Panetta is not likely to stand for his agents missing, oh, little events like the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 9/11 attacks and the failure to actually find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq among other embarrassing screw-ups. A smart guy who represented California with distinction in Congress and who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, Panetta will demand and get accountability from his officers and analysts. And if the galactic mistakes continue to occur, heads will likely -- and appropriately -- roll in Langley.
Think about it.
How effective do you think a bunch of Americans in suits who don't speak the language are going to do in downtown Tehran?
The great thing about America being a nation of immigrants is that our population presents a rich, deep and culturally-diverse recruiting pool for our intelligence agencies to draw from. We can hire and train smart, savvy patriots who actually look like and talk like the people we're spying on. I know, crazy, huh?
We all know that we live in an increasingly dangerous world. We live in a world where fanatics plot to destroy us, our way of life and our democracy with every breath they take.
Panetta, who is set to be confirmed by the Senate early next month, knows the best way to minimize any further American bloodshed is to take the fight to the enemy -- to defeat him or her on their home shores, not ours. The only way to do that is to remake the CIA into the best foreign intelligence service in the world.
Because of all of its recent gaffes, the CIA has become the whipping boy of commentators (like me) and late-night comedians alike and that's a shame. Morale within the organization has to be at an all-time low. Panetta no doubt knows this and will go about quickly restoring pride to this important agency. I think it's fair to say that all Americans -- especially his fellow Californians -- wish him and the agency the best of luck as they go forward.
The question of how we might determine whether Panetta is successful will mostly be determined by the lack of anymore 9/11's or major dropped balls. In Panetta's soon-to-be secret world, success is quietly measured by what doesn't happen -- by what doesn't make the headlines, CNN or the network nightly news.
For all of our sakes, here's to the next four years being very quiet. Very quiet indeed.