Thursday, April 12, 2007

We don't need a war czar

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the White House wants to outsource the management of their wars to an unelected political appointee, a "war czar."
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration's difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military.


The White House has not publicly disclosed its interest in creating the position, hoping to find someone President Bush can anoint and announce for the post all at once. Officials said they are still considering options for how to reorganize the White House's management of the two conflicts. If they cannot find a person suited for the sort of specially empowered office they envision, they said, they may have to retain the current structure.

It sounds to me like Bush and Cheney are looking for a fall guy for their failed policies. No wonder there are no takers. Meanwhile, Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) points out that that quaint document, the Constitution, already has a "war czar" position.
Someone needs to tell Steve Hadley that position is filled, it's the Commander in Chief, unless the decider's become the delegator.

I'm always a bit appalled when an administration issues the call to create a "czar" position. The czars (or tsars) of Russia were bloody autocrats, unhindered by any checks, balances, or accountability. This is more than me being overly sensitive to other people's historical ignorance. Even if they don't know the details of imperial Russian history, the people who issue these calls do know what a king is and they are calling for a king.

The call for a czar reveals a profound underlying distrust of, or distaste for, democracy. A czar is inevitably viewed as someone who will cut through "the red tape" or the "the bureaucracy" and "get things done." That fact that "the red tape" or the "the bureaucracy" are the necessary procedures of democracy is sidestepped by portraying the issue at hand as an emergency requiring extraordinary methods. Emergency is the age-old path to dictatorship. If anyone stands up for democracy in the face of emergency engendered panic, they are demonized as not serious about the severity of the crisis, womanly cowards, and possible traitors to the cause du jour. Those who would throw away democracy at the first whiff of fear portray themselves as determined and manly, willing to "do what's necessary."

Just say no to czars, and tell George Bush to do the damn job we're paying him to do.

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