I apologize for writing short posts the past couple of days. I’m kind of swamped right now.

Also, a reminder that tonight at 9 pm EST I’ll be on web radio at Buzz Tok. You can participate in the show by going here. The planned topic is the politics of torture.

On to Pakistan — Apparently the Taliban have overrun large parts of Pakistan. There is genuine concern that Pakistan — nuclear-armed Pakistan, mind you — will devolve into a territory of warlord-led fiefdoms, sort of like Somalia.

The resurgence of the Taliban in Pakistan is not a new thing. This has been unfolding since the end of 2001, when much of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan were able to escape into Pakistan. I remember sitting in on a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006, and Thomas Friedman and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan talked about the Taliban, and how it was a really bad problem for Pakistan, and getting worse.

If you want to say that Pervez Musharraf also was a really bad problem for Pakistan I hear you, but the point is that events in Pakistan now have been building since 2001, at least (some would say you have to go back about 50 years to find the beginning of the story) and what’s happening now is the fruit of more than seven years of failure to deal with it realistically.

And if I had the time I would love to write a long analysis of how and why the Taliban problem wasn’t dealt with realistically. However, the short version is that the Bushies’ simple-minded worldview caused them to sort everyone into two piles, labeled “Evildoers” and “BFFs,” and Musharraf was in the BFFs pile. This in turn led to all kinds of misjudgments and miscalculations about Pakistan. As I said, I wish I had more time to go into it.

Today I noticed some rightie sites expressing new alarm about Pakistan, as if everything in Pakistan had been just hunky-dory until recently. But I also notice leftie sites aren’t dealing with it much at all, yet. Yes, it’s complicated enough to give one a headache, but it’s important.

A few days ago I was chatting with someone with a large presence on the left side of the Web — I won’t name names — and when I mentioned the Taliban in Pakistan he brushed my remark aside — oh, the Taliban are not a problem, he said. I don’t believe this is a majority view on the Left, but I don’t think it’s an uncommon one, either.

Listen, folks, just because the Bush Administration said the Taliban is dangerous doesn’t mean it isn’t.

What should the Obama Administration do? I don’t have a clue. There may be little we can do, at this point.

An aside — many news stories coming out of Pakistan mention Swat or the Swat Valley. I have some historic background on Swat on the other blog.

When Failure Is an Option

Rush and other mouthpieces for movement conservatism are not backing down from their public wish that Barack Obama fails. As Dave Neiwert says, his excuse for this is the time-honored foundation of all conservative morality — That other kid did it first.

Limbaugh: Did the Democrats want the war in Iraq to fail?

[Crowd shouts:] Yeah!

Limbaugh: Well, they certainly did. And they not only wanted the war in Iraq to fail, they proclaimed it a failure! There’s Dingy Harry Reid, waving a white flag, ‘This war is lost. This war — ‘ They called General Petraeus a liar before he even testified! [Boos.] Mrs. Clinton — [Loud boos] … Said she had to suspend, willingly suspend disbelief for whenever one had to listen to Petraeus. We were in the process of winning the war and the last thing they wanted was to win. They hoped George Bush failed.

Dave’s comment:

It would be one thing if Republicans were simply warning that Obama’s stimulus plans were doomed to failure. We’d understand that. It certainly would mirror how we felt about the Iraq war: we believed it was a doomed enterprise that would not only cost far more in human lives than anything that might possibly be gained from it, but would actually worsen the conditions for terrorism it purportedly meant to combat. We recognized that Bush’s rosy scenarios might come to pass, but we doubted it deeply — and said so, and rightly.

But it’s another thing altogether to openly hope for failure — in the case of the Iraq war, because it meant American soldiers would die needlessly, an outcome no one who loves America would want; and in the case of the economy, because it means that America is doomed to slide into a Depression. It will mean that millions of Americans will lose their jobs, millions will slide into poverty, and misery will be rampant.

Of course, from the moment the invasion of Iraq became public discussion, any arguments against it evoked howls about “Fifth Columnists” and “Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys” from the Right. I do not believe most of them see a difference between expressing the opinion that X is a bad idea and wanting X to fail. There’s a huge difference, of course, but I suspect it would be easier to teach algebra to a gerbil than to teach that difference to your standard wingnut. I personally would not want to waste my time trying.

However, it’s also the case that when a wingnut evokes “Iraq” and the rest of us speak of “Iraq,” we’re talking about entirely different things. I go back to my contention that right wingers, like the Tamarians of Star Trek TNG, see everything as part of a vast mythology.

When most people think of the War in Iraq, they see the Mother of All Boondoggles; a hopeless mess that was entered into foolishly, for reasons that proved to be false, and without proper planning, that has wasted billions (at least) of taxpayer dollars, has taken the lives of 4,255 American soldiers (so far), has caused immeasurable stress and hardship for military and reservists’ families, has drastically decreased our military’s ability to respond to other (and possible real this time) crises, has eroded American prestige, has probably increased the risk of another terrorist attack, and has generally pissed off the planet.

When you say “Iraq” to a wingnut, however, out of the misty haze of his brain comes a mythical vision of good versus evil, where the shining forces of righteousness (righties) eternally battle the dark, malevolent Other (everybody else). And victory over the Other is not really about the Middle East or even 9/11. It’s about preserving Christmas and Jesus and gun shows, and the right of white Americans to hear no language but English spoken in the aisles of Wal-Mart. And, of course, conquering the Other requires unwavering faith. To doubt is to embolden the enemy. Through our very brain waves, we doubters gave strength to the Other; and because we refused to clap, the fairy almost died.

For the rest of us, who think somewhat more analytically, if we are accused of wanting the war in Iraq to “fail,” I’d have to ask for clarification. What part of it exactly did we want to “fail”? We on the Left do have a pubescent fringe whose antics are lovingly documented by Michelle Malkin as representative of all of us, but the truth is that Democratic Party leaders and the huge majority of liberal political activists have been supportive of the troops all along, and have not spoken against military victory in Iraq. Nor am I aware of anyone who has opposed democratic elections in Iraq or hoped the government of Iraq would fail and be replaced by a junta of Islamic radicals.

What we’ve opposed, other than the damnfool invasion itself, is the incompetence and corruption. It’s the way the Bush Administration was perpetually six months (at least) behind in responding to ongoing developments. It’s the way billions of taxpayer dollars have been soaked up by corrupt contractors or just plain evaporated. It’s the way the Bush Administration was forever coming up with post-hoc strategies that were more about domestic consumption than real-world application.

Because we actually noticed this stuff, and commented on it out loud, we were not playing by the rules of rightie myth. “Winning” requires us all to shut our eyes, keep visions of John Wayne at Iwo Jima in our heads, and to speak only of honor, glory and resolve.

On the other hand, if President Obama’s stimulus programs fail, we and much of the rest of the planet will be plunged into another Great Depression. We might end up there, anyway, for policies that are too little and too late. But not acting pretty much guarantees it.

Now, it may be that righties really don’t want another Great Depression, any more than I supported Saddam Hussein or wanted Iraq to collapse into a failed state. (Note to wingnuts: I didn’t, and I didn’t.) They just don’t comprehend that we’ll end up there if we don’t get currency moving through peoples’ hands again, and fast. Whether they don’t understand this because they’re blinkered by ideology or just plain stupid, I’ll let you decide. The fact is that the Right hasn’t come up with a alternative plan beyond oh, let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is what got us into this mess. Not an option.

Then you’ve got the faction (most righties, I suspect) who sincerely believe Barack Obama is an agent of totalitarian socialism who is trying to undermine republican government and turn the U.S. into a gulag. These are the same people who are insulted if you call them “John Birchers,” mind you.

If one really believes this, then I suppose it would be one’s patriotic duty to want Barack Obama to fail. I would argue it’s their patriotic duty to get professional help.

Update: See John Cole.

Cease Fire in Gaza

Israel voted last night to begin a unilateral cease fire in Gaza, although exactly when the cease fire will begin is unclear. My guess is that it will be some time before Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed his nation last night and declared that “we have reached all the goals of the war, and beyond.” Hamas is not expected to stop fighting, so exactly what the goals were is not clear. Although maybe it is. The Talking Dog wrote two weeks ago,

IMHO, Israel’s government has, for its own domestic political purposes (how widely reported here is it that an Israeli general election is scheduled for February 10, 2009?) decided to “get tough on Hamas,” which, of course, has certainly been trying to provoke something like this for as long as it has controlled Gaza. And so, much will be blown up, many will be killed or wounded, and at some point (presumably before January 20th), “military objectives will have been achieved,” and, well… “calm” will be restored, which, of course, is the same utterly psychotic “status quo”

The Israeli army will remain in place, Olmert said, and will respond with force if Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. However, Israel expects Hamas will engage in a “new flurry of rocket launches.” And, one suspects, Hamas will continue to find ways to fire rockets into Israel no matter how many troops Israel deploys. Trying to control a group like Hamas with force is like trying to smash mercury with a hammer.

The Talking Dog says today,

And so one must ask just what those goals were… now that there are over 1,200 Gazans (and 13 Israelis)dead (and thousands of Gazans wounded)… one must ask again when among the dead are three daughters and a niece of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose house came under Israeli fire… Abuelaish, a peace activist, is one of the few Gazans permitted to regularly cross to the Israeli side to work as a physician on both sides of the Israel/Gaza border.

Congratulations, geniuses. One of the few Palestinians of any stature who genuinely believes in the prospects for peaceful coexistence, and you’ve gone ahead and targeted his house, and killed three of his daughters. Way to go.

What Israel has accomplished is increase sympathy for Hamas, which will accrue resources and recruits in Hamas’s favor, resulting in turn in more Isaeli deaths in the future. The death spiral continues. As the Dog says, no one is suggesting that Israel passively accept rockets being launched into its territory. But there’s reacting, and there’s responding. There’s stupid fighting, and smart fighting. Israel chose “stupid.” And the same lame-brains who love the Iraq War are cheering them on.

Via Juan Cole, John J. Mearsheimer writes in The American Conservative that with “victories” like this, Israel doesn’t need defeats. In a nutshell, Mearsheimer says what Israel really wants is a permanent ethnic Apartheid, which if achieved likely will doom Israel.

See also Bob Ostertag, “A Better Source for News on Gaza.”

What’s Obama to Do?

Simon Tisdall writes at The Guardian that Barack Obama is making a big mistake by not being more assertive about Gaza.

Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.

But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama’s detachment – and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush’s strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush’s bias or simply does not care.

I sincerely understand that the world’s hair is on fire, and it is dashing about frantically wanting someone to take charge of things, and where the bleep is the POTUS?

But, in effect, there is no POTUS. Or, rather, there is the aggregate of protoplasm known as “George W. Bush” taking up space where there ought to be a POTUS, and that’s how it’s going to be for a few more days. As eager as everyone is for Obama to get on with things, there are arguments to be made for his staying out of the way until he gets the actual power of office in his hands.

First, like it or not, it really would not do to have two administrations going on at the same time. If (Buddha forbid) something might happen that would require the current Administration to act, there can be no confusion as to who is in charge. Well, OK, at the moment no one is in charge. But, legally, Obama cannot step into that vacuum, as tempting as it might be to have him do so. That is a precedent that should not be set, or else it could cause genuine havoc in the future.

We’ve had quite enough of ignoring the rule of law in the Bush Administration. One of the things we all hope President Obama will do is restore proper Constitutional checks and balances.

As fluid and combustible as the Mideast situation is, I think it would be unwise for Obama to issue statements about what he will do as soon as he takes office, because by the time he takes office the situation might be drastically changed. Again, I don’t see the point.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. What do you think?

Stuff to Talk About, Seriously

Finally, let’s talk about the word “serious.” There’s a thoughtful post by Peterr at firedoglake about Munib Younan, now the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). Peterr met Bishop Younan 20 years ago, when the bishop was a parish priest in Ramallah, on the West Bank. So the bishop is a man who has been living in the center of the Palestinian-Israeli controversy for many years.

Peterr quotes from a talk given by Bishop Younan in 2007, in which the bishop begins by referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

[W]ho would have imagined that less than two decades later we would be back to building walls? I have no doubt that the Separation Wall in the Holy Land will one day fall for the same reasons. The only question is how many lives, how many shattered and demolished villages, how much dehumanization and stigmatization will we tolerate?

This Wall is not a sign of justice or peace, it is a material sign of the walls of hatred that are growing stronger everyday. This wall does not provide security, it breeds despair and a culture of separation. And it cannot contain the hatred and resentment that are building every day.

Yes, sadly, of course that is right. But I want to get back to the word “serious.” McQ of Q and O blog dismisses the Bishop’s comments — “Anyone who can liken a wall erected to keep oppressed citizens in with a wall erected to keep suicidal enemies out simply can’t be taken seriously.”

No, Bishop Younan is only a Christian bishop who has lived his life pastoring and serving the people who live with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict every day. What could he know? We can’t take him seriously. Only people sitting in their living rooms on the other side of the world can possibly be serious about the Middle East.

(Do some people ever stop to think that, maybe, other people may understand the world better than they do?)

But this is a common tactic of the left – attempt to draw parallels between any totalitarian regime and Israel so its attempts at self-defense can then be compared to those oppressive regimes.

I can understand someone taking offense at comparing Israel to the Soviet Union, because it is not a valid comparison. However, the Bishop’s larger point is valid, especially in the second paragraph — the walls of hatred that are growing stronger everyday. This wall does not provide security, it breeds despair and a culture of separation. And it cannot contain the hatred and resentment that are building every day.

I don’t often write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because there are other people writing about it who follow it more closely than I do — I do not, in fact, claim to know everything about everything — and I defer to their knowledge. However, I do follow it closely enough to know that ain’t nobody innocent. There has been enough wrongdoing and stupidity on both sides to fill oceans. This conflict is not going to stop with military victory. It’s going to stop when enough people are damn sick of it and want it to just stop.

Yes, the Israelis have reason to hate the Palestinians. And the Palestinians have reason to hate the Israelis. Somebody show me the practical application of hate. This is just going to keep escalating unless enough people are able to rise above their own emotions and self-indulgent need for revenge and just stop it.

As for oppressed people versus suicidal enemies — the two do seem to arise together, don’t they? People who identify themselves as oppressed give themselves permission to use violence to fight back. People who see other people are dangerous enemies give themselves permission to oppress. They not only can be “likened” to each other; they create each other. They co-exist in a sick symbiosis. Seriously.

Jaw Jaw

The Right is still trying to paint Barack Obama as an “appeaser.” In a hopelessly muddled column that, I believe, originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick argues that talking to Iran would be appeasement. Glick writes,

OBAMA’S RESPONSE to Bush’s speech was an effective acknowledgement that appeasing Iran and other terror sponsors is a defining feature of his campaign and of his political persona. As far as he is concerned, an attack against appeasement is an attack against Obama.

This, of course, is a flat-out lie. Obama’s position is that talking is not the same thing as appeasing, which happens to be true. Look it up.

Glick continues,

Obama and his supporters argue that seeking to ease Iranian belligerence by conducting negotiations and offering military, technological, military and financial concessions to the likes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who refers to Israel as pestilence, daily threatens the Jewish state with destruction, and calls for the eradication of the US while claiming to be divinely instructed by a seven-year-old imam who went missing 1100 years ago is not appeasement.

I don’t have time to do an exhaustive search, but when did Obama say he intended to offer “military, technological, military and financial concessions” to anybody? The controversy over Obama’s position, I thought, was that he intends to have talks without “preconditions,” meaning (to me) that any deals that might be struck would be a result of talks, not that talks would be the result of a deal.

Obama recalls that US presidents have often conducted negotiations with their country’s enemies and done so to the US’s advantage. And this is true enough. President John F. Kennedy essentially appeased the Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when he offered to remove US nuclear warheads from Turkey in exchange for the removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba.

I believe that is, in fact, what happened.

But there are many differences between what Kennedy did and what Obama is proposing. Kennedy’s offer to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was made secretly. And the terms of the deal stipulated that if its existence was revealed, the US offer would be cancelled.

Exactly why does secrecy make the deal less of an “appeasement”? Later in the article Glick says Obama “wants to undermine US credibility while giving Ahmadinejad and his murderous ilk the legitimacy that Kennedy refused to give Khrushchev.” Legitimacy? What did legitimacy have to do with anything then? I recall Kennedy had face-to-face meetings with Khrushchev at some other point in his presidency, as did Eisenhower. Our heads of state in those days were not burdened by the Bushies’ childish attitude that we should punish people we don’t like by not talking to them.

As I remember it — again, I’m sorry I don’t have time for history research this morning — the negotiations over the Cuban missiles were kept secret to allow both governments to stand down from the crisis without losing face to their respective citizens. Kennedy had been concerned that if he attacked Cuba, the Soviets would retaliate by attacking West Berlin. Basically what happened is that while publicly saber-rattling, privately the Kennedy Administration was willing to concede a great deal to the Soviets to prevent war. And vice versa.

More importantly, Khrushchev was open to a deal and was ready to give up the Cuban nuclear program. And – most importantly of all – Kennedy deployed military forces and went to the brink of war to make the alternatives to negotiation credible.

Kennedy didn’t want war, but Khrushchev didn’t want war, either. This made for a decent basis for striking a deal. I agree that Teddy R.’s advice to carry a big stick probably is still operative, but I haven’t heard that Obama plans to dismantle the U.S. military. Oh, wait …

Obama has repeatedly stated that unlike Kennedy, if he is elected president, he will not openly threaten war while being open to private talks. Instead, Obama intends to surrender the war option while conducting direct, public negotiations with the mullahs.

The plain fact is that the stick’s not as big as it used to be. Back in the day the Soviets rightly feared us, as we feared them. But after getting bogged down in Iraq all these years, who’s afraid of us now?

And saying that one will not openly threaten war is not the same thing as surrendering the “war option.” But to threaten a war option we must have a credible war option, and thanks to Iraq I don’t think we do.

Far from exerting force to strengthen his diplomatic position, Obama has pledged to withdraw US forces from Iraq where they are fighting Iranian proxies, cut military spending and shrink the size of the US nuclear arsenal.

We need to talk about military priorities. Every day we spend in Iraq whittles the stick down a little more. Talk to people in the military, and they will tell you they are seriously concerned about our military readiness. Once we’re out of Iraq it’s going to take years to build the military back up to what it was before we invaded. Military spending needs to be redirected toward restoring our military instead of pouring whatever billion dollars we pour every month into the sands of Iraq.

Put another way, Iraq is the biggest reason we’re neither feared nor respected any more. “Shock and awe” devolved into disgust and ridicule.

SINCE THE definition of appeasement is to reward others for their bad behavior, and since the US has refused for 29 years to reward the Iranians for their bad behavior by having presidential summits with Iranian leaders, Obama’s pledge represents a massive act of appeasement.

Let’s see, what is the definition of appeasement? The American Heritage dictionary defines it as “The policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace.” But merely talking to someone is not appeasement. Again we see right-wingers thinking like eight-year-olds who punish other children they don’t like by refusing to sit next to them.

The notion that we are “rewarding” somebody by engaging in negotiations assumes that the heads of hostile governments actually feel bad that we won’t talk to them, or that our mere presence at a negotiating table is a special privilege only to be handed out to the deserving. This is the way children think.

And as Glick says, we’ve not held summits with the leaders of Iran for 29 years. We can see how well that’s turned out.

Glick goes on and on, and I’m out of time to write further, but skipping down to the last paragraph she says “in a world in which evil men are combining and preparing for war and genocide, good men are preparing for pleasant chitchat with their foes because they have come to prefer attitude to substance.”

Preferring attitude over substance is a brilliant description of the Bush Administration’s approach to foreign policy. The Bushies have no substance; they just whip out their ever-shrinking sticks (double meaning intended) and threaten to hit everyone they don’t like. The challenge to an Obama administration will be to put aside the attitude and embrace substance. I don’t know if that will work, but it’s worth a try. Nobody’s done it in a while.

Another Resignation

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?

From today’s Boston Globe:

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.

Dan Froomkin:

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.”

As Sean-Paul Kelly says,

This comes as a serious blow to any sane policy in the Mid-East.