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Former Congressman Leon Panetta, who served as budget director and chief of staff to President Clinton before being appointed to lead the CIA by Barack Obama, was confirmed in a 100-0 vote by the U.S. Senate today to take over for outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Panetta oversaw the U.S. military operation that captured and killed Osama bin Laden early in May, which no doubt burnished his reputation and helped guarantee his confirmation by a body that refused to even vote on whether a Nobel Prize-wining economist could serve at the Federal Reserve.

He will be the first Democrat to lead the Pentagon since 1997. Panetta will oversee the military when all indications point to the president outlining a substantial drawdown from Afghanistan during a speech Wednesday, reducing forces to their lowest level since the “surge” of late 2009. Nonetheless, roughly double the number of American soldiers will be in that country as when Obama took office, leaving room to his left for a less hawkish candidate–like former Utah Gov. and China Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who has galled the Republican establishment with his calls for relatively rapid withdrawal–to claim the anti-war vote, a bloc that backed the president in 2007 and 2008 because he opposed the Iraq War from the start.

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Vladimir Putin

Intelligence officials in Great Britain are telling reporters that “the Kremlin’s real goal is to mobilize 1 million,” in the planned conscription announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, according to The Guardian newspaper in London. British defense officials “reiterated in a briefing on Friday that it was their belief it will be very hard for Russia to reach 300,000, never mind any larger figure.”

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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