Barack Obama doesn't take office for another two weeks, but he's already doing some interesting things. The latest of these is naming former Congressman, White House Chief of Staff and OMB director Leon Panetta to be head of the CIA.
Critics are muttering--but the man has no experience in intelligence work. Quite right, and that just may be a good thing. I remember John Kennedy, after ordering the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, telling associates that was the last time he was going to assume that the intelligence agencies would always get it right. They hadn't, of course.
If your whole background is intelligence work, you probably do take its recommendations as revealed wisdom, at least most of the time. And of course they aren't, always. Politicians, even good ones, sometimes misread the voters; spies, even good ones, sometimes misread the people they're spying on. They were going to love us in Baghdad, remember, because we'd overthrown Saddam Hussein. Pretty tough love, all those bombings and shootings.
I think there's a lot to be said for having some skeptical outsiders in the chain of command. And new faces, too, will make make it easier to correct some of the things the agencies have done that most Americans disapprove of--torture, secret prisons and so on. A careerist probably would have been part of some of that, somewhere along the way. Mr. Panetta certainly has not been.
So, good thinking, Mr. Presdent-elect, and good luck once you take that oath of office. You'll probaby need it.
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