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Czar Wars

Submitted by smorgan on

The nomination of Gen. Douglas E. Lute as the new White House "war czar" raises the old question of what a "czar" is and why they are needed.

According to Wikipedia, a "czar" (sometimes "tsar") is basically an emperor:

Originally, and indeed during most of its history, the title tsar meant Emperor in the European medieval sense of the term, i.e., a ruler who has the same rank as a Roman or Byzantine emperor due to recognition by another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official (the Pope or the Ecumenical Patriarch).
Ralph Peters at The New York Post explores the latter question, arguing that the appointment of various "czars" is an indulgent and frivolous exercise. Unfortunately, just as I'm nodding in agreement, Peters' train of logic leaps the tracks and nosedives into a perplexing abyss:
I worked for the most effective "czar" of the past half-century. As director of the Office for National Drug Control Policy, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey did a remarkable job of getting the government's cats and dogs (and not a few monkeys) to work together for the common good.

But the major players could blow off even McCaffrey. The general could beat our nation's deadly enemies, but not the Washington bureaucracy.
Here we go again. Drug war supporters talk about Barry McCaffrey like conservatives talk about Ronald Reagan, an unfortunate but necessary absurdity now that the name John Walters has become highly toxic even within Congress and the anti-drug community.

Apparently, it really is necessary to point out that America wasn't drug-free from 1996-2001 and that Barry McCaffrey's legacy would be considered disastrous outside the accountability-free sphere of revisionist drug war history.

Of course, it's also possible that Peters knows "our nation's deadly enemies" are far from beaten and is merely shielding himself from the wrath of accused war criminal Barry McCaffrey. In either case, this article, which questions the efficacy of appointing various war czars, while simultaneously casting Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey as a glorious hero, is a confusing thing to have bothered writing.

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