Defense Secretary Robert Gates demonstrated, again, that he's the
most capable Cabinet member to serve during President Bush's second
term: The SecDef hit a grand-slam homer for our national security.
First, he nominated Gen. David Petraeus to move up and take over
the US Central Command (CENTCOM), the headquarters directing our
efforts not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and throughout most
of the Middle East.
Employing his war-taught grasp of the Islamic heartlands and his
expertise in postmodern forms of warfare, Petraeus will ensure that all our efforts are integrated and complementary, that we maximize our effectiveness in this vital theater of war.
As Lincoln said of Grant, "I can't spare this man - he fights."
Gates also made it clear that the quality of the leadership
transition matters: Petraeus won't leave Baghdad immediately. He'll
stay long enough to oversee the withdrawal of the last surge forces and
to assess the situation before he "pulls pitch."
The grownups are in charge now.
Gates' second run batted in was the nomination of the New York
area's own Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno to succeed Petraeus as our top gun in
Big Ray has only been back home with his family for two months, but
he's tough: He'll suck it up and do what our country asks.
And there couldn't be a better choice. Not only because Odierno's a
soldier's soldier, but because he's the man who had the day-to-day
responsibility for executing Petraeus' command vision. Petreaus plotted
the route, but Odierno drove the car. We won't turn back toward
Of course, sending Odierno back to Baghdad leaves a hole in the
Pentagon lineup: He'd been nominated to become the next US Army vice
chief of staff and to pin on a fourth star (he'll still get that
deserved promotion, but back on the front lines).
That brings us to the third runner across the plate: Gates
nominated another combat-tested Iraq vet, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, to
take that job in Odierno's place. Chiarelli was a bright star during
some of our darkest nights in Iraq. He'll clean up the Army dugout back
at Pentagon Field.
Secretary Gates' determination to nominate the most qualified
soldiers, rather than yes-men, is stand-up-and-cheer evidence that he's
the polar opposite of his failed predecessor, the odious Donald
Rumsfeld. But it was the fourth "run" yesterday that really underscored
the difference between the two men.
What made the SecDef's performance a grand slam was his heartfelt thank-you to Gen. Odierno's wife and family for their sacrifice as Big Ray heads back to Baghdad - after little more than a spring break.
An Army saying goes, "You enlist the soldier, but you re-enlist the family." Gates gets it: Every soldier's family, whether a junior enlisted man's or a general's, is a vital part of the team.
It's also a great thing to have a SecDef who just tells the truth:
Gates noted bluntly yesterday that "Iranians are killing Americans in
It's now up to Congress to respond to Gates' request that these
nominations be approved by Memorial Day. Will the partisans on Capitol
Hill create another spectacle, or will they do the right thing? Will
election-year politics undercut our soldiers yet again?
One Potomac ritual remained the same yesterday, as the SecDef's
press session soon degenerated into spring-butt reporters asking
questions revealing their miraculous ignorance of military affairs.
But the word was already out to our enemies throughout the Middle East:
We're determined to win - and we've got the right men to do it, by God.