MEET THE NEW BOSS?….Faced with a shortage of commanders who believe that a surge escalation in Iraq is a good idea, President Bush has decided on some wholesale changes in his Middle East Team. Lt. Gen. David Petraeus will replace George Casey as commander in Iraq; Adm. William Fallon will replace John Abizaid as Centcom commander; Ryan Crocker will replace Zalmay Khalilzad as amabassador; and of course Robert Gates has already replaced Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Juan Cole is surprisingly upbeat:

The professionals take charge….These are competent professionals who know what they are doing. Gates is clear-sighted enough to tell Congress that the US is not winning in Iraq, unlike his smooth-talking, arrogant and flighty predecessor. Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul. Crocker has been ambassador to Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, and knows the region intimately (as does Khalilzad).

As Cole later implies, the odds at this point are pretty strongly against these guys no matter how good they are, but adds, “If the US in Iraq can possibly have a soft landing, these are the individuals who can pull it off.”

Good luck to them, though I’m not as optimistic as Cole. I hope no one ruins their career over this.