I admire Defense Secretary Robert Gates, but I worry that he is writing checks that his successor will be asked to cash. As I understand it, Gates will leave the Pentagon 13 months from now, after the Quadrennial Defense Review is finished. That's also just when push comes to shove on a troop drawdown in Iraq -- can the Obama plan be carried out without destablizing the center of the country? And it is also when we will see whether the new plan to end stop-loss on troops will end.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.