Anti-war Democrats, like Brent Budowsky, are disappointed in the decision to keep Robert Gates on as Defense secretary for at least one more year. So far they can see not one appointee in the Change Administration who opposed the invasion of Iraq. It's not clear that anyone will appear, but for the choice of Gates, I want to thank President-elect Barack Obama.

The retention of a proven expert, a valued public servant who is seen as nonpartisan and non-ideological, is critical when we are at war in two countries and an economic crisis now threatens to consume at least the entire first term of the next president.

Choosing Gates, which also fulfills a pledge to bring Republicans to the table of his Cabinet, means Obama really plans to spend the bulk of his time trying to right the economic ship by creating and preserving jobs, protecting pensions, keeping people in their homes, increasing wages, investing in job training and even, perhaps, expanding healthcare. While he focuses on these vexing problems, he can count on Gates to continue his solid leadership at the Pentagon, continuing to ensure Iraq remains stable, stable enough that American troops can leave eventually. Imagining someone learning the ropes with our national security challenges now is a chilling thought.

I was struck too by what Richard Danzig, who advises Obama on national security matters, said about Gates staying on: that he could do "even better" under new leadership. Let's hope that's true.

But I feel safer already.

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