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Admiral Fallon Resigns

On CNN tight-lipped SECDEF Robert Gates just announced the resignation of Admiral Fallon as commander of CENTCOM over Tom’s recent profile in Esquire, who then snapped that it was ” Ridiculous!” that Fallon’s removal signaled potential war with Iran ( as claimed in the article).

Of course, while the idea of imminent hostilities might be “ridiculous” you don’t often have a senior 4 star flag officer who has held two combatant commands removed simply over press reports that are legitimately categorized as “ridiculous”. These are dismissed out of hand, everyone chuckles and then they move on.


Galrahn at Information Dissemination has an outstanding post that I believe nails some troubling aspects of this episode:

Think Long and Hard as You Contemplate What This Means

….I might be mistaken, but I believe we are witness to Bush fire his first General/Admiral of the war. Think long and hard as you contemplate what that means.

There has been a political split in the Pentagon since 2005, when those who wanted to move forward under the cooperative model as opposed to the unilateral model for military action were able to shift the Pentagon position through the release of official strategic papers. Under Gates, the Pentagon has tried to shift to a cooperative phase from what has been a unilateral phase of military action. The cooperative approach is championed by Rice, Gates, and people like Adm. Fallon. Many neo-conservatives, which unfortunately includes a bunch of big blue Navy folks I won’t name specifically, form up the unilateral military action side.

….If you didn’t read the Esquire piece, or didn’t read my earlier response, you may of just missed what could in fact be a signal of war to Iran. I know one thing, if I was Iran, that is the only way to read this. There was a message for Iran in the Barnett article:

Admiral William Fallon shakes his head slowly, and his eyes say, These guys [Iran] have no idea how much worse it could get for them. I am the reasonable one.

Are we assuming the Bush administration can’t read, Barnett is saying that, Barnett makes all the cuts at the Bush administration in the article, not Fallon. Barnett appears to have been dead right though. Reasonable people who do nothing wrong don’t quit because a reporter writes an article bad about a politician, but unreasonable people can make that person quit. I really am stunned, I have never really believed the US was going to strike Iran until today.

“Unilateral” or ” Near Peer Competitor Faction” is probably a better descriptor in my view, than is “neo-conservative”, which is now a term of abuse that has wandered far from it’s original meaning but I’m not a Navy-watcher. Maybe there is a William Kristol book club or something at Annapolis that I’m not aware of; regardless I agree that it’s likely the White House hit the roof over Tom’s Esquire story on Fallon and insisted that Fallon’s head roll.

Dr. Barnett is letting his article speak for itself. Good for him

Critt is grazring the Fallon story

26 Responses to “Admiral Fallon Resigns”

  1. Eddie Says:

    Maybe it was his plan all along to use the furor over the article as a breaking point for him to retire. Yet I don’t think that’s the case.  Cheney and co. are no less unhinged than they have been over the past few years so I can only expect the worst and hope for the best.  CENTCOM suffers greatly for Admiral Fallon’s retirement.

  2. Galrahn Says:

    4 star flag officers, particularly joint combatant commanders, do not resign in the middle of war because of a media report.

    What does it tell you that Bush just fired his first General/Admiral of the war. Think long and hard before you answer.

    Barnett got the political context of his article all wrong, and by doing so Barnett opened himself up to be the scapegoat for the administration. Ironic the lack of partisanship is Barnett’s weakness, because he isn’t partisan, he isn’t politically savy enough to see this type of political blindside coming.

  3. Lexington Green Says:

    A very unfortunate turn of events.

    Bremer was allowed to remain in charge for a long time while the thing unravelled, then he got some medal for it?  He should have been guillotined. 

    Then Fallon gets shit-canned over Barnett’s article?

    I find this actually scary. 

    Attacking Iran would be an act of madness. 

  4. PurpleSlog Says:

    I would think the signal that matters is: Who gets nominated to replace him?

    I don’t think this will be a long process. He will nominate a  Combatant Commander, elevate Patraeus, move Casey over from ArmyCoS, or move Conway over from Marine Commandant.

    We will know soon.

  5. RT Says:

    Barnett’s lack of Partisanship?

    I think Michael Moore could have written a more objective article…. if someone had been stupid enough to let him embed.

    How many times did he use the phrase "ignorant Neo-Cons" to describe Fallon’s boss and peers?

  6. zen Says:

    Galrahn – your post was outstanding ! Will link shortly.

    Hi RT,

    It’s not partisanship, at least not in the Left-Right sense. Tom’s interview and periodic defenses of Rumsfeld on his blog had ppl on the Left resulted in Tom being called a "Neocon"; to this day, he also defends the decision by the Bush administration to invade Iraq on strategic grounds and argues that North Korea is a good candidate for forcible regime change.

    IMHO, as a writer Tom tends to cultivate considerable enthusiasms, either "pro", as with Fallon or the "Monks of War" piece or "con" as when he was slamming Robert Kaplan a few years back. He can go overboard rhetorically when he is that mode. He was high on Fallon because, like Tom, the admiral knows that attacking Iran without some kind of reasonable casus belli that our allies buy into, will be a strategic disaster for the United States;  not a military disaster – our air power can break the Iranian state and Iran’s retalitory capacity is grossly overhyped – but a diplomatic-political implosion of the first order.

  7. zen Says:

    "Bremer was allowed to remain in charge for a long time while the thing unravelled, then he got some medal for it?  He should have been guillotined. "
    Lex, that was one of the best comments I’ve seen here in a while.

  8. Stephen Pampinella Says:

    I wasn’t sure what to make of this first.  The tone of Barnett’s piece was just as flattering to Fallon as it was disparaging to the President.  But does this signal war with Iran?  I think Kip at <a href="http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2008/03/cowardly-peace-monger-retires-glorious.html"></a>Abu Muqawama might have it pointing to the role of Gates.  He would rather resign himself then kick up another hornet’s nest.  Also, the GOP in general must know that another war (esp w/ Iran) can only hurt McCain’s chances.  So hopefully cooler heads will still prevail.

  9. Stephen Pampinella Says:

    Grr!!!! HTML!

  10. Fabius Maximus Says:

    No comment on the people games in DoD (yes, sometimes people are policy — but usually not).  However, I seriously doubt Bush has the political capital to bomb Iran at this time.   Anything is possible, but the odds seem to go the other way on this.

    This is just a guess, but the significance of Fallon’s exit seems exaggerated imo.

  11. Eddie Says:

    How does Bush not having political capital matter?  He’s got the resolution from last year that essentially authorizes war operations against Tehran if they provoke the US.  You’re also forgetting; he doesn’t care!  When has he shown he understands the concept of feedback in foreign policy, either from the world or from Congress or the American people?  He and his cabal are in their own world, with occasional bouts of reality brought in from Gates.  He can bomb Tehran and there’s nothing Congress or anyone else could do about it for at least 90 days.

  12. CKR Says:

    Listening to the commanders on the ground, as our President always has.
    Sorry for the drive-by comment; busy day today, but I’m hoping to post on this in a larger context.

  13. Eddie Says:

    Kyl-Lieberman Act to be exact… apologies.

  14. Lexington Green Says:

    Someone should get Obama and Clinton to jointly call for revocation of the <a href="http://www.aipac.org/Publications/SourceMaterialsCongressionalAction/KylLiebermanAmendment.pdf">Kyl-Lieberman Amendment</a>.  Hold hearings.  Make the administration come in and explain what it really plans to do about Iran.  

    There is no way that we should just see on Drudge, out of the blue "Massive US Attack on Iran", then Mr. Bush goes on TV and tells us we are now in a new, major war.  That would be lunacy.  But it now seems Mr. Bush, et al. truly are going to "do" Iran before he is out of office.

    This is very worrisome. 

    It is times like this that the superior qualities of the British system become apparent.  Can you imagine the Prime Minister’s questions on Iran?  Can you imagine if Mr. Bush had to stand up six feet away from Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi and answer pointed questions about all this?  Can you imagine if there were rumblings from the backbenches, with his own people demanding the same kind of answers?  Bill Buckley mentioned this in one of his last articles. 

  15. Eddie Says:

    Good point Lex. Though I’m sure if one did, the other (especially Hillary) would label them as "naive". 

  16. ADM Fallon Retires « Principle | Power Says:

    […] [EDIT] Obligatory link to comments at the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Christian Science Monitor. Commentary by Max Boot at the Los Angeles Times, the gang at Abu Muqawama, Galrahn at Information Dissemination, Jules Crittenden at Forward Movement, Westhawk, Jason Sigger at Danger Room, Blackfive, and Zenpundit. […]

  17. Fabius Maximus Says:

    This article presents a more plausible explanation than the "fire Fallon in order to bomb Iran" narrative:  ““Fox” Fallon Wasn’t Hounded Out“, Fred Kaplan, Slate (12 March 2008).  URL:  http://www.slate.com/id/2186456

  18. Mithras Says:

    Someone should get Obama and Clinton to jointly call for revocation of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment.  Hold hearings.  Make the administration come in and explain what it really plans to do about Iran.   There is no way that we should just see on Drudge, out of the blue "Massive US Attack on Iran", then Mr. Bush goes on TV and tells us we are now in a new, major war.  That would be lunacy.  But it now seems Mr. Bush, et al. truly are going to "do" Iran before he is out of office. From your lips to God’s ears, Lexington Green. We on the Left have been trying to raise hell with Pelosi and Reid – hell, any of these so-called Democratic "leaders" who have been running for President- to make Bush be accountable to the people. We’re not asking for the world, we just want the legislative branch to actually do its job for once, and provide the public with enough information to make an informed decision before action is taken. (No, Colin Powell with a chart won’t cut it.) But the Dem leadership is so craven, they cave immediately at the first "treason!" from the Republicans. One of our major goals is to change that with better personnel coming out of the election this November, but by then it may be too late.May I also just say that I resent being made to feel like a Kremlinologist groping through the darkest days of the Cold War just from trying to figure out whether the President is going to start a war or not?

  19. zen Says:

    Hi Mithras,
    Firing Fallon was a loud signal. He was not just a bureaucratic obstacle, the man was highly skilled at organizing the logistical and operational aspects of a theater-wide air campaign and his pushback on moving a third carrier to the gulf signaled to the administration that he was not going to be a "team player" on Iran.
    People are now worrying about the special ops guy McChrystal being brought in at CENTCOM – that’s actually a *good* sign that any messing with Iran will remain at the covert-ops/harrassment/pressure level ( which in my view, is about right as the regime in Teheran  does not have clean hands in the region -they have their own faction that would like to start a war for their own internal purposes and that group needs firm counterpressure). What would really worry me is an aggressive "BigArmy" appointee as a replacement, that would be a bad sign of what was in the offing.

  20. Mithras Says:

    I assume conventional ground operations are out of the question. My nightmare scenario are surprise air attacks against certain Iranian assets, followed by Bush appearing on TV to explain the objectives, and declaring "mission accomplished" and no intention to escalate. I think the Iranians could raise the price to us much faster than we could raise it for them. Worse, public reaction in the Middle East region would be … I can’t express it. There would be no limit to the negative fallout.

    Increased covert ops tempo would be the least bad action that I would expect.

  21. zen Says:

    The worst thing that Iran could do to us is raise the price of oil and will have accomplished that in spades simply by attacking them. Their retaliatory powers are vastly overhyped, even in Iraq because they would be requiring their clients to sacrifice all of their own interests to carry out. Nothing they do will compare to the damage we inflict on our own position if we go to war without a legitimately reasonable casus belli.
    I think an air attack would be the main thrust but in no way would I rule out a limited ground action if an attack on Iran were to come down. First off, once this kind of trigger is pulled then in for a penny, in for a pound to make certain it works; secondly, the administration cares far more about carrying out their objectives in the short term than any long term damage to the army or even our tactical position in Iraq. We are already looking at a 5-7 year "healing period" what do they care if it’s a few years more ?

    My primary strategic worry is a permanently collapsed state in Iran and a failed state arc from Lebanon to the Chinese border in which there are loose nuke materials and all kinds of non-state actors running wild for the next ten to fifteen years.  Look how hard it is trying to put Iraq together  – we’re going to do that with Baluchis and Persians ? Iran is ruled by very bad guys who we might have good cause to fight, at some point, but that doesn’t mean that some alternatives are not worse when compared to the status quo.

  22. Mithras Says:

    Yes, that would be a disaster of historic proportions. The question is, in whose interest could it possibly be to risk it? As you say, the Iranian power to project force is limited. Primarily, the threat is political. Yes, the Israelis would like to knock the Iranian hardliners down a peg, but this seems more likely to reinforce them. The Saudis are clearly worried about Iran’s new influence, but if the region is thrown into chaos, how can they sell oil? So if it’s only Bush, Cheney and friends who want to do this, the question is, why?

  23. zen Says:

    IMHO the driver here for war is worst-case scenario analysis of the possible outcomes of Iran’s nuclear program. Aside from the Israelis who take Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric deadly seriously and who also have a general state interest in trying to cajole the US in to preserving their nuclear monopoly, an Iranian bomb is certainly going to, at a minimum, spark a race for a Sunni Arab bomb by KSA and Egypt. The Mideast filled with shaky police states does not need a multilateral nuclear arms race of this kind.
    The best deflator of this situation is Iran making loud cooperative gestures to the IAEA and EU negotiators to satisfy weapons program concerns

  24. Jay Says:

    "So if it’s only Bush, Cheney and friends who want to do this, the question is, why?"

    Mithras, I’ve resisted this conclusion in the past but I’d add it to Z’s reasoning: It’s also a matter of legacy. With Iraq and Afghanistan both still far from conclusion, the elimination of Iran’s nuke program utilizing our arsenal of things that go Big Bang in the night is perhaps viewed as a last ditch effort to balance out what will otherwise (to most) be a rather sad two term presidency.

  25. Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? « Fabius Maximus Says:

    […] posted by Galrahn at Information Dissemination  (11 March 2008) — (hat tip to the Zenpundit). ….I might be mistaken, but I believe we are witness to Bush fire his first General/Admiral […]

  26. Galrahn Says:

    I don’t see Barnett as partisan, he is jaded on Bush, that doesn’t make him left right political.

    One thing that I think needs to be highlighted, since the media barely touched it. Go back and look at the last round of UN sanctions against Iran, it includes fine print regarding the "inspections of cargo suspected to be linked to such development" of nuclear weapons.
    I’ve never believed under the Bush administration anything was going to happen in regards to Iran, so when I pointed it out at the time it was in jest, but it is time to consider a limited naval blockade of Iran might be an option on the table in the near future.

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