- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cleans out his desk and heads for retirement, Ido Oren of the University of Florida highlights what might have been his most important accomplishment: preventing a war with Iran. Money quotation:
"This scenario [of war with Iran] failed to materialize because the political forces pushing for active consideration of the military option — Vice President Dick Cheney’s camp in the George W. Bush White House, hawkish pundits, key congressional leaders and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — have been outmaneuvered by an informal antiwar coalition that included the Pentagon, the military’s top brass, the intelligence community and the Department of State.
This coalition was ably led by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is stepping down from his post at the end of the month. If one person were to receive the top credit for preventing an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, it would be Gates."
This non-incident also reminds us that sometimes policymakers succeed not by achieving some positive goal, but by helping produce a "non-event"; in this case, preventing the dogs of war from barking. Those who’d like the United States to be at odds with the entire Muslim world for the next century or so are probably disappointed that we didn’t add Iran to the list that now includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya (and arguably, Pakistan), but the rest of us should be grateful for this rare bit of sanity.