Lost in the news about resignations is news about another resignation. Admiral William Fallon, chief of the United States Central Command, resigned Tuesday. It is widely believed he was forced to resign because he opposed military action against Iran.
The resignation may have been triggered by an Esquire interview of Fallon by Thomas P.M. Barnett. Barnett wrote,
If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it’ll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it’ll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance. His name is William Fallon, although all of his friends call him “Fox,” which was his fighter-pilot call sign decades ago. Forty years into a military career that has seen this admiral rule over America’s two most important combatant commands, Pacific Command and now United States Central Command, it’s impossible to make this guy–as he likes to say–“nervous in the service.”
And the moral is, weenies like Dubya and Dick don’t like real men who stand up to them.
There also may have been a clash between Fallon and Gen. Petraeus. From today’s Los Angeles Times:
The inside story of the battle between Adm. William J. Fallon, former head of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, may be studied by military historians years hence. The animosity between the two top military men was personal (Petraeus reportedly thought Fallon was trying to micromanage him). It was political (Petraeus is President Bush’s favorite general, while Fallon’s views put him increasingly at odds with the administration). And it was strategic (Petraeus’ mission is to win in Iraq, while Fallon feared an extended heavy presence there would sap U.S. strength needed to deal with other global challenges). …
… The timing of Fallon’s resignation is provocative. In less than a month, Petraeus will testify again before Congress. The troop surge he recommended is coming to an end in July, as scheduled, because even with extended 15-month deployments, the Army has no more troops to send. The U.S. will be back to its pre-surge troop strength of 130,000, although many military analysts believe that it can sustain a deployment of only 80,000 to 90,000 without breakingthe back of the Army. Nevertheless, Petraeus is expected to ask for a “strategic pause” in further troop withdrawals in order not to jeopardize the much-improved security climate in Iraq. Petraeus will be grilled on whether the less than impressive Iraqi political progress justifies an extended U.S. troop presence.
David Ignatius (yeah, I know, it’s David Ignatius) wrote,
In a May 15 piece from Baghdad, I quoted an upbeat Petraeus: “How long does reconciliation take? That’s the long pole in the tent.” I asked Fallon if he had an assessment of his own, and he said, specifically rebutting Petraeus: “We’re chipping away at the problem. But we don’t have the time to chip away. Reconciliation isn’t likely in the time we have available, but some form of accommodation is a must.”
By last fall, it was clear to Fallon that the key issue was the pace of U.S. withdrawal. If the surge strategy was “conditions-based,” and the surge was going well, Fallon wondered, why weren’t we pressing the advantage and moving for a faster timetable?
IT IS a worrisome sign that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to accept the obviously forced resignation of Admiral William Fallon, chief of the United States Central Command. Even if Gates was right to say, as he did Tuesday, that it would be “ridiculous” to take Fallon’s departure as an augury of war with Iran, the fate of the outspoken admiral suggests that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have learned nothing about the value of letting uniformed military chiefs speak their minds, particularly when they disagree with questionable administration doctrines.
The abrupt resignation yesterday of the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Admiral William J. “Fox” Fallon, has sparked a new round of speculation that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have some sort of plan in the works to attack Iran before their time is up.
Fallon’s resignation — or firing — was apparently precipitated in part by a recent Esquire profile that depicted him as brazenly pushing back against the White House hawks eager to launch another war.
Now it turns out that what Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former Naval War College professor, wrote in that profile was eerily prescient: “How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?
“The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.
“Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon’s statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.
“Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon’s caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don’t want a commander standing in their way.
“And so Fallon, the good cop, may soon be unemployed because he’s doing what a generation of young officers in the U. S. military are now openly complaining that their leaders didn’t do on their behalf in the run-up to the war in Iraq: He’s standing up to the commander in chief, whom he thinks is contemplating a strategically unsound war.”
This comes as a serious blow to any sane policy in the Mid-East.