Some See Method in National Security Shakeup

Thursday, 28 Apr 2011 08:09 AM

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In an analysis piece for the National Journal, award-winning journalist and author James Kitfield, who has focused for decades on defense, national security and foreign policy issues, fathoms that there is some method in President Barack Obama’s apparent madness -- as an “intelligence chief with little formal experience in defense take[s] the helm of the Pentagon in a time of war, [and] the preeminent military strategist and warfighter of his generation of officers hang[s] up his uniform to lead from behind a desk at the CIA.”

petraeus, panetta, obamaObama has picked CIA Director Leon Panetta to replace outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Afghan commander Gen. David Petraeus to take the helm of the CIA.

“On closer inspection there is precedent for each of the new picks,” notes Kitfield. “Panetta’s lengthy resume of government service and reputation as a centrist who gets along with Congress, capped by a stint as director of the CIA, mirrors Gates's own path to the Pentagon.”

As to Petraeus, who most saw as the ideal next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the author notes: “Some experts who have had close dealings with Petraeus, however, believe his skills will be a good match for the CIA. The job of chairman of the Joint Chiefs is undeniably important, but the chairman inevitably spends a lot of time managing a vast bureaucracy and keeping fractious constituencies such as the other service chiefs and Congress happy.”

Perhaps, after all, Petraeus’ manifest skill set could be better utilized. Kitfield looks to another expert in the field:

“Especially after 9/11, with the creation of the position of Director of National Intelligence to brief the president and coordinate the other intelligence agencies, the director of the CIA is really more of a warfighter,” concludes Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution. “And war-fighting is what David Petraeus likes and is good at.”

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