The new nominees for secretary of defense and director of the CIA are excellent, non-political choices. General Petraeus has served our country for six years in hard top slots. Now he has again answered the call to duty. The operational side on the CIA will, of course, find him a pleasure to work with; the analytical side will be severely challenged — for the better. Petraeus will bring a commander’s eye to intelligence products. This will force the analysts to be more focused upon practicalities, and to better anticipate what is asked of them.
Likewise, Panetta brings a steady hand to the Pentagon. But he is in for a very rough tenure because the budget is under excessive strain and he will be forced to make deep cuts, while arguing against them within his own administration. Lacking a military operational background, he will likely defer to the generals on matters of war strategies. Admiral Mullen, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was out of his depth in advising about the Af-Pak war, and the advice on how to handle Libya has not proved prescient. With a new general taking over in Afghanistan, either the new chairman, to take over in October, or the commander of Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, must emerge as the military voice in laying out war-fighting — and withdrawal — strategies.
— Bing West is author of The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan.