SECDEF speculation: General Wes Clark
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the year. Speculation is already abounding on who will fill that job. Some are thinking that another Republican should take the seat. I am pretty sure that this is not essential - indeed, it would be the death knell for their political career if they did, especially in this highly partisan atmosphere (although it would be nice to pick off an entrenched Senator - although a vulnerable one may be better). I don't expect something so Byzantine. What I suspect is Byzantine enough.
I remember back at the Denver Convention that a group of retired generals took the stage. Among these, and probably organizing them, was former presidential candidate and NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark. Until he spoke the truth about Senator McCain's lack of command experience while in military service, General Clark was considered Vice Presidential material. We didn't see much of him after that.
General Clark was considered a candidate for Secretary of State, however President Obama instead called on Hillary Clinton for that post and she has performed well. He was also a possible presidential candidate last time and it would be expedient if the war in Afghanistan goes badly to keep him out of the race next time. The surest way to do that, and to make sure that the war does not turn out badly, would be to appoint General Clark as the Secretary of Defense. This could not happen earlier, as retired generals are not allowed to serve as SECDEF for a number of years after their military service. That number of years has about concluded. The timing suggests that Secretary Gates was keeping the seat warm for General Clark. His experience in negotiating the Dayton accords, which stopped the Serb genocide of Bosnian Muslims, gives him the credibility to oversee a negotiated settlement of the Afghan occupation. If he can pull it out, the issue is neutralized from both left and right for 2012. Given his general health and fitness (Wes is an avid runner), a 2016 Clark run of a different kind is not out of the question.