<em>The Nelson Report</em> on the Fallon Firing

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Here is The Nelson Report‘s take on CENTCOM Commander William Fallon’s resignation dismissal:

The Nelson Report – 12 March 2008
FALLON FIRED…insubordination, not Iran war risk

FALLON…the speed with which Adm. Fallon’s “retirement” was announced by DOD Secretary Gates tells you the real story: this came right from the White House.
That’s the view of observers on Capitol Hill and in the defense community, following today’s stunning announcement from Baghdad.
If you want to know why, the answer comes in the form of the question on many lips when the news broke…”did he speak out against war with Iran because he fears the President may actually order an attack this year?”
The pending mission to the Middle East next week by Vice President Cheney, the presumed “Darth Vader” of most of the “Iran war” conspiracy theories, only added fuel to the firestorm of questions about why Fallon shot his mouth in Esquire Magazine.
As we said in the Summary, the answer is “no, Fallon didn’t fear that Bush was about to go to war with Iran”.
And sources close to senior Administration decision-makers reinforce this conclusion, one saying “there is absolutely no chance of war with Iran, so far as the US is concerned.”
(What Israel might at some point do, it was conceded, could be another matter…)
Still, basically, if the above interpretation of Bush’s real intentions is the case, Fallon was fired for hubris which amounted to insubordination, Congressional and other sources feel.
It is both understandable and justifiable, given the chain of command and civilian control ethos of the US military.
Any administration, and not just Bush and Gates, would rapidly conclude that they could not tolerate having their hand-picked commander for Iraq and Afghanistan seeming to take on responsibility for deciding whether to go to war with Iran (or any other country), in an interview which appeared last week in Esquire Magazine.
Interestingly, in this time of instant world-wide communication, it took a few days for the Esquire piece to reach critical mass attention. Some observers feel it wasn’t until Egyptian press picked it up and made a big deal that it reached the Bush/Gates level, after which “something had to be done”.

I concur with Chris Nelson’s assessment.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “<em>The Nelson Report</em> on the Fallon Firing

  1. tammam albarazi says:

    what egyptian press? can you be more specific?

    Reply

  2. Kathleen says:

    Since when do we believe a single word that comes out of Dopey or Darth’s pie holes? They want war with Iran so bad, they’ll destroy anyhone who stands in their way. I really don’t have brain time to split hairs over their unadulterated bullshit.
    When in doubt, think war. Simple.

    Reply

  3. Snuffysmith says:

    http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=115
    allon’s Fall Is Bad News
    As much as I would like to agree with Steve Clemons and Chris Nelson, I think Adm. Fallon’s resignation is very bad news, less because it signals war with Iran, as a few analysts have argued (although it certainly makes war more possible), than it suggests rather strongly that the “realists,” have lost ground in their never-ending war with the hawks in and outside the administration over control of the “global war on terror.” It seems very clear to me, among other things from the comments of Sec. Gates, who leads the realist faction, that the resignation resulted from White House pressure, and that Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, among others, really did not want Fallon to go. For much of the past year, Fallon had acted as their “point man” (in the military sense) in trying to promote a saner strategic policy toward the entire region covered by the Central Command and not one that was so obsessed with achieving “victory” in Iraq (and unmitigated hostility toward Iran). His departure will clearly weaken the realists’ hand in the ongoing battles against the neo-conservatives (who, as I noted most recently in late January, had mounted a mostly under-the-radar campaign to get Fallon relieved of his responsibilities at the earliest possible moment) and other hawks, particularly those most closely associated with Cheney.
    Gates insisted that Fallon had “reached this difficult decision entirely on his own,” a somewhat questionable assertion given Fallon’s remarkably strongly worded public rejection of the Esquire profile by Thomas Barnett that most analysts believe was the straw that broke the camel’s back at the White House.
    “I believe it was the right thing to to do,” Gates went on, “even though I do not believe there are, in fact, significant differences between his views and administration policy” (which, of course, raises the question why, if there were indeed no significant differences, they could not be cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction. After all, as the New York Times noted Wednesday, “many of [Fallon’s] public statements have fallen within the range of views expressed by Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen…” I would add that this includes both calming tensions with Iran and pausing only briefly in July before continuing to draw down troops in Iraq to as few as 110,000 by the end of the year.) Gates noted that he accepted Fallon’s resignation “with reluctance and regret” and described him as “enormously talented and very experienced” and as having “a strategic vision that is rare.”
    Of course, that strategic vision, which is spelled out at some length in Barnett’s profile, is anathema to the hawks as much as it is ambrosia to the realists. Fallon was already in bad odor with the hawks for his eagerness to engage the Chinese military when he served as the head of the Pacific Command from 2005 to 2007; it was a major bureaucratic coup that Gates and the Pentagon brass prevailed in his transfer to Centcom. That Fallon subsequently argued within administration councils for a similar kind of outreach toward Iran — he pushed hard for an “incidents-at-sea” agreement with Tehran — no doubt only fueled the hawks’ hostility and distrust. But for him to promote the case publicly through Barnett’s article was too much for the White House to bear, particularly when Cheney and others had been complaining for months that Fallon’s repeated declarations against war with Iran had effectively undermined the administration’s insistence that all options for dealing with Tehran remained “on the table.” Fallon’s well-known scepticism about the ultimate success of the “Surge,” his barely concealed contempt for Bush and neo-con hero, Gen. David Petraeus, and his belief — shared by the intelligence community and the Pentagon brass, not to mention Gates himself — that the most threatening “central front” in the war on terror was to be found in Pakistan and Afghanistan, rather than in Iraq and Iran, combined to make him the most vulnerable of the realists to the hawks’ assault. And, of course, the way Barnett framed Fallon’s role — as the “one man” standing between the hawks and war with Iran (a silly and unnecessarily sensational characterization given the well-known views of both Gates and the Joint Chiefs) who was “brazenly challenging his commander-in-chief” — constituted an irresistible provocation to the White House and Bush’s own self-image as “the Decider.”
    As noted by the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) daily Progress Report Thursday, the hawks, and particularly the neo-conservatives, are most pleased with the latest turn of events (and not because it supposedly vindicates the principle of civilian control of the military, as they insist). Max Boot, who, after touring Iraq with Petraeus earlier this year, characterized Fallon as “unimpressive,” called the resignation “good news,” while the Wall Street Journal’s neo-conservative editorial board called it “especially good news.” In the National Review Online, Center for Security Policy (CSP) president and ueber-hawk Frank Gaffney reached back to what he called Fallon’s “toxic leadership” and “appeasement of Communist China” during his Paccom tenure and accused him of “serial acts of insubordination” who had “proven himself utterly unserious about the Iranian threat” by suggesting, among other things, that Tehran could eventually participate in a summit of Persian Gulf chiefs of defense.” The notion that Iran could, if it is willing to make certain concessions, become a part of a new regional security structure apparently is beyond the pale, despite the fact that the administration itself has not excluded such a possibility.
    Meanwhile, the Weekly Standard ran a lengthy and tendentious piece by Naval War College Prof. Mackubin Thomas Owens that bemoaned the turbulent state of civil-military relations and accused Fallon, without providing any concrete evidence, “of contradicting the president in public,” presumably with respect to the Surge (where Fallon’s reservations were voiced privately and clearly reflected those of both Gates and the Pentagon brass, including the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey) and on Iran (where Fallon has repeatedly echoed the official U.S. line that Washington did not want to go to war but never ruled it out altogether either). “The differences between Fallon and the administration were real, not the result of any misperception,”Owens insisted, thus contradicting statements not only by Fallon and Gates, but by the White House, as well.
    What is really at stake here, of course, is control over U.S. policy and the way it is conducting its “global war on terror.” Fallon’s enemies see Iraq as the central front in that war and that Washington must “win” it at all costs, even at the risk of further degrading overstretched U.S. ground forces. (The Journal, channeling John McCain, suggests that the answer to that risk to substantially increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.) And they oppose any detente with Iran, even at the risk of triggering an accidental war that the U.S. military and the oil-consuming public can ill afford. They see Fallon’s “strategic vision,” which it seems that Gates and the Joint Chiefs share, as a major threat to their priorities.
    And they should. As noted in a release by the National Security Network Wednesday,
    “Adm. Fallon’s resignation yesterday as head of Central Command underscores the deep divisions and philosophical debate between those in the Bush Administration who seek to narrowly focus on Iraq, and those who seek to create a broader strategic and regional framework of which Iraq is one component. Fallon’s abrupt resignation highlights the concerns of those who hold the latter view, and further demonstrates how the Bush Administration is neglecting this perspective to the detriment of America’s short and long-term national security interests.”
    That view is echoed by Wayne White, the highly regarded former State Department analyst who spent most of his nearly 30-year foreign service career devoted to the Middle East and South Asia region:
    “Whatever the story here–differences with the Administration over Iran, clashes with Petraeus over Iraq, a tendency toward somewhat more independent regional diplomacy, or all the above–Fallon’s departure is a major loss.
    “This Administration clearly needs someone who could step back from Iraq–or the issues of Iran, Afghanistan & Pakistan collectively–in order to take a hard look at the situation (including the impact of these challenges in the context of so-called U.S. global reach, the readiness of American ground forces, and overall U.S. credibility) at the strategic level.
    “Fallon was able to think not only strategically, but also ‘out of the box,’ something so often lacking in the deliberations of the Administration since 2002–an Administration which has been plagued by groupthink.”
    White’s comments offer the most succinct reason why I think Fallon’s departure — and the fact that Gates and the Joint Chiefs, who, to my mind, clearly share his strategic views, if not his outspokenness — is bad news. The fact that the realists will no longer have an officer of Fallon’s stature “walking the point” in the bureaucratic battles over U.S. strategy in the months before Bush leaves office is a potentially serious blow to their efforts to reduce the hawks’ influence on U.S. policy and one that could well influence the calculations of the regional players in ways that will increase tensions and the chances of a major confrontation, rather than reduce them.
    In that respect, the juxtaposition of Fallon’s resignation with Cheney’s trip to the region has to be seen as particularly worrisome. While I have no doubt a major purpose of the trip is to jawbone the Saudis and the UAE into increasing their oil production as a way of enhancing the chances of a Republican victory in the November presidential elections, the Israel leg of the trip seems particularly fraught. On the one hand, it may be that, given the part played by Cheney in undermining Powell’s efforts to resume peace Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in early 2002, Bush and Rice decided that the vice president would be especially effective in persuading Israel’s leaders to make serious concessions to Abbas, including a real freeze on settlement activity, to get make the Annapolis process more credible. But I have my doubts. With Fallon’s departure — not to mention the administration’s last-minute efforts to make it more difficult for the media and the public to get their hands on the Pentagon report detailing just how wrong the hawks were in trying to connect Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda — Cheney and his allies may be feeling their oats.

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  4. Snuffysmith says:

    Good Question:
    Is Petraeus ‘The Man Most Responsible’ For Adm. Fallon’s Resignation?
    When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced CentCom commander Adm. William Fallon’s resignation on Tuesday, he told the press that it was “a cumulative kind of thing,” not “any one issue” that led Fallon to leave his post. According to the New York Times’s Thom Shanker, “premature departure” at least partially “stemmed” from policy disagreements with Gen. David Petraeus, “a favorite of the White House“:
    But there was no question that the admiral’s premature departure stemmed from what were perceived to be policy differences with the administration on Iran and Iraq, where his views competed with those of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, who is a favorite of the White House.
    Writing on the Washington Post’s website today, former intelligence analyst William Arkin posits that Petraeus is “the man most responsible for the departure of Fallon” because “the two were at odds on virtually every element of Iraq policy”:
    Yesterday, I was hearing from Pentagon officials, high-ranking military officers and close observers of the building that the two were at odds on virtually every element of Iraq policy, which of course put Fallon on a collision course with the White House. In other words, Iran was the excuse but Iraq was the reason.
    Arkin says Fallon believed “that the surge should [be] brought to a quick and successful conclusion.” But Petraeus had the White House, and “Fallon, despite his command and authority to set priorities and decide on what resources are needed, was frozen out.”
    Most recently, the two top commanders disputed the length and purpose of the upcoming “pause” in troop withdrawals from Iraq this summer. Fallon thought it should be “temporary and brief” while Petraeus wants “to wait until as late as September to decide when to bring home more troops.”
    Slate’s Fred Kaplan writes that Petraeus and Fallon “dislike each other and that their disagreements have been tense, sometimes fierce.” From this, he surmises that “Fallon’s departure” is a “signal that Petraeus has won that contest.”
    UPDATE: For more on Fallon’s resignation, check out today’s Progress Report here.
    http://www.americanprogressaction.org/progressreport/2008/03/pr20080313

    Reply

  5. Zathras says:

    No argument on your main point. I have a lot of difficulty understanding the way this administration manages people. If you have an able person in a prominent position, dealing with difficult issues and prone to (or unable to avoid) talking with the press, firing should be several steps down the list of remedial procedures. Telling such a subordinate that he needs to shut up strikes me as not only appropriate but also as not that big a deal (incidentally, the way Obama handled the Samantha Power incident made me wonder how much better he would be in this respect). If you, as President, can’t perform this function — and most Presidents can’t — you need to delegate to someone who can.
    Bush, who has always seemed to me somewhat intimidated by capable people who don’t wear their loyalty to him on their sleeves, doesn’t operate this way. Subordinates used to more conventional management might well find it hard to grasp how to fit in without willy-nilly going along with every loopy idea that percolates out of God knows which part of the White House. I find it more than a little exasperating that some commentators who have observed the way this President operates at least as closely as I have, have been so quick to treat the Fallon business as an open-and-shut case of a veteran naval officer flagrantly defying the chain of command and civilian authority.

    Reply

  6. Benjamin says:

    Z,
    I don’t think we are at a fundamental disagreement. I think the problem is that Bush has made a mash-up of the chain of command. He communicates directly with Petraeus on Iraq and Cheney does his own thing, none of which has been defined (to the best of my knowledge.)
    In Fallon’s defense, he was cut off at the knees when the Bush-Petraeus link-up occurred, no question. And it wasn’t a minor issue where a CENTCOM chief could look the other way; Iraq has been the most important international issue in the entirety of the Bush administration (duh).
    But the answer, at least in military terms, was not whining to Esquire and in other media outlets. I’m not sure what good it did — Bush has shown a damn the torpedoes mentality regarding criticisms — and now one important internal check is gone, the only way it would do a speck of good.

    Reply

  7. erichwwk says:

    Where Steve and I differ is in the timeline. Steve sees the Esquire article came first, leading to the firing.
    The alternative view sees the firing as coming first. The article is then released in the form most supportive of the firing decision. Leading more credibility to this view is the Spitzer affair, which also was released at the time most supportive of the firing, as a distraction. The timing “could” have been quite different.

    Reply

  8. Zathras says:

    Is this really how it is supposed to work?
    I not only agree but am prepared to sing the praises of civilian control of the military, and a chain of command with the commander in chief at the top. This, though, is an abstract principle the application of which needs to be considered in context. For example, the notion that generals in the field are “required” to listen to the Vice President would have come as a great surprise to earlier wartime Presidents. Bush, obviously, has chosen to delegate a great deal of authority to his Vice President, far more than any other President in our history; he also has not been particularly controlling of how that authority was used. Indeed, it has sometimes appeared as if Vice President Cheney is pushing advancing his own views on foreign policy, independent of Bush’s other subordinates.
    One could argue that any President has the right to arrange his administration in this way, but it does raise the question as to whether a serving officer expressing a view radically different from that of the Vice President — as Fallon has done many times on the subject of Iran — is doing violence either to the chain of command or civilian control of the military. Of course, he would be if the President had decreed that the Vice President always and at all times spoke with the President’s authority. When, though, has Bush ever done this? Where is it written down?
    As I suggest upthread, I suspect this issue to be, if not moot, at least subordinate in importance to the problem of Fallon’s views about Iraq. He appears to be isolated on this subject. Here, too, complicating factors intrude. If President Bush, Secretary Gates and General Petraeus have been conspiring to “lock in” the American commitment in Iraq — for example by attempting to negotiate a status of forces agreement committing the United States to defend the Iraqi government without submitting it to the Senate — a CentCom commander would be placed in a very awkward position. An Iraq policy that increased the risks in another area of the CentCom commander’s responsibility, for example Afghanistan, would do the same.
    I don’t know that appeals to the principles of civilian control and the chain of command are adequate responses to the problems posed here. Certainly we don’t want a senior military officer to be setting undesirable precedents, but President Bush has already set several of his own. Because he is the President, the ones he has set appear more consequential to me than anything Admiral Fallon either did or was likely to do.

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  9. Benjamin says:

    Lukasiak,
    I’m sorry, but that’s not politicizing the military; that’s how it is supposed to work. Every enlisted man and woman and every officer learns about their chain of command, and do you know who is on top of that list?
    Just because it is civilian leadership doesn’t mean that the military isn’t required to listen to Dick Cheney (who is number two) and the Secretary of Defense (who is number three).
    Does this follow that they must agree with morally objectionable orders? Of course not. But that’s true in the case of orders from their immediate superior and rest assured, there’s a procedure to follow on that count as well. And it doesn’t involve Esquire magazine.
    Should the military’s advice about Iraq change when the next president is elected? It shouldn’t. But they certainly will hew to the new number one in the chain of command’s orders.
    And that is how it is supposed to work.

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  10. p.lukasiak says:

    Sorry steve, but I gotta disagree.
    Did Fallon say anything that he should not have said under oath to a congressional oversight committee? Insubordination is not expressing your own opinion, its refusing to obey a legitimate order.
    This is just another example of how the military brass is required to tow the Bush line in public statements — its politicizing the military, which is not supposed to happen.

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  11. Babak Talebi says:

    Zathras,
    I tried to make the same points about his consistent quotability in the previous thread, but you have done it with far more articulation.
    The one issue about this ‘insubordination’ issue that I can’t shake is that Fallon is not a new kid on the block (nor is Barnett). Fallon must have had an idea about the tenor of the Esquire piece and would presumably have been able to nix it.
    Also, lost in this frenzy, is Barnett’s main point about Fallon being fired 2-4 months from now.
    Did the Saturday meeting at the WH just push it up a few months? In which case, doesn’t Barnett’s contention (that Fallon’s stance on Iran will lead to his firing) still stand?

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  12. s.ahmadi says:

    Posted by Paul Norheim Mar 12, 11:51AM – Link
    You seem to have pounced on my choice of pronouns. Please understand that “she” is the proper pronoun for a country or a ship. Aside from that I don’t really understand your point. Your liberal use of “” seemed to highlight that you don’t have a point.
    Israel has never taken orders from us. Their lobbyists have effectively silenced any debate that may question our peculiar relationship.
    As to your question, who would not {act in their self interest}? We are a clear example of that. Was it in our self interest to go to war with a neutered Iraq? Wasting billions and wasting precious American blood for a grand vision of New Middle East that would benefit Israeli interests. A war that has pushed oil prices to triple digits and our dollar to the breaking point. And yet amazingly, we hear the same drumbeats to war coming from the same drummers.
    As for the presidential candidates, I see no hope of a rational foreign policy from either the RINO, the witch or the wardrobe. They will continue the same policies but possible with more tact than the Bush administration.

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  13. Zathras says:

    I appreciate Benjamin’s response upthread, but would ask him what in the Esquire article about Fallon’s views on Iran was new? As I recall, the admiral had expressed his judgment on the likelihood and desirability of using military force against Iran on several occasions, including shortly after his appointment to CentCom.
    Now, I grant that Barnett’s phrasing was new, and his colorful choice of words may well have touched this White House’s “third rail,” a published piece that reflected badly on Bush and Cheney on the image their White House campaign operation have sought to construct for them, and that quoted an administration official. The explanation for Fallon’s dismissal might be no more complicated than that.
    I doubt it, because the other grounds for the White House to be unhappy with Fallon are so substantive. Unlike most of the press (and the posters here) I think these grounds relate to Iraq more than they do to Iran — and I think it worth noting that whereas Sec. Gates’s publicly expressed views on using force against Iran are not inconsistent with those of Admiral Fallon, his reported views on the size and future duration of the American military commitment in Iraq are much closer to those of Gen. Petraeus, and the White House.
    I therefore lean toward the view that the Esquire article was more an excuse than a last straw as far as Gates and whomever Gates is reporting to were concerned.

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  14. Bartolo says:

    Fallon joins the exclusive club of those few who left this administration with the wind still at their back.

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  15. Paul Norheim says:

    s.ahmadi:
    After the Israeli war with Hizbollah in Lebanon less then two
    years ago, they learned that their army was not invincible
    anymore.
    And yes: “she” will “always act for her self interest”. (Who would
    not?) But at the moment “she” may feel that it is in “her self
    interest” to act “with a little help from my friends” in the USA,
    against Iran.
    Will “she” get any help from B. Obama? From Hillary? From
    McCain?
    Or should “she” act while George W. and Dick still is in office?
    Then “he” will have to act, to protect “her” – and who knows,
    perhaps “he” will be happy to do so for less galant reasons too?
    And perhaps “she” knows that as well. And then some countries
    have to protect themselves against “her” and “him”, perhaps by
    attacking someone else. And those girls and boys and their
    possible friends and enemies feel that they have to act.
    There will probably be chaos and mayhem among all these boys
    and girls. And no one can predict the end result of this chaos.
    And I should wish that “she” will understand this by herself, and
    that it would be to risky for “her”, for “him”, and for the rest of
    “us” and “them” to even think about this “act” as something that
    will serve the ones it was intended to serve.

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  16. s.ahmadi says:

    Response to >Posted by digdug Mar 11, 10:53PM – Link
    To say that Israel needs the US approval is humorous. Israel has and will always act for her self interest regardless of the United States. I think it would be more correct to say that war with Iran would not even be contemplated if not for Israel. Iraq was a war for Israel’s security…and the possible Iran war will be fought to solidify Israel’s hegemony. As Fallon candidly stated that the Iranians are but mere ants to the us…that we can crush them at anytime.
    The urgency for the Israelis to push this war does not stem from the nuclear issue. The urgency stems from an opportunity that the Israelis wisely perceive will not come again. A US president who is a mental light weight and a pushover to the persuasions of a Lukid-leaning Vice-President. A traumatized confused American public thirsting for revenge for the horror of 9/11.
    With Fallon gone, I believe war with Iran is inevitable. The only question remains is what type. Will it be missile strikes, or more ambitious an invasion?
    God help us.

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  17. Paul Norheim says:

    By the way, Steve Clemons:
    thank you for creating this blog. I think the tension between
    your “realistic-progressiv” approach & beltway enthusiasm, and
    the “hyperventilating” & perhaps more beltway-furious
    commentators, is exactly what makes this blog extraordinary –
    when knowledge and judgment is added to your enthusiam and
    their anger.
    And by implication: thanks to POA, Caroll, Pauline, Linda, the
    not-so-angry Dan Kervick and the rest of you for creating this
    blog!
    It`s a great source of information and reflection for me, living in
    the peaceful, distant provincial comfort of a town in Norway.

    Reply

  18. Paul Norheim says:

    When John Yoo, Addington and others helped creating a
    permanent state of emergency, where selected enemies of the
    USA, as well as the President himself, were placed in a legal
    limbo (the latter above the law, of course, in this alien hierarcy
    within the limbo), I believe that they also created a challenge for
    even the most democratic and clear minded general or admiral
    in the army.
    If the President in a democracy does not obey anyone or
    anything except his God or his guts – and not the people and
    the law – should then the Military Commander in a serious crisis
    obey the gut of the President (or his born again faith); or should
    he feel free to believe that his strategical, moral, and political
    judgement is more in accordance with the people and the
    Constitution?
    When does a President cross that line where the generals have
    to consider acting on behalf of something above the President
    and his God?
    Yes, these are dangerous questions in an American context
    (more common in dictatorships and fragile democracies), and I
    will comment more on it a bit later.
    Steve Clemons seems to be confident that the President has not
    decided, and will probably not decide to attack Iran. Some
    people are less confident about that. They have seen that the
    gut of the President of USA has mislead him in every critical
    step during more than seven years. I would guess that Mr.
    Clemons` warning against “hyperventilating” is a tactical
    attempt to support the Gates/Rice wing against the Cheney wing
    in how to deal with Iran? But I am not sure if he is confident that
    Bush in the end does not intend to make a deal with Israel, as
    mentioned by commentators on this thread, and thus
    legitimating a US military involvement with Iran.
    However, I am absolutely confident that Mr. Clemons is aware of
    the potential catastophic consequenses of such a scenario.
    My point is that the legal advisors of President Bush has created
    a problem for (some of) the morally responsible military
    commanders.
    It is NOT their duty to solve that problem. This is a political, and
    not a military issue. But there are well known examples in
    history, where high ranking army officers had to act upon this
    dilemma.
    I think the case discussed in this thread may illustrate the
    dilemma. And I also believe that this dilemma may be
    accentuated if the US crisis (domestical as well as international,
    and on a social, economical, military, and political level) gets
    worse during the next few years. As a European, I have for a
    long time been more worried about what harm a weakened USA
    may cause in the world, and to it self, than a strong USA.
    And of course, generals with clear, but un-democratic minds
    may – since someone has created a permanent emergency
    situation – seriously start to study Carl Schmitt.
    P.S.
    Most parts of this comment was posted in a former thread
    below. I had technical difficulties when I tried to post it here,
    and luck when I tried for a last time there. But it belongs here.
    Sory for repeating myself…

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  19. liz says:

    Why is it that this Administration cannot keep it’s top generals??? The ones the administration so often refer to as ” listening to”??

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  20. Benjamin says:

    I agree with the latter two posts in some respects. Zathras, yes, it is odd that Petraeus has a direct line to the White House. Frankly, I don’t think that made Fallon’s job easy and it’s something he should have tried to address; he probably did. But a military officer is not just any government official, especially the leader of CENTCOM.
    Further, this doesn’t seem like a hatchet job; Fallon had to know it was going to come across as a blow job. He wanted to get his message across, and by God, he did, but he did it in the stupidest way possible. Now he just looks like an ass.
    Dan, I don’t think the Esquire article was the only straw, either. But it certainly was the final straw. And I guess you may be right in thinking there were ulterior motives, but my hunch is that Fallon wanted to send a message about Iran, nothing imminent. This interview was put in the books five or six months ago.

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  21. Dan Kervick says:

    I’ve grown weary trying to distinguish signal from noise where Bush’s Iran policy is concerned, but I find it hard to believe that this is all just a case of some impulsive Bush pique over a single magazine article. My guess is that the magazine article was only the last of several heavy straws. Maybe Bush wants a military engagement with Iran, and maybe he doesn’t. But he certainly seems to want a higher level of brinkmanship than Fallon was willing to provide. The dispute about the third carrier group, the Iranian speedboat incident and other events are all part of a pattern in which Fallon was not willing to deliver the full load of threat and bluster Bush had ordered up.
    I do also worry that if the Bush administration were looking for some way of greenlighting a unilateral Israeli assault, while preserving eminently plausible deniability that such a message had been delivered, they could hardly have come up with a better signal than canning Fallon.

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  22. Zathras says:

    If President Bush and Vice President Cheney were no more intent on war with Iran than was Admiral Fallon, it seems odd that Fallon should be accused now of insubordination. Odd, and a little ironic, considering that Fallon’s own subordinate in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus, apparently has his own line of communication into the White House. Not only odd and ironic, but peculiar in that “brazenly challenging the president” is Barnett’s phrase, not Fallon’s. If every government official who’d had his position on some issue or other characterized in lurid language by some journalist had to resign, the federal government would have to shut down.

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  23. Benjamin says:

    There’s too many Bush-haters who can’t see clearly on this issue.
    There’s a certain protocol when a flag officer decides that the CiC is wrong. It’s called resignation under protest. You end your career, you utilize the media to support your point of view, and I guess let history be the judge. That’s the honorable way to end your military career, if you feel so strongly that you must fall on your sword. In that way, America benefits, in your point of view, because you’re airing out what could be a deadly policy for your men. Perhaps we should have had more of these before the Iraq War, as opposed to all the critics who spoke up afterwards.
    The opposite of the honorable way is showing up in Esquire Magazine as the guy who will decide on war in Iran? As the know-it-all of CENTCOM? Barnett wrote that he is “brazenly challenging the president”? Are some of you so clouded by your hatred of Bush, Cheney, et. all that you can’t see how utterly stupid this is? Are some of you high?
    Whether the president’s name was Bush or Clinton or any president from here to eternity, you need to fire a Fallon when he does what he did. Because, in this case, America loses. He doesn’t get to quit under protest; he gets fired because of his own vanity and he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

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  24. digdug says:

    “(What Israel might at some point do, it was conceded, could be another matter…)
    This is not another matter. It is the matter at hand. See Hersh in the New Yorker. Israel is/will not be acting independent of the US. I respect Nelson a lot, but he is too glib here.”
    Precisely. Israel will not strike Iran without U.S. approval. It just won’t happen. They need our backing in such a thing, and know we will get dragged into any widening conflict that a unilateral attack on Iran by them may spark.
    The Bush Administration has evidenced zero, absolutely zero, trustworthiness on Middle Eastern matters. They have evidenced they will distort, deceive and flat-out lie to advance their agenda.
    This is a dangerous move and everyone who is “hyperventilating” should keep right on hyperventilating. Keep on intense pressure to keep these nuts from launching an attack, or staging a casus belli for cover.

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  25. mike in VA says:

    Article was begun in Oct 2007, probably final drafted about Jan 2008 (see TPM Barnett blog). Many seniors advising Prez probably presented Fallon’s candidacy in light of his great and appropriate strengths, but crossed their fingers and held mental reservations about his flaws, which seem of Greek tragedian proportions. The dynamic of his firing was in motion many months ago, and it is truly tragic that he will miss being part of the steering mechanisms at such an important juncture.

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  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, Fallon goes the same way as Shinzeki.
    Amazing. Being correct, competent, or ethical is the kiss of death in Bushworld.
    We shoulda listened to Shinzeki. And if recent history is any indicator, we will some day be saying the same about Fallon.

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  27. Doug T says:

    (What Israel might at some point do, it was conceded, could be another matter…)
    This is not another matter. It is the matter at hand. See Hersh in the New Yorker. Israel is/will not be acting independent of the US. I respect Nelson a lot, but he is too glib here.

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  28. mike says:

    My theory: Admiral Fallon got tired of working for dunderheads. He was given a heads up and asked to get in line with some new idiotic initiative that the Darth Vader tour is going to push. He got out from under by resigning first. Bush and Cheney do not have the cojones to fire the guy.
    Let’s hope that after he takes off his uniform that he stays in public service in some way. He is a New Jersey boy. What is the status on Lautenberg – is he running again???
    mike

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  29. Mr.Murder says:

    Sec.Gates helped see to the NIE that counters Bush policy.
    The Admirals’ umbridge is not considered befitting by many. Salute the uniform, etc.
    He should get a Medal of Freedom in the coming months having spoken to power of topic.
    He made his career a casualty, speaking on behalf of having less casualties. Future Americans will honor his model.

    Reply

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