Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/5/2011 (2300 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Over the years, Defence Secretary Robert Gates has served in a variety of capacities in national security for administrations of both parties. He has been a steady hand and he will be sorely missed.
But his intention to leave this year was well-known. What was surprising about Wednesday's news was the sweeping nature of the national-security shuffle President Barack Obama is expected to be announced:
CIA Director Leon Panetta will take Gates' place at the Pentagon. David Petraeus, the top general in Afghanistan, will take Panetta's place at the CIA. Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the tumultuous years of the troop surge, will become ambassador to Afghanistan.
The return of Crocker to government service is perhaps the most encouraging aspect of all this. He and Petraeus worked as a highly effective team in leading the effort that turned around the Iraq war.
The White House hopes 2011 will be a decisive year in Afghanistan. Crocker's presence will help make that more possible. Petraeus' departure is more worrisome, given his record in Iraq and the recent glimmers of progress in Afghanistan.
At 72, Panetta will be the oldest-ever incoming Pentagon chief, but as a former head of the Office of Management and Budget he brings a detailed knowledge of the defence budget. He is expected to follow through on Gates' procurement and budget reforms.
Since he came into office, Obama has followed a centrist path on national security. It's a welcome sign that his latest shuffle -- in which seasoned, level-headed individuals are replaced by seasoned, level-headed individuals -- shows his determination to remain on that path.