TO SECRETARY ROBERT GATES, for his National Defense Strategy. It may be audaciously presumptuous for a SecDef to issue “a blueprint to succeed in the years to come” when his tenure is set to expire in less than five months (on paper, anyhow). But by setting out a strategy for balancing the military’s risk between irregular and conventional threats, Gates has done what every wartime defense secretary should: provide his successor with a ground plan that permits a smooth transition and continued progress. The debate over whether the Pentagon has become too strongly focused on irregular warfare will continue; the next commander in chief can choose to use or ignore the document. But with advice such as “the best way to achieve security is to prevent war when possible and to encourage peaceful change within the international system,” Gates sounds more in sync with the future than the past.