Senate Approves Bush Nominee for 'War Czar'
WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday approved President Bush's nominee to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Pentagon's director of operations, steps into a newly-created position some call the "war czar." His role will be to oversee day-to-day operations of the wars as an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser.
Lute has an extensive military career, having served as director of operations at the U.S. Central Command to oversee combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than two years before coming to the Pentagon in September.
The Senate confirmed Lute's nomination in a 94-4 vote.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking minority member Sen. John Warner, R-Va., both said in floor speeches that they support the nominee.
Levin criticized the Bush administration's war strategy and said Lute's position was an "unenviable" one, noting that one general considered for the job before Lute accepted the nomination told reporters.
"The administration doesn't know where the heck it's going" and the "hawks remain more powerful than ever."
While Levin and Warner plan to accept Lute, Sen Jim Webb, D-Va., said before the vote that he intended to oppose the nomination. He said once a uniformed officer enters a political branch, that officer should never again return to U.S. military service. Webb vowed to oppose any nominee in this predicament.
"There is no way General Lute can go to morning meetings and give advice that is not political in nature ... put policy in place ... and then return to active duty military and be seen as politically neutral," Webb said.
Warner revealed a letter sent to him on Tuesday from White House counselor Fred Fielding, who assured the senator that it is constitutional to have a uniformed officer serve in the executive branch, seeing that the president is commander in chief. Fielding referred to recent examples.
Lute has expressed skepticism of the wisdom of the troop surge in Iraq, telling members at his confirmation hearing that he informed the administration that "a military surge would likely have only temporary and localized effects unless it were accompanied by counterpart surges by the Iraqi government and the other non-military agencies of the U.S. government."
The final plan for troop increases "took such concerns into account,'' and as a result, progress to date is "uneven,'' Lute said.
Democrats said they hope Lute will be able to reverse the course of the war.
FOX News' Trish Turner contributed to this report.