During the hearing, Sen. Jack Reed told Lute that he was doing the jobs of National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Stupefied that Lute would be independent of Hadley on Iraq and Afghanistan, Reed asked, "And the national security adviser to the United States has taken his hands off that (Afghanistan and Iraq) and given it to you?" When Lute said, "Yes," Reed replied, "Well, then he should be fired."
OK, fire Hadley. In Washington, however, partisan arguments over competence and personality often mask difficult institutional, bipartisan troubles.
In Armed Forces Journal's July issue, William Matthews, after quoting the Reed-Lute exchange in full, described Lute's job as a "brigadier of bureaucrats."
Great description -- but that's an improvisation working around problems. Lute is "czar" because the most successful improviser has been the Pentagon, which has budget and disciplined, team-oriented personnel who will "do" jungles, deserts, mountains, alleys and slums. But soldiers "improvising" economic development is not going to win this complex war. Making DOD the de facto lead agency for every complicated operation is a mistake.
The State Department "does" more than Washington cocktail parties -- diplomacy remains the first line of defense. But when the U.S. military says, "No one else has shown up for the war," it isn't bragging, it's complaining.
Hence, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker's cable of May 31 telling State that "we cannot do the nation's most important work if we do not have the department's best people." State may move to "directed assignments," which mean hard jobs in critical places will be filled by the best-qualified personnel whether or not they volunteer.
Military careers are made in the field. Bureaucrat careers are made in the Washington Beltway -- a serious structural mistake. They should be made in Baghdad, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. That requires changing promotion and career training policies throughout our civilian agencies.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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