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Is Lute the right kind of 'war czar'?

Bush's pick to organize US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is a respected general, but some analysts prefer a civilian mind-set.

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In some ways, President Bush's pick for a "war czar" could be taking on a role as an infielder – a catcher of any bureaucratic ball that comes rolling his way from the government agencies working on Iraq and Afghanistan.

But for some analysts, the fact that Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute is a military officer means he would bring a more military mind-set to a job that many believe needs a political solution.

Lieutenant General Lute was tapped by Bush Tuesday to be the new deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan. The position, whose creation has elicited mixed reaction from other experts, is envisioned as coordinating efforts among both military and civilian agencies – and doing this with deft navigation in Washington.

Many think highly of Lute, an Army three-star general. And early indications point to his nomination easily winning Senate confirmation.

But in choosing Lute, Bush has turned to a military officer, when in fact a civilian may bring a better set of skills, analysts say.

While creating a manager for the war could be a good idea, the choice of Lute reinforces the notion that the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan need military solutions, says Kathleen Hicks, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"It's exactly the wrong message," she says. "What you needed at the White House was someone who understands the civilian side of the equation."

The job requires a political mind-set, Ms. Hicks says: "Even if he is incredibly enlightened, he will come from the approach as being trained from the military culture, and that is distinctly different from the civilian culture."

Agencies don't get along

One of the chief reasons Bush needed a "war czar" is because the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have pointed up how many agencies in Washington simply don't get along.

The Defense Department, especially under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was seen as too heavy-handed. But to the Pentagon, other agencies such as the State Department, USAID, and even the Departments of Justice and Commerce haven't provided enough support or resources.


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