Two things this morning I will touch on briefly. The crisis in the Middle East (when is there not a crisis in the Middle East) has escalated into a ground war in the Gaza Strip. This was a fear from the very beginning of this latest conflict and proof that Israel wants to totally cripple Hamas.
Despite very diplomatic statements, Israel cannot be at ease until the political party that does not recognize Israel's right to exist is no longer capable of doing severe damage.However, the rush to move indicates that a cease-fire will go into effect within the next fourteen days. Why fourteen days? Because on January 20th, President Bush will no longer be in office and Israel would like to accomplish its mission while they have a known friend in office.
Ever since the Democratic Primaries, there has been a concern that Obama will not be as friendly, meaning lenient, towards Israel as Bush currently is. I believe that every U.S. President from this moment on will be friendly towards Israel. Israel has the right to exist and has held that right since 1947. Unless Israel commits atrocities beyond mortal comprehension towards the Palestinian people, that will not change, arguments on proportional attacks not withstanding.
As for the new hire, the nomination of Leon Panetta for CIA Director does not "light my Lucky" as the old expression goes. Panetta may be able to handle the job, but he currently has no intelligence experience. However, considering the current actions of the U.S. intelligence community over the past eight years, that may be a good thing.
For those of us in Mississippi that remember, Panetta, a former U.S. Congressman from California, was the mastermind behind the resignation of Mike Espy as Secretary of Agriculture. Panetta, as President Clinton's Chief of Staff, pushed hard behind the scenes to get Espy out while he was under investigation by the Justice Department, while also lobbying the President to appoint someone from his home state. It is known throughout the Beltway that California politicians covet the Secretary of Agriculture position as they constantly remind all who would listen that their state is the largest agriculture producer in the country. By the way, in case you forgot, Espy was cleared of all charges.
Panetta is a Washington insider to the nth degree. Maybe that is what Obama needs in that office, but this appointment will draw more criticism than any other appointment of the Obama team, primarily because of his lack of intelligence experience. In a time where the credibility of the agency is in question, it is telling that no one with significant experience was deemed worthy enough of changing that perception.
Panetta is a gamble for Obama, but it may be one that pays off. For the sake of our national security, let's hope so.