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The Gates Memo


Starting in 2005, when the Washington Post printed classified wartime intelligence about secret detention sites abroad, about five of us wanted serious investigations and prosecutions. None came. Then the New York Times got into the act, exposing similarly classified information, first about our terrorist-monitoring program, then about our program to monitor international terrorist financing. All three of these intelligence and national-security programs were blown, and blown up. The Left celebrated the press for breaking the stories; Pulitzers were handed out.

Finally, last week, we saw an announcement of the prosecution of an NSA employee who leaked information to the Baltimore Sun — but it was over a story none of us had thought much of, if we read about it in the first place; small beer at best. Really, the worst thing about all those stories was the leaking and publication of them — not what they were reporting.

Not so anymore.

Yesterday, the New York Times was at it again, this time reporting on a classified memo written earlier this year by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The headline says it all: “Gates Says US Lacks a Policy to Thwart Iran.” Many of us have been talking about this for several years, with increasing volume and concern since about January 2009, as the Obama administration made a public practice of its efforts to further engage Iran in negotiations while Iran publicly denounced us and thwarted those overtures at every turn. This morning’s reported and expected backtracking by Gates is of little and not very credible comfort.

If we who’ve been critical of our Iran non-policy have been tempered in our worry up until now, or given any sense of comfort, it was only because we assumed the government was doing more than they said, that somewhere at Langley or the Pentagon there was a plan to protect us from the worst terrorist state acquiring the worst weapons possible. The Times story yesterday, however, blows any such repose.

The Times states that our negotiations strategy with Iran has “collapsed,” and Mr. Gates’s memo “appears to reflect concerns in the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.” This despite warnings, red flashing lights, and sirens, if you will, from a lot of us (including Hillary Clinton before she became secretary of state) that such negotiations were a fool’s errand.

Now we know the following, assuming the Times article is accurate: Iran is still hellbent on building nuclear weapons. It is a country that has been at war with us for 30 years, has taken American hostages, has killed Americans, and threatens to kill more of us and wipe an ally of ours off the map. And we have no military plan to arrest, delay, or prevent any of this — despite repeated warnings from experts and commentators. In three years, maybe less, if nothing dramatic changes on our side, someone is going to write a book, While America Slept. Hopefully, it will be published while there are still Americans, and Israelis, alive to read it.