ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
We're joined now by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Cordesman, from what you've heard, does General Lute's new position make sense, or is it another bureaucratic type? Is it - does it serve a purpose?
Mr. ANTHONY CORDESMAN (Arleigh A. Burke Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.): It certainly serves a purpose if he can be effective. Actually, almost beginning with the Afghan war in 2002, people raised the problem that the National Security Council and the administration couldn't really coordinate. What was going on at the military level was the state part that with other agencies that the aid effort - the effort to develop governance - was way out of balance with the military effort and thus had a major impact on war funding. It became apparent early after the fall of Saddam Hussein that you had exactly the same problem, and you had almost recommendation after recommendation that there be a major solution, some kind of coordinating body that would really solve this rather than let - given government agencies simply go often parallel and not develop a coordinated approach.
SEABROOK: We just heard in David Greene's piece reporters asking at the White House, why now? Which seems exactly to be what you're addressing.
Mr. CORDESMAN: And the answer is that only incompetence has delayed this - in the case of Afghanistan - since 2002. There simply isn't an excuse. The problem now, however, is that you have an administration in a partisan battle with the Congress. To really be effective, you need money. You need to have coordinated, long-term plans. If we have a long-term plan in either Afghanistan or in Iraq, it's never been publicly articulated and it isn't in the budget request.
So General Lute begins with very severe limits. Unlike the military, you can't send civilians in government overseas into a combat zone or overseas at all. And you have a major problem in terms of security and in paying them.
SEABROOK: And - it won't help that he's got a Congress and a White House with horns locked over this. But let me turn from the position to the man - is Lute the right man for this job, in your view?
Mr. CORDESMAN: I think he's a far better man than somebody who might have a high political profile, but he hasn't been directly involved in operations in the theater - who doesn't know Afghanistan and Iraq in an operational sense, who hasn't had to actually carry out in the field the type of coordination and operational planning that's absolutely vital. And this is particularly critical because in Afghanistan, we already face a major problem. Money hasn't flowed in - the deal with an ongoing campaign and the Taliban there. And it's fairly obvious in Iraq - if anything's going to be done, we need to get at least the aid in the civil side working immediately, because no one has patience for failure much beyond September.
SEABROOK: So to be clear, you're saying that Lute does have the right credentials for this?
Mr. CORDESMAN: He has all the right background. Unfortunately, what he doesn't seem to have is the political climate in which he can make it, not take advantage of that. And that simply isn't domestic. He now has to deal with foreign governments in Afghanistan and Iraq where there's a lot of push back against U.S. influence and U.S. demands. It's not, by any means, the easiest job in the world.
SEABROOK: Speaking of which, Mr. Cordesman, there have been many attempts at having inter-agency czars. Quickly, what do you think the chances are that this attempt will be successful?
Mr. CORDESMAN: In all honesty, I think that he will make a difference. Will he be successful? No. We had an energy czar, which was an almost total failure, the drug czar that had good intentions but couldn't really do anything - and this is probably the most hostile political climate in which we've ever attempted to appoint anybody to this kind of position without coordination between the administration and the Congress.
SEABROOK: Anthony Cordesman is a militarian analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He spoke with us from his home in Virginia. Thank you, sir.
Mr. CORDESMAN: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.