It’s a sexy headline but Noah’s being a little selective with the quote (probably because he’s working off an item from Think Progress.) Here’s the full passage; he and TP only excerpt the second paragraph.
[Lute] said: “We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward.
“You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It’s very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.”
While he cautioned that any troop reduction would be conditional on continued political progress and ongoing improvement in Iraqi force training, he said Centcom planners believed “the political process will play out, that we will see a constitution, that we will see, by some political machinations, the Sunnis brought into the process and we will proceed to national elections in December”.
“If we see that and if we see progress on the second front, which is continued progress with the Iraqi security force next year, this time we’ll be in the position to make some adjustments in our force structure.”
Emphases mine. That’s from an article published in August 2005, by the way, fully six months before the Samarra shrine bombing that accelerated the sectarian violence.
Noah does have him dead to rights, though, on overestimating the progress of the Iraqi army, and he does in fairness praise Lute’s insights on what it takes to beat a network. Follow the link for that. It’s worth it.
Exit question: Er, isn’t Bush the war czar?
Update: Lute may not be against the surge, but it’s not so clear where Republicans in the Senate stand at this point.
Update: Credit where credit is due — it looks like Noah’s and TP’s hunch/wishful thinking was right.
In choosing Lute, Bush picked a key internal voice of dissent during the administration review that led to the troop increase. Reflecting the views of other members of the Joint Chiefs, Lute argued that a short-term “surge” would do little good and that any sustained increase in forces had to be matched by equal emphasis on political and economic steps, according to officials informed about the deliberations.
Lute believed the situation in Iraq reflected the same mistakes as the ineffective and disorganized response to Hurricane Katrina, according to a source familiar with the debate. Like others at the Pentagon, he also was aggravated because civilian agencies, in his view, had not done nearly enough to help stabilize Iraq. And he was outspoken about the increasing strains on the U.S. military, officials said.
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said Lute raised his concerns during talks before his selection. “He had the same skepticism a lot of us had,” Hadley said. “That’s one of the reasons we designed the strategy the way we did.” By joining the White House, Hadley said, Lute can ensure that economic and political elements of the plan are implemented. “In some sense, he’s part of the cure for the problems he was concerned about.”