Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the man chosen by the Bush administration to head Iraq's transition to a post-Saddam Hussein government, is known as a low-key professional, but his appointment has created controversy in the Arab world.
In some ways, Garner might seem to be an obvious choice to lead the Defense Department's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Post-War Iraq, which will handle the effort to reconstruct Iraq's infrastructure, make sure that medical and humanitarian needs are met and try to keep the country's civil service functioning until an interim government is put in place.
A former assistant chief of staff for the Army, Garner, 64, was in charge of Kurdish resettlement after the Gulf War, Operation Provide Comfort, so he has experience in the region and should be sensitive to some of the divisive issues that will have to be faced trying to establish order in Iraqi.
He championed the idea that the military should play a role in humanitarian efforts.
"Among Jay Garner's many remarkable qualifications for this task is the leading role he played in 1991 in assisting the people of northern Iraq to establish a governing authority in the territory under their control," Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate armed services committee. "That process enabled the complete withdrawal of coalition forces just six months after Operation Provide Comfort created a sanctuary in Northern Iraq free of Saddam Hussein's control."
He is known as someone who focuses on getting the job done and not on drawing attention or praise, an executive who knows how to get the most out of the people working for him.
A Pentagon spokesman said that Garner has told everyone to call him "Jay," and that he does not want to be called Gen. Garner, because he is a civilian in a civilian role.
Garner's low-key approach could also be seen as a plus as the United States tries to prove that it is not interested in taking over Iraq, but only in assisting the country make the transition from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship to a more democratic form of government.
But questions about Garner taking a trip to Israel with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in 1998 and his signature on a letter from the group in October 2000 that praised Israel for its "remarkable restraint" in the face of Palestinian violence have raised questions in the Arab world about how the U.S. will approach post-war Iraq.
That may be one reason why objections reportedly were raised by the State Department about Garner's appointment.
There is some irony in Garner's appointment, too. Since retiring from the military in 1997, he became president of SY Technology, which in 2001 was bought by L-3 Communications, a defense contractor that designed the electronic guidance systems used on many of the "smart bombs" used in the war.