Why I Declined to Serve
Posted on Apr 17, 2007
John J. Sheehan, the retired Marine Corps general who declined the White House’s invitation to serve as “war czar,” explains his decision and warns that the administration’s strategic “shortcomings” will not benefit from the creation of such a position.
Sheehan writing in the Washington Post:
The day-to-day work of the White House implementation manager overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan would require a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy resolving critical resource issues in a bureaucracy that, to date, has not functioned well. Activities such as the current surge operations should fit into an overall strategic framework. There has to be linkage between short-term operations and strategic objectives that represent long-term U.S. and regional interests, such as assured access to energy resources and support for stable, Western-oriented countries. These interests will require a serious dialogue and partnership with countries that live in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood. We cannot “shorthand” this issue with concepts such as the “democratization of the region” or the constant refrain by a small but powerful group that we are going to “win,” even as “victory” is not defined or is frequently redefined.
It would have been a great honor to serve this nation again. But after thoughtful discussions with people both in and outside of this administration, I concluded that the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically. We got it right during the early days of Afghanistan—and then lost focus. We have never gotten it right in Iraq. For these reasons, I asked not to be considered for this important White House position. These huge shortcomings are not going to be resolved by the assignment of an additional individual to the White House staff. They need to be addressed before an implementation manager is brought on board.