Fred Kaplan at Slate writes positively about the man tapped to become Rumsfeld's successor as the president's Secretary of Defence.
My comment: No one seems to be speaking openly about it, but the next step toward denouement in the Middle East is almost certainly going to involve Iran more than Iraq. It is no accident that Gates' CV includes, shall we say delicately, more than a passing familiarity with Iran. As I recall, the famous "Iran-Contra Affair" was a scheme to sell weapons to Iran and pipeline the proceeds to groups in South America, specifically the "Contras" of Nicaragua, to whom we would now refer as "insurgents" whose aim it was to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.
Gates is more the get-along scholar—professional, fastidious, and nonpartisan. If George W. Bush was looking for an utterly uncontroversial figure to calm nerves, settle bureaucratic hostilities, and re-establish credibility on Capitol Hill, he could have found no one more suitable than Robert Gates.
Throughout his Washington career, Gates cut a deliberately low profile. He worked in four administrations, of both parties, and stirred few feathers in any of them. I wrote a profile of Gates in 1987, when Reagan first tried to make him CIA director. (I was national-security reporter for the Boston Globe at the time.) Everyone I interviewed in the intelligence community used the same words to describe him: "extremely professional," "an excellent scholar," "not an ideologue," "a tough taskmaster." Some were critical. "He's not a guy to break new ground," one CIA official who'd worked with him told me. "I found him to be the perfect staff officer, an enthusiastic guy, an applauder."
All these traits probably sum up what Bush—and both his partisans and his critics—are looking for: a soothing conciliator who also keeps his nose to the grindstone.
Is it possible that our new Secretary of Defense has some old contacts in Iran that might now be brought into play as that country, the source of "controlled chaos" in Iraq, the old nemesis of Saddam, the most important Shiite state in the world, and yet another vendor of the world's oil supply (oops, sorry...we know it isn't about that...) will have to be part of whatever resembles peace in the region?
See also Vali Nasr's reference to "controlled chaos" here.
Tip CFR for the Slate link.