Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) — President George W. Bush is likely to name Admiral William Fallon, the chief of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific, as the next commander in the Middle East, part of a personnel shuffle accompanying a review of Iraq war policy, a U.S. official familiar with the deliberations said.
The 62-year-old Fallon, known as “Fox,” his call sign when he was a Navy fighter pilot, made an unannounced trip to Washington to meet yesterday with Defense Department officials at the Pentagon. While Fallon was under serious consideration to head Central Command, Bush hasn’t made a final decision, the official said. The new commander will be announced as early as Jan. 8.
The next Centcom commander faces the task of trying to end sectarian violence that has undermined Iraq’s government and economy and cost thousands of lives. Declining public support for the war, in which about 3,000 U.S. military personnel have died, was reflected in the shift of control over Congress to Democrats in the November mid-term elections.
A naval aviator does seem like an odd choice for the post. Presumably, there are a number of possible explanations for the appointment:
- The candidate may have experience relevant to the specific job. Col. Pat Lang, hewing to this explanation, suggests that the appointment may suggest that a sea-based attack on Iran is in the offing.
- Despite a lack of specific experience the candidate may have relevant personal qualities or beliefs that suggest that he is the right person for the job. This article by Adm. Fallon, “Understanding the War on Terror”, may cast some light on the choice. In the article, although Adm. Fallon demonstrates an admirable understanding of how the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan fit into the greater War on Terror and notes the importance of intelligence in conducting the GWOT, other things suggest that he may be a high-tech warrior somewhat along the lines of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s vision of the future of the U. S. military.
- There’s a possibility that the contacts established by Adm. Fallon in his previous job at PACOM may become relevant to the new job.
- It’s possible that no one in the Army or Marines with the relevant experience was seen as suitable for the job.
Or, it may just be an error in judgment. Then again, Adm. Fallon may be the only four star who hasn’t gone on record as opposing the “surge”.
In From the Cold sees Fallon’s apointment as another step in the “new” approach to fighting the war in Iraq and the GWOT:
The nomination of Admiral Fallon may be another harbinger of the “new” approach in Iraq and the wider War on Terror, using a wider range of military assets to fight insurgents on various fronts. Fallon’s appointment also suggests a growing concern with regional issues–namely, Iran’s nuclear program–that may ultimately require some sort of U.S. military action. Fallon’s nomination comes amid reports that the U.S. Navy is planning to increase its presence in the Persian Gulf region, with the addition of another carrier battle group. Given his experience in managing forces across the Pacific, the White House–and new Defense Secretary Robert Gates –may believe that Fallon is better suited for implementing a strategy, particularly as it relates to the Middle East as a whole.
James Joyner finds the appointment as puzzling as I do:
My sense of what the CENTCOM job should be was shaped by Norman Schwartzkopf in Desert Storm. Perhaps what we need now, though, is more akin to Dwight Eisenhower’s role in World War II.
Thomas Barnett points to Fallon’s diplomatic skills and notes:
I think it may serve him well in Centcom, where I think his biggest challenges will be dealing with Iran, Syria and others (Saudi Arabia, Israel) who all have their own agendas and can be counted upon to pursue them no matter what the cost to America. We need a serious diplomat in that job, and I believe Fallon was probably the best available guy for the billet right now.
Adm. Fallon has now been nominated formally.