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Petraeus Tapped to Head Mideast Central Command

Defense Secretary Robert Gates nominated Wednesday Gen. David Petraeus to head the U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military experts analyze the change in role and what it means for U.S. military efforts in the region.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The change in command of the U.S. military in Iraq, and to Margaret Warner.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Army General David Petraeus has been the public face of the surge strategy in Iraq that has helped bring down violence and U.S. casualties over the past year.

    His new job, as head of U.S. Central Command, will give him supervision over U.S. military operations from North Africa to Central Asia.

    The man taking Petraeus' place as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, has been Petraeus' deputy there and was one of the designers of the surge strategy.

    The moves were precipitated by the sudden resignation last month of the CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon. He left after a magazine interview suggested he was at odds with administration policies in Iran and Iraq.

    For more, we go to Stephen Biddle, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's taught at the Army War College and written widely on military issues.

    And Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the first Reagan administration, he's now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think-tank.

    And welcome, gentlemen, to you both.

    Stephen Biddle, this shift, is it likely to have any impact on Iraq policy or the conduct of the Iraq war?

    STEPHEN BIDDLE, Council on Foreign Relations: Very little. I think this represents something of a stay-the-course choice that suggests that the president is happy with the kinds of policies we've had in the country over the last year and wants them to continue.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Does it suggest that then there will be no dissenting voice at that higher echelon?

  • STEPHEN BIDDLE:

    Well, I think you're less likely to get a dissenting voice that takes their dissent outside the government. I would like to think that General Petraeus, as the responsibility of any officer at that level of seniority, will, where he disagrees with administration policy, make that clear to the president, up to the time when a decision is reached, even though he's now in the position that Fallon once held.

    Dissent is terribly important. I think you can get it even from people who believe that the policy as a whole is generally sound.

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