David Ignatius in the Washington Post weighs in this morning on Adm. Fallon’s resignation as head of CENTCOM:
The first thing that many of Adm. William Fallon’s colleagues note about him is that he’s a Navy officer. By that, they mean he has the stubborn self-confidence, some would say arrogance, that is part of command at sea. He knows how to wear his dress whites and receive a snappy salute — and he likes telling people off when he thinks they’re wrong.
Those headstrong qualities were part of why Fallon was chosen to run Central Command, arguably the most important senior post in the U.S. military today.
And they explain why Fallon finally crashed and burned Tuesday, tendering his resignation after his blunt comments to an Esquire magazine writer had gotten him into one too many conflicts with the White House and the military brass.
My. Catty. Describing Tom Barnett as an Esquire magazine writer isn’t enormously different from characterizing George McGovern as a Wall Street Journal writer.
Mr. Ignatius continues by downplaying Adm. Fallon’s opposition to military action against Iran and cataloging the admiral’s willingness to encourage a public debate.
I have no idea why Adm. Fallon resigned nor why he blew up at Tom Barnett’s interview with him in Esquire. Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar. I do know that lots of people are speculating that Adm. Fallon was forced out and this betokens an imminent attack on Iran.
Maybe it’s just me but I seem to hear a lot more about the U. S. invading Iran from people who oppose the Bush Administration than from the Administration itself. I continue to believe that the Bush Adminstration will not attack Iran but for those who do I’ve got a minor challenge. Please give us a date certain, presumably before January 20, 2009, by which, if the Administration hasn’t bombed or invaded Iran, you’ll acknowledge that you’ve misjudged the situation. I certainly will if they do.
I think Barnett’s “no comment” after the resignation indicates his characterization of Fallon was hyperbolic in his importance in preventing war. Cheryl Rofer over at Whirledview has a pretty good post on the subject.
See video: Why Fallon’s Resignation is Frightening Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not have to accept Admiral Fallon’s resignation. “The military people think basically that Admiral Fallon was PUSHED OUT” – Mark Thompson Time Magazine National Security Correspondent
Fallon is described as “the one person in the military or Pentagon standing between the White House and war with Iran.”
“I think Barnett’s “no comment” after the resignation indicates his characterization of Fallon was hyperbolic in his importance in preventing war”
Tom’s assessment may or may not be accurate in the final analysis but he spent an *extensive* amount of F2F time with Fallon and Fallon’s immediate senior staff. This was not a drive by interview. Barnett accompanied Fallon on a major tour of his foreign counterparts in the CENTCOM area. This is the impression he walked away with and if so, it’s because that’s the impression that was driven home to him while he was there. While Admiral Fallon has condemned the Esquire piece he did not say that any of it was false or that he was maliciously misquoted. How could he ? The piece was exceptionally laudatory toward Fallon.
Fallon’s friction with the White House drove the article, the article did not create friction with the White House.
Since I disagree with the premise (that President Bush plans to attack Iran), obviously I don’t agree with the conclusion i.e. that Adm. Fallon was the only barrier to such an attack.
Note that I blame neither Tom Barnett for writing the piece nor Adm. Fallon for giving the interview. However, I do think that Ignatius’s explanation for the resignation is a credible one: that Adm. Fallon’s inclination to air dirty laundry in public was seen as damaging to the White House’s diplomatic strategy.
I don’t think that the administration will attack Iran, barring some information not currently public or some dramatic new development. I think that the administration would be willing to do so, at the right time and in the right circumstances. I hope the next administration will be willing to do so, at the right time and in the right circumstances. I hope that those circumstances and that time do not arrive, but looking at the Iranians’ behavior, I fear that they will. We’re basically in a race between two Iranian factions: those building nuclear weapons and those who are sick and tired of the government. If the former group wins the race, either we or Israel will attack Iran; if the latter wins, an attack should not be necessary.
I cannot imagine an Obama Administration, which I think in many ways would be a re-play of the Carter Administration, attacking Iran under any circumstances whatever. Would a Clinton Administration? Only if it were overwhelming popular. That would require a direct, provable hit by Iran on us or our troops in Iraq. Frankly, I doubt that the Iranian regime would be that stupid. It would take a rogue commander.
As to the domestic overthrow scenario, Jeff, I hope you’re not kidding yourself. The mullahs (like their counterparts in China) will do whatever it takes to hold on to power even if it takes a foreign mercenary army to hold the Iranians down. That’s no exaggeration on my part—it’s already been their practice. China’s military is so large that troops from a faraway province who speak a different language and look different than the locals might as well be a foreign army.
BTW note that, even if Barack Obama does exactly what he says he’s going to do (I don’t think he will), the U. S. will still have 10 combat brigades in Iraq at the end of 2009. As I understand it, that’s the sustainable level and I continue to believe we’ll continue at about that or a little under for the foreseeable future regardless of who’s elected in November.
Barnett may have gotten that impression – it’s just that I think that impression was wrong. I agree with Dave here – that there’s more preventing war with Iran than one Admiral. Barnett essentially made him out to be the only thing standing between war and peace. If bombs do not start dropping soon, then Barnett’s characterization will be demonstrably proven false.