Although Juan Cole sees reason for optimism in recent Bush appointments, I have my doubts.
The professionals take charge. Bush is bringing in Ryan Crocker, a distinguished career foreign service officer, as the new US ambassador to Iraq. And Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. Casey as top ground commander in Iraq. Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing ambassador to Iraq, will go as ambassador to the United Nations, replacing the lying blowhard John Bolton.
...These are competent professionals who know what they are doing. [Robert] Gates is clear-sighted enough to tell Congress that the US is not winning in Iraq, unlike his smooth-talking, arrogant and flighty predecessor. Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul. Crocker has been ambassador to Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, and knows the region intimately (as does Khalilzad).... this team is the farthest from Neoconservative desires that you could possibly get.
Er ... maybe.
I operate on the assumption that Bush appointees fall into two categories: (1) utterly incompetent loyalists who do exactly what the Boy King wants and (2) non-ideologues with some sense of honor and integrity, who sign on in the naive belief that their judgment will be respected even when it contradicts preordained Bushite wisdom, and who are inevitably reduced to potted-plant status within the administration, while their job responsibilities migrate to a loyalist's (frequently Dick Cheney's) office.
If there's a flurry of seemingly competent appointees coming down the pipeline these days, I assume it's because the Bushies are finding it harder and harder to locate incompetent loyalists who'd take an administration position. People whose principal (or only) job skill is loyalty may not know how to get any work done properly, but they tend to have the kind of low cunning that tells them who's a loser and should be avoided. They can see they're not going to get anything positive for themselves out of signing on with the Bush team.
That leaves the sort of people who are willing to make some sacrifice in order to serve their country -- or, as the Bushies refer to them, "suckers."
All of the aforementioned people may be competent. None of it will make a damn bit of difference. They think they'll be allowed to challenge Bush dogma; they won't. The ship will continue to be steered as Bush commands -- in the direction of the rocks.