Now that the White House is searching for a "war czar," it begs the question of who has been coordinating U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan the past four years.
A team of West Wing players led by national security adviser Stephen Hadley has tried to keep turf-conscious agencies marching in the same direction on military, political and reconstruction fronts. A few Bush aides say privately, however, that the White House probably should have recruited someone to oversee the war effort a year ago.
Critics say the administration’s job of coordinating the war has never gone smooth enough or fast enough. And now two key members of the White House team focused on the war are leaving.
"The problem is not broad strategy and policy, it’s that the bureaucracy is so inefficient and there’s been so little follow-up that the machine doesn’t work," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.
The new job comes as Bush’s combat troop buildup is trying to bring a degree of calm in Iraq so political reconciliation and rebuilding can take root.
Hadley said he wants to make sure that if any request from the war zone bogs down among agencies, there is someone who can speak for the president to get it solved quickly.
Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wonders why anyone would want a job in an administration nearing lame-duck status.
"We’ve had czars before," Cordesman said. "It doesn’t do any good to have a czar unless they have a clear focus and can override members of the Cabinet."