Austin’s qualities may have worked for him as a general, but not as defense secretary

But Austin will face two potential hurdles, in addition to the challenge of working with the media. First, many members of Congress want to restore strong civilian control at a Pentagon rocked by the Trump presidency. As a former commander, Austin would need a special waiver to serve, and though Congress will probably grant it, some will be uneasy. Second, he lacks experience in the Pentagon’s paramount challenge of reinventing weapons and strategy to counter a rising, high-tech China.

One retired Army four star who worked closely with Austin summarizes his guarded approach to public communications this way: “It’s better not to say anything. You don’t make problems for yourself that way. The less said, the better.”…

Here’s what this choice suggests about Biden and the military: Biden was a skeptic of the United States’ deepening involvement in the Middle East during the Obama years. This reticence may explain the Austin nomination. Sometimes it takes a retired general to say no to other generals, and that may be just what Biden wants.