Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Don't Cry for Admiral Fallon

My mistake was starting here:

By all accounts, the points of contention between Fallon and Bush administration officials centered on three points: 1) his belief that the indefinite occupation of Iraq is a disaster for the US military, 2) that diplomacy has a central role in American foreign and national security policy, 3) that war is not a credible policy for the US to pursue in dealing with Iran. The last of these was believed to be the key issue.
When, as any scholar knows, I should have gone to the source:

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.
Which makes Fallon sound like a reasonable guy a progressive could have a beer with. Perhaps. But finish reading:

It's not that Fallon is risk averse--anything but. "When I look at the Middle East," he says late one recent night in Afghanistan, "I'd just as soon double down on the bet."

When Fallon is serious, his voice is feathery and he tends to speak in measured koans that, taken together, say, Have no fear. Let Washington be a tempest. Wherever I am is the calm center of the storm.

And Fallon is in no hurry to call Iran's hand on the nuclear question. He is as patient as the White House is impatient, as methodical as President Bush is mercurial, and simply has, as one aide put it, "other bright ideas about the region." Fallon is even more direct: In a part of the world with "five or six pots boiling over, our nation can't afford to be mesmerized by one problem."
So it's not really a question of averting war; it's a question of choosing your battles. And there are so many, many battles for a warrior to choose:

And if it comes to war?

"Get serious," the admiral says. "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them."
Right. Soon as we get through crushing those ants in Afghanistan and Iraq, right, Admiral?

Chris Floyd has much more on Adm. Fallon, and he has this to say about the article everyone is now saying is responsible for the fall of this "Good Cop":

What we are seeing, quite simply, is an imperial proconsul in action. There is no difference whatsoever between Fallon's role and that of the proconsuls sent out by the Roman emperors to deal with the wars and tribes and client kingdoms of the empire's far-flung provinces. There too, the Emperor could not simply snap his fingers and bend every event to his will; there had to be some cajoling, compromise, occasional setbacks. But behind everything lurked the threat of Roman military power and the promise of ruin and death if Rome's interests were not accommodated in the end. It is the same with America's proconsuls today.

Nowhere in the article – nor anywhere else in the well-wadded bastions of the "bipartisan foreign policy community" (and amongst its fawning scribes) – will you find even the slightest inkling of a doubt that America should be comporting itself as an imperial power in this way.
Which may, or may not, be a fair reading of the article; but one should judge for oneself, not in accordance with "all accounts." Speaking of which, Josh Marshall said:

It is widely believed in media and political circles that despite the difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, American foreign policy is back under some kind of adult/mainstream management. In other words, that we've left the Cheney/Rumsfeld era behind for a period of Gates/Rice normalcy and that Iran regime change adventurism is safely off the table. But put together what the disagreements with Fallon were about, the fact that the president chose him as someone he thought he could work with not more than one year ago, and the almost unprecedented nature of the resignation and it becomes clear that that assumption must be gravely in error.
Well, it probably is a grave error, but it's not because Adm. Fallon is no longer there to protect us. It's more because a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest. Or, as the saying has it: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on...shame on...Won't get fooled again!"

At least we won't be shamed.

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