President Obama's national security team shuffle is the talk of the town. CIA Director Leon Panetta will replace outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Afghan war commander Gen. David Petraeus will run the CIA; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen will take command in Afghanistan, where he will be joined in Kabul by former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. What do you think about Obama's choices?
As we discussed earlier this month, Gates's successor will face the grim realities of shrinking budgets and a White House desperate to end America's wars. The 72-year-old Panetta (soon-to-be-oldest Defense secretary in American history) is an expert on budgets-- and should arrive at the Pentagon just in time to start slashing hundreds of billions of dollars. How will he fare in Gates's shoes?
Petraeus's move to Langley, Va., will mark the decorated general's retirement from the military. Petraeus will no doubt ramp up the CIA's already substantial role in providing intelligence support for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. How will his post impact America's engagements in these countries and in others? What challenges face the military man who will soon be mired in civilian bureaucracy?
Though he's had considerable success in Iraq, Petraeus's handpicked successor John Allen has never served in Afghanistan. Not to mention his communications skills will be especially important to sell the war message to an increasingly war-weary Congress and public. Should we be worried?
Crocker will inherit the difficult job of improving the strained diplomatic relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and serving as point-man for the war's civilian mission. Petraeus has fondly described Crocker as his "diplomatic wingman" during Iraq's pivotal years. Will the respected diplomat be able to work his magic in Afghanistan?
Are Obama's choices are in any way surprising? They're all familiar players, but in different roles. What does the team's continuity say about the direction of Obama's national security policies?