The person most qualified to replace Robert Gates is Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003. Haass's objective qualifications are easy to summarize. He has served on the national security team at the White House and the Pentagon and has held one of the most demanding and prestigious positions at the State Department – director of policy planning. In his "spare time," he has authored 11 books on foreign policy and national security issues.
More difficult is capturing the esteem in which those who know or have worked with him hold Richard. He reminds one of the old investment company ad: "When E.F. Hutton talks, People Listen." (I'm not sure E.F. Hutton is still in business, but spare me a bit of poetic license.) Whether it is the post-Cold War era, Israeli-Palestinian relations or any other subject he happens to be discussing, Richard is the voice of reason, commanding respect and holding the room's attention. One can say about Richard as was once said about the great sportswriter Grantland Rice, "Where he sits, there sits the head of the table."