Defense Secretary Robert Gates is, quite by choice, the anti-Rumsfeld—a man so low-key and consensus-oriented that it’s hard to find his fingerprints on any particular policy. But no one can win internal battles the way Gates has been doing in Washington lately without leaving a few traces. To scant notice in recent weeks, Gates seems to have scored a significant victory in the Bush administration’s internal fight over troop withdrawals from Iraq, and he has been perhaps the key player in quelling moves toward a military confrontation with Iran.
You may remember all the hullabaloo over Gen. David Petraeus’s report on the Iraq “surge” a couple of weeks ago. By most media accounts, he came, he testified and then he conquered Capitol Hill. Not so. In the days after the testimony, Gates appears to have won a crucial debate behind the scenes with Petraeus and administration hard-liners who were pushing to keep U.S. deployments at current or at least “pre-surge” levels for the forseeable future. The proof is that he seems to be bringing the president onto his side (in his speech on the Petraeus report, Bush suggested that he wants the reductions to go deeper, as well). [complete article]