combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa.
  • In 2006, he was back in D.C. as Director of Operations for the Joint Staff; and now he's still in the capital, as War Czar.

I can't tell what "oversaw" means in this context. Did he lead troops in combat, à la Gen. David Petraeus? Or is Director of Operations an administrative position? Perhaps a helpful milblogger can fill us in here: What are the duties of the Director of Operations at CENTCOM?

In any event, even if this were a fighting position, I can't get a handle on how much Lute knows from personal experience about today's fighting Army. Is he a Petraeus-like figure, who has figured out how to fight and win a counterinsurgency operation? Or is he one of those Weasley Clark, Colin Powell generals who still envisons the battlefield environment in the same frame of reference he learned back during the Cold War?

I only ask because I have not heard any other senior military officer saying that we should be resurrecting the draft, as if gearing up to refight Vietnam all over again -- "but this time, we'll win, by cracky!"

According to Wikipedia, after West Point, Lute took a Master of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; and he's married to Jane Holl Lute -- who happens to be the UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations. Her poli-sci PhD is from Stanford, and her JD is from Georgetown... which, along with the Kennedy School, completes the set of the top three ultra-liberal university programs in the United States.

Lute is the nation's first War Czar; but he's not the first to be offered the position. Before turning to Lute, Bush tried three times with retired 4-stars -- including Gen. Jack Keane, co-architect with Fred Kagen of the counterinsurgency strategy that Gen. Petraeus eventually adapted and adopted in Iraq.

After Keane and two other generals (Marines and Air Force) turned down the position, Lute accepted. At his confirmation vote on June 28th, 94 senators voted to confirm him, including all but six Democrats. Profile in courage Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%) voted "present;" Tim Johnson (D-SD, 85%) did not vote, of course; and only four Democrats voted against Lute: Robert Byrd (D-WV, 80%), and three unrated freshman senators (the percent given in each case is the senator's slender margin of victory over the Republican opponent last November): Claire McCaskill (D-MO, 2.3%), Jon Tester (D-MT, 0.1%), and Jim Webb (D-VA, 0.4%).

Three of the four Democrats voting against Lute are on the Senate Armed Services Committee; Tester is on the Veterans Affairs Committee (as is Webb). Color me biased, but I am not reassured that Lute received such enthusiastic support from the notoriously partisan Democratic majority of the 110th Congress... especially when the four Democrats who voted against him are all on one of the two main military committees.

Did the Democrats know something the rest of us, including President Bush, did not? Is this an attempt to sandbag the president? I cannot imagine, even if Bush wanted to put the draft on the table (which he has repeated said he does not), that he would choose to have Lute leak the news on NPR, of all places.

Does anybody else have any information about this? What is going on?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 11, 2007, at the time of 5:54 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Davod

This is the latest in a number of incidents which suggests that Bush is being ill served by his staff.

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 8:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: boffo

Slightly off-topic, but I don't understand why you keep insisting that Georgetown University is a bastion of liberalism. It's actually relatively conservative as far as university's go. Having gone to school at Georgetown and lived in Los Angeles, I can say that the real world in Los Angeles is way more liberal than the college campus at Georgetown.

Perhaps the law school is different - I don't have any direct experience with them. And certainly you can find examples of insane ultra-leftists at Georgetown. It is, after all, a college campus. But treating it like it's some sort of East Coast Berkeley is just factually false.

This is especially true of the Center for National Security Studies and the School of Foreign Service, which are both places where you're far more likely to find a fan of Robert Bork than a hippie. There's a major in the School of Foreign Service where nobody uses its official name (which I don't even remember), but instead calls it "Guns and Bombs." It's not called that because it's teaching that guns and bombs are bad things.

The above hissed in response by: boffo [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 10:17 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

The old saying goes "personnel is policy". Because policy will be shaped by the personnel implimenting it.

Fortunately, Gen. Lute isn't really in charge of anything, which is probably why no one else wanted the job.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 11:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Perhaps there is a bit of over reacting here. So far as I know young men still sign up for selective service. That does not mean there will be a draft, but it does mean the government just might call on them again someday. I think that sometimes we jump to conclusions when we hear these kinds of remarks from someone like this. We are too used to hearing politicians talk and assume that everyone has an ulterior motive for everything they say.

My God, think of some of the things Patton was known to say. Great General, strange man.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 12:04 PM

The following hissed in response by: Colin


I agree with you that Lute's comment is way off-base, will amount to nothing, and will just cause the administration and war supporters head-aches, and I wasn't that enthused when he was chosen to be the war czar (although he was an improvment over that Marine general you mentioned, I can't remember his name right now), but I think you're being unfair to him.

Lute has about the same level of combat experience as most post-vietnam general officers. Some time leading heavy brigades in Europe at the end of the cold war (deterrent force), war college experience, peacekeeping experience in the Balkans in the 1990's, and (like Petraeus) an advanced degree at an elite university like Harvard (Petraeus holds a PhD in international affairs from Princeton).

My major concern with Lute was that he was a Rumsfeld (who I still like, while acknowledging that he made some mistakes) light-footprint, an acolyte of Abazaid and Casey. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing (in other conflicts, a light-footpring, culturally sensitive approach will be optimal), but it's not right for right now. Someone who's more fully on board with COIN ops should be in charge.

Finally, J-3 is the operations officer. The J-3 is usually the third-highest ranking officer in a command, behind the commander and his executive/deputy. The ops officer will have a great degree of command over the planning and execution of all military and stability operations within his AOR. Operations is a very big deal, and a very heavy responsibility for an officer to bear.

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 1:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: DaveR

We owe it to the brave men and women who volunteer to defend this country to make sure they never find themselves in a foxhole depending on the steadfastness of a John Kerry or a Scott Beauchamp.

Or under the command of a Jack Murtha for that matter.

The above hissed in response by: DaveR [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 2:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Perhaps the law school is different - I don't have any direct experience with them. And certainly you can find examples of insane ultra-leftists at Georgetown. It is, after all, a college campus. But treating it like it's some sort of East Coast Berkeley is just factually false.

It may be false now, but I was talking about the mid to late 1970s.

Three possibilities:

  1. Georgetown University in general may have been an "East Coast Berkeley" back then;
  2. Georgetown, including the law school, may have been conservative at the time Jane Holl Lute attended -- though I doubt this for reasons stated below;
  3. Some departments at Georgetown may have been conservative back then, while others -- including the law school -- may have been liberal. I suspect this is the most likely option. Remember, we're talking about the Carter era.

I knew two people who went to Georgetown, one in undergraduate English lit, one to the law school, in the 1970s and 1980s respectively; they both described it as very liberal. Both were liberal themselves; and they said the school, at least at that time and in those majors, was more liberal than they.

They both worked at Ashton-Tate when I was there, one (the former lit professor) in the tech-writing department with me, the other as a corporate lawyer. Perhaps some reader here went to Georgetown in the mid to late 1970s and can tell us what it was like then.

In any event, my point was that Jane Lute appears to be pretty liberal herself; more direct evidence of that can be found in this interview, taken before she was appointed to her current U.N. position. To me, she comes across as roughly between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on a military-policy left-right scale.

For example, she enunciates the liberal shiboleth that poverty causes terrorism, but she doesn't entirely reject the role of private philanthropy in helping alleviate it... though she rates governmental and especially international aid much higher.

There are of course examples of conseratives married to liberals, where neither tugs the other towards the center; Mary Matalin and James Carville, for example. But that's not the way to bet it. Nancy Reagan pulled Ronald Reagan to the right, as Ginny Heinlein pulled Robert Heinlein to the right. I believe Hillary pulled Bill Clinton to the left during his first term.

Since both Douglas and Jane Holl Lute were career Army (he still is), it's hard to tell their politics; it's much easier when someone has run for office, of course. So we must make inferences from scant evidence.

I find the evidence compelling that Lt.Gen. Lute is liberal in the Gen. Colin Powell, Wesley Clark sense... not an extreme or radical, anti-military liberal like Russell Feingold or Dennis Kucinich, but someone who:

  • Likely opposed the Iraq invasion (though, being active duty, he wouldn't have said so out loud);
  • Believes that if we did invade, we should have done so with overwhelming force (around 500,000 troops or more) and smashed Iraq flat -- the Powell Doctrine.

    [Commenter Colin says that Lute was a Rumsfeldian "light footprint" supporter; but the quotes I read from him seemed like the sort of thing any subordinate general would say when his chain of command had already made a decision. I don't see that as evidence. If Colin has something definitive to show that Lute argued for the light footprint before Rumsfeld had even decided on that tack, that would be more convincing. If Lute were a known "Rumsfeldian," why would the Democrats have been so eager to install him without a fight?]
  • Believes we should have kept the Iraqi Army intact somehow and handed the country over to an American-installed strongman who would rule through the Baathist apparatus;
  • And believes we should now negotiate with Iran and Syria to more or less take over Iraq, as "Realists" Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton of the Iraq Study Group seem to advocate.

Such a person would naturally see the draft as desirable, because (a) he doesn't understand the difference between warfare today and warfare during Desert Storm; thus (b) he wants a gigantic, 3-million-man, less highly trained military, like we had during much of the Cold War; and (c) is the kind of general described by Thomas P.M. Barnett as a "Cold Worrier," always looking down the road for the next "Big One," a high-tech, civilized enemy like the Soviet Union. The Cold Worriers preferred to withdraw from peacekeeping type operations with the "lesser includeds" and return to the type of cold-war, Soviet-confrontation pattern they understood better and found most familiar.

I have no killer proof that Lute is a "Cold Worrier," but everything I've seen from him points that direction. I'm also made suspicious by the eagerness with which Democrats embraced him, at the very time they were beating up Gonzales, Peter Pace, and anybody they saw as supportive of Bush's new counter-terrorism, counterinsurgency strategy.

There is one exception to that, which we must consider; Gen. Petraeus himself was confirmed unanimously by Congress on January 27th. But that was just two weeks after the new Democratic majority took office, and they might have felt constrained not to appear to be anti-war bomb throwers. The fact that they swiftly set about repudiating that vote makes me believe that, had Petraeus been nominated in June, he would not have gotten such a strong approval and might not have been confirmed at all.

In any event, by late June, when Lute was confirmed almost unanimously, the Democrats were in full anti-war partisan mode... yet they embraced Lute like a long-lost brother -- except for three Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and one member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

I have a bad feeling that Bush was sucker-punched by the Democrats, and they foisted another Powell on him.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 3:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Colin


Sorry, I don't have any proof to offer you, just rumor and innuendo that were flying around during the time of his announcement, with guys on the anti-Rumsfeld right saying that he was part of the Casey clique in the Pentagon. I wish I had something more definitive to offer you, but I don't, and am therefore open to being convinced that I'm wrong.

Another thing: The "cold worriers" that Barnett talked about are an endemic problem in the Pentagon. Although I wouldn't say that they're all liberals. Most of them are what I call representatives of "Big Army", the guys brought up in the conventional forces (armored, mechanized infantry, artillery), who see any adversary who can't meet them in a force-on-force battle to be not worth fighting. These are the guys who want to ignore the GWOT and focus on China (Jim Webb is of this mind). Civil affairs, information operations, COIN, and the panoply of other military specialties which have risen to prominence since 9/11 don't receive a lot of respect from these guys. War to them means battles like El Alamein, or Kursk, or anything where large, highly mobile regiments and divisions clash in open combat. Anything other than that is an operation other than war, and is beneath a war planner's attention. Every service has them, and suffer for it. Hopefully, a success in Iraq will have the beneficial side effect of marginalizing these figures and promoting the "free thinkers" like Petraeus into leadership positions within the DoD.

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 4:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


That's exactly what I was thinking of anent Lute. Colin Powell, for example, is exactly like that... but when he had to choose a political party for the first time, he chose Republican.

He's not a liberal in the normal sense; but I think Powell is a Republican in the -- well, not Lincoln Chafee mold, but perhaps the Arlen Specter mold, which can be even more devastating because it avoids quick dismissal as a radical nut (Kucinich), but allows its adherents to come to the same conclusion (as in the ISG).

I have a bad feeling (which I still cannot prove) that Lute is the same way, and Bush and the rest of us are going to regret his appointment.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 4:29 PM

The following hissed in response by: nk

I thought Article II of the Constitution said the President is the "war czar". Moreover ... I thought the Constitution said we have no czars. Toto, are we in America anymore?

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2007 10:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Just think of it like a Drug Czar on the war. Or in this particular case, like a War Czar on drugs...


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2007 1:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I went to IU back when they had the anti war demonstrations during the Viet Nam era but I would not call IU a particularly liberal university and I do not doubt that many of the students who were out there screaming Hell No we won't go we won't fight for Exxon Oil are voting Republican today.

If I were to be judged today by the things I said when I was a student or the by the politics of the university I went to I suppose I could be seen as a liberal too, but that does not make it so.

I still thing this is in the mountain molehill department. Time will tell I suppose.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2007 3:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I doubt if bush would have put the man in the job if he did not think he needed him there. And I think Bush is more aware of the man's duties and qualifications than we are.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2007 3:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Colin

And here's the pentagon smacking down Lute's assertions.

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 13, 2007 11:53 AM

The following hissed in response by: Da Coyote

I'm afraid that the only thing that points to an education is the general's West Point degree. The rest (for both he and his wife) are at best marshmallow feel good pieces of paper with their names on them. I would count on he and his wife to have trouble getting past the first line of a two line logic statement. Such is the education (especially lib arts grad education) in our universities.

The above hissed in response by: Da Coyote [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 13, 2007 12:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Putting crazed Democrats in important positions of public responsibility seems like a bad idea. A lesson we should remember come next fall.

PS: This is off-topic, but I too object to the characterizations of the schools. I went to Cornell, and it's lots more liberal than even Moscow would tolerate. Stanford, on the other hand, where I have kids, seems to me to be tame by comparison (undergrad, anyway). I now live in Princeton, and the Wilson School (home of your next SecState is pretty darn libby, what with Krugman and all hanging around).

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 7:43 AM

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