More Galrahn fun! This is a dumb thing for someone who reports on these issues to write, but for some reason people on blogs and Twitter are causing speculation about a post-Gates Pentagon, and I feel like having some fun. The last time I made a big personnel prediction it was to predict David Petraeus was going to run for president, and unless Petraeus abruptly resigns his command in the next seven days, I will have lost a $100 bet to a senior Army officer. So take what follows in that spirit.

Galrahn suspects Adm. James Stavridis, the admiral who serves as Supreme Allied Commander (I know: whaaaat…), is going to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You can take that to the bank. Stavridis is exceptionally bright, exceptionally young, and exceptionally ambitious even for a four-star admiral. Galrahn doesn’t put it quite in these terms, but Stavridis would continue the intellectual work Adm. Mullen is doing in carving out a vision of the utility and the limits of American military power informed by Iraq and Afghanistan. Gen. Cartwright, the vice chairman under Mullen, has played a crucial role in recasting U.S. nuclear weapons doctrine. But Stavridis is full-spectrum intellectual dominance and, like Cartwright, has a sterling military record. I hope none of that reads like disrespect to Cartwright.

Who’s replacing Gates? It’s going to be Michele Flournoy, fulfilling her destiny as the nation’s first woman defense secretary. Flournoy, the undersecretary for policy, is massively influential within the administration, on everything from Afghanistan to the nuclear posture review. She would have to fail spectacularly at something, and it’s really hard to see what that would be. (Afghanistan? Too many authors of that policy.) The services are — sorry to be vague and passive-voice — said to trust her. I’m looking to her forthcoming keynote at the Center for a New American Security for a sense of what the Flournoy Pentagon will look like.

Hmm, OK. I think I’ve already called Gen. Mattis as Marine Corps Commandant. Gen. Marty Dempsey for Army Chief of Staff? I will stay in my lane on the next CNO and Air Force chief of staff and not hazard a guess. (Yes, this post is me thinking I’ve stayed in my lane…) I shouldn’t really venture anything on Petraeus, but this post is already on the spectrum between Goofy and Journalistically Irresponsible — and yet safe! Pentagon watchers will tell you I’ve just picked the most obvious choices ever for the top two Pentagon jobs —  that I might as well go nuts: National security adviser David Petraeus. Think about it! The shaping of grand strategy. It’s the next logical step, and he’s a plausible candidate for it no matter if a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House.

And I hereby pledge not to say anything snotty about Politico being too personality-driven for the next 30 days.

Update, 12:56 p.m.: Taken for Action tweets that the unwritten rules of services’ sharing the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs knocks Stavridis out for now and clears the deck for an Army general. Personally, I doubt that Gates would care so much… But this whole post is goofy.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman