Mr. Gates is, along with James A. Baker III, perhaps the greatest non-presidential public servant of the post-war age. One more thing. Perhaps better than anyone alive, he knows how the world works.
These days the world isn’t working all that well, and the same can be said about Washington. It’s the latter that preoccupies Mr. Gates, who is to leave office this week. Last Sunday Chris Wallace asked Mr. Gates what was the big lesson he had learned during all that time in the capital. Here’s his answer on Fox News Sunday:
“That when we have been successful in national security and foreign affairs, it has been because there has been bipartisan support. And agreement between the president and the Congress that the fundamental strategy — maybe not all the tactics, maybe not all the specific decisions — but that the fundamental strategy is the correct one. That’s what [happened] through nine presidencies and the Cold War that led to our success, because no major international problem can be solved on one president’s watch. And so, unless it has bipartisan support, unless it can be extended over a period of time, the risks of failure [are] high.”