Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

March 6, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

FOX FALLON....Last night I read Thomas P.M. Barnett's Esquire profile of CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon and thought, "Damn. I want someone to write a puff piece like that about me someday." Barnett admiringly portrays Fallon as sort of a cross between Patton and Teddy Roosevelt, with bits of Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and T.E. Lawrence thrown in for good measure, but apparently that wasn't enough. Thomas Ricks reports Fallon's reaction:

Asked about the article yesterday, Fallon called it "poison pen stuff" that is "really disrespectful and ugly." He did not cite specific objections.

Barnett reports that Fallon has taken a generally less bombastic approach toward China and Iran than the Bush administration has, but this has been pretty well reported before, so it's hardly breaking news. Most likely the "ugly" part was this:

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.

Gotta go with James Joyner and Bill Arkin on this: Barnett is pretty clearly implying that if George Bush ordered an attack on Iran, Fallon couldn't be trusted to carry it out. And this theme, namely that Fallon is doing his best to actively frustrate the intent of the military's civilian commander-in-chief, runs throughout the entire piece. Barnett's basis for saying this is pretty iffy, and it's no surprise that Fallon took it as a serious insult.

Kevin Drum 2:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Barnett is a brilliant hack. Go look at his puff-piece on Rumsfeld:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1516905/posts

Barnett has some very good ideas on how to handle post-war rebuilding and such, but is a ninny on political issues, IMHO.

Posted by: vorkosigan1 on March 6, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Cue the wingnuts to attack. I wonder how long it will take for Congress to pass a resolution reprimanding them?

Posted by: Boronx on March 6, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I can see that any dislike Bush has of Fallon will be sharpened by this piece. But why should Fallon see it as poison-pen stuff? If anything, it raises the cost to Bush of firing Fallon. And if he does want to try an Iran misadventure, this makes it that much harder for Bush to overcome people's skepticism.

If anything, this sets up Fallon to ceremonially fall on his sword, come out looking like a real hero, and run for office down the road!

Posted by: Amit Joshi on March 6, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Amit, even if Fallon thinks the way you do, he'd still have to be publicly negative about it.

Posted by: Boronx on March 6, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Fallon's "job" may be a tricky one. He may view his responsibility to preserve the nation's security by saving the military for a more responsible commander-in-chief. If so, Fallon wouldn't like an article that portrays him as being insubordinate. His removal for a more pliable commander would be failure.

If Fallon is truly a responsible commander he has a tricky job. He has to save the military from the crazies in the executive branch and do it while preserving his position.

Its worth noting that this administration finds a way to do the things that it wants to do. If Bush and Cheney want to invade Iran there will be U.S. troops in Iran by election day.

Posted by: rk on March 6, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Barnett is pretty clearly implying that if George Bush ordered an attack on Iran, Fallon couldn't be trusted to carry it out.

How is that the conclusion you draw? The better interpretation is that, since the Iraq debacle has made Congress and other decision-makers listen to the military brass more, that Fallon's presence slows down the war-planning and makes getting all the constituencies on board more difficult. What's "poison pen" is the insinuation that Fallon would purposely betray his duty once war was underway.

Posted by: Mithras on March 6, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I don't take that away from this piece either. To me, Barnet is complimenting Fallon on his independence of mind and firmness in the face of pressure from the highest possible places. He wouldn't agree to the buildup in the Gulf last year and clearly indicated that an attack on Iran "would not happen on his watch," and all of that was because he believed it was an unsound war. What's to object to? Unless there's something else in the piece that's more clearly questioning Fallon's trustworthiness, I just don't see how that passage indicates an insult.

Posted by: wally on March 6, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

It's pretty well known that Fallon told Shrubby that a) war in Iran wasn't going to start on his watch, and b) Shrubby wasn't going to get to use the Navy for a Gulf of Tonkin incident to start it.

It'll be interesting to see what the Admiral does after his - somewhat rushed - retirement. Of course he's in good company along with General Shinseki, who was also canned for speaking truth to power.

Posted by: Susan on March 6, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Something about this Fallon piece smells to me like anti-Iran sabre-rattling.

(1) The Bush admin really can't do anything about Iran other than sabre-rattling. If they were ready to fight without provocation, they would have done it all ready. So a lot of the stuff you hear about what the admin or insiders are thinking about Iran is often explicable as a way to intimidate Iran into kowtowing to Bush's demands, or less likely, to provoke them into starting a war with us.

(2) But once the world (not counting Americans-- we're unfortunaley too stupid) has figured out that all you've got left is sabre-rattling, how can you accomplish your goals with sabre-rattling? The answer is, you can't, unless the guy on the other side is a completely stupid schmuck. But they'll try, because they're schmucks themselves.

(3) Therefore, the most obvious thing to try is to make sabre-rattling not look like sabre-rattling. How do you do that? In an extremely oblique way.

For example-- what's something some might not think you'd be ready to do unless you were serious? For one, step on one of your boys' toes.

It's a pretty simple magic trick- all you have to have is a friend who knows it's just for show, and who isn't proud enough to at all be upset or offended by, for all anybody knows, possibly inadequate charges in a piece written by some kooky reporter who went and gave you a verbal blowjob in the rest of the piece, anyway.

It's a really oblique- that is, it doesn't look like it's sabre rattling (rather, it looks like a fluffy personality-piece about Fallon)- way to do sabre-rattling.

Just a guess.

Susan wrote:

It's pretty well known that Fallon told Shrubby that a) war in Iran wasn't going to start on his watch,

But this doesn't mean that Fallon hasn't "come around" to others' way of thinking since then- and he's more useful for work like this if it's not let on to the public that he's changed his opinions. Having publicly pro-war and publicly pro-anti-war under your control, as part of your pro-war camp, is a better set of cards to hold than only controlling people who are known to publicly support you. You can do more with them. You can also extrapolate this strategy to all sorts or issues and endeavors.

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, yeah, I guess I should have highlighted this, too: notice how it differs from the usual "We're planning to go to war with Iran" rumors-- this time, it's "People are so determined to go to war with Iran, they're ready to fire people over it." That's the detail that may sabre-rattling sound a little more believable to some, because it "steps on someone's toes."

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

One more thing- the kind of misdirection I described in my comments is pretty common coin among otherwise dumb men who use things like that to, for example, scam women or to push weak people around. Think of the auto-mechanic who lied to you about some repair.

Point being, it's hardly remarkable or too much for the Bush admin / Cheney or their henchmen to figure out to do.

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The real kicker of it for me is (sorry, just one more thing and then I'll stop holding forth) I think it's really unbelievable that Bush would going to war with Iran without more of a provocation, but really believable that Bush would try to achieve his goals through sabre-rattling. So anything I hear about how we're already going to war with Iran always sounds really fishy to me.

Sorry about the typos in previous posts- last sentence of 4:10 should have been "That's the detail that may make sabre-rattling..." and 4:07 should of course have said "publicly pro-war and publicly anti-war people under your control" not whatever I wrote.

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Fallon has to say publicly that he doesn't like an article questioning his zealous devotion to Bush and Cheney's lunacy. It makes it that much harder for him to fulfill his oath as an officer, which is to defend the Constitution (heck, not even the territory) of the United States against all enemies, domestic or foreign. His duty is to prevent the commission of further war crimes, and it may well be harder for him to do that if he's relieved of command.

Posted by: paul on March 6, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx, very good point, I didn't think of that!

BTW, are you really the Dilbert dude?

Posted by: Amit Joshi on March 6, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

The only references to who was cited for the article is "Well-placed observers". Pretty thin I'd say.

Posted by: w2 on March 6, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well, why would he want to be portrayed as some sort of T.E. Lawrence? Lawrence was a homosexual who got raped by Arab males he met in the desert.

Posted by: Anon on March 6, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

We need an office pool for the Sept-Oct date when aWol will invade Iran to set up old man McCain in the White House.

August is out for obvious reasons.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on March 6, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Lawrence was a homosexual who got raped by Arab males he met in the desert.

First time I've ever heard that. What's your source? The movie about him seems to imply that he was tortured by a gay Turkish army officer in a Turkish prison, but doesn't allude to anything like what you're talking about.

T.E. Lawrence may have been a little bit of a dreamer- that's the worst I've ever though of him, based on what little I've read about him and the movie about him- but he was a gifted person and an extremely capable military leader, basically the Joan of Arc of Arabia. The modern industrial wordl might owe 90 years of oil in Arab hands rather than, say, Soviet ones (or the Nazis during WWII!! think of what a disaster that would have been) to Lawrence's impressive capabilities.

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Lawrence is also kind of the Godfather of the Green Berets (his tactics were similiar to their counter-insurgency / anti-guerrilla mission of befriending, recruiting and training local indigenous allies). You could say this thing was done with the Indians, but then it was more like them training us to do American-style, wilderness warfare. Lawrence is the modern pioneer for Green Beret type stuff, as far as I've heard. He also gets a lot of respect in a lot of military literature.

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Lawrence was fairly explicit about having been captured and raped, even in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but it was Turks, not Arabs, and not in the desert.

Posted by: rea on March 6, 2008 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

"If Fallon is truly a responsible commander he has a tricky job. He has to save the military from the crazies in the executive branch and do it while preserving his position."
___________________

As a military professional, Admiral Fallon knows his primary duty is to do his utmost to win the war in which his forces are already engaged. There is no way anybody would seriously consider war with Iran whilst we are still deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the question is academic, the Admiral probably resents the implication that he in any way set against the current Administration.

The whole "war against Iran" debate is nothing but a strawman.

Posted by: trashhauler on March 6, 2008 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

"It'll be interesting to see what the Admiral does after his - somewhat rushed - retirement."
_________________

Admiral Fallon was commissioned in Dec 1967. His forty years of military service is five years over the usual mandatory limit of 35 years.

For those who think there must be some sort of antipathy between the White House and the Admiral, consider that he was over the normal mandatory service limit when President Bush okayed his selection as CDR, USCENTCOM.

Posted by: trashhauler on March 6, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

There is no way anybody would seriously consider war with Iran whilst we are still deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Funny!

Other things we wish were true but weren't:

"There is no way anybody would seriously consider war with Iraq whilst we are still deployed in Afghanistan."

"There is no way anybody would seriously consider invading Iraq without allowing the inspectors to finish their work and having no post-invasion plan."

"There is no way a sitting President and Vice-President would seriously consider putting the country at risk by authorizing the outing of an undercover CIA agent to punish their political enemies."

"There is no way a sitting President and Vice-President would seriously consider violating the Constitution and civil rights of Americans by authorizing wholesale warrantless spying on phones, mail, and email."

"There is no way a sitting President and Vice-President would seriously consider authorizing torture, secret courts, rendering people into secret prisons, retroactively classifying public documents, gag orders on whistleblowers - et al."

God, I could play this game all day.

There is no way anybody would seriously consider war with Iran whilst we are still deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So disingenuous. We don't have to go to "war" with Iran. We merely have to pummel them with missiles to achieve our objectives.

Would anybody seriously consider that?

Posted by: trex on March 6, 2008 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

rea wrote:

Lawrence was fairly explicit about having been captured and raped, even in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but it was Turks, not Arabs, and not in the desert.

Well that fact must put off a lot of conservatives, who like the Turks and their militaristic, Kurdish-prisoner-sodomizing ways. Maybe the Turks have a tradition of letting sadistic gay guys be the jail-keep- sounds right up the all of the Republicans and their gay, congressional-page harassers, who they elect to congress.

But anyway, none if it makes T.E. Lawrence gay.

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

sounds right up the all of the Republicans and their gay, congressional-page harassers, who they elect to congress.

oops, supposed to be "right up the alley"

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

"There is no way anybody would seriously consider war with Iraq whilst we are still deployed in Afghanistan."
_______________

I was speaking militarily, not politically. The campaign in Afghanistan could not use, nor could we logistically support there, more than a fraction of our fighting capacity. Therefore, there was plenty of capability for the Iraq campaign.

The same cannot be said for an Iranian campaign, beyond air attacks. Those aren't likely to happen, either.

Posted by: trashhauler on March 6, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Trashhauler: flag officers are not subject to the same mandatory retirement ages as everyone else. Can't find the link now, but I believe they can serve until they attain the age of 64 (or longer, if Congress can be persuaded... ADM Rickover was considerably older when he was finally forced to retire - he was in his 80s). ADM Fallon would have been 22 or so in 1967, which would make him about 63 today. If flags were forced to retire after 35 years, you'd have a rather drastically reduced pool of people to pick from when it came time to select your four stars...

Posted by: Sean Peters on March 6, 2008 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

swan and rea

Can we kick the homophobic stuff?

If homosexuality, or bisexuality, where a disqualification for brilliant command, we would be disallowing some of the greatest generals of history, including Alexander the Great and the Theban, Epadominas (the only person ever to break the Spartan Phalanx (remember the movie 300?) on the battlefield).

Visit the Lawrence museum at the Royal Tank Corps HQ in Dorset (one of the best tank museums in the world).

TE Lawrence was a military genius. However, as the movie Apocalypse Now makes clear, if you are going to lead tribal peoples, you become like them, you 'go native'. This means the 'snake eaters' as the Green Berets are known, are intensely distrusted by more conventional soldiers. See also Orde Wingate, another rogue (and probably bisexual) military genius who founded the Palmach (now the Israeli Defence Forces-- you'll be amused to know that conventional wisdom in the 1930s was that Jews could never learn to defend themselves) and took the war in the jungle to the Japanese.

Lawrence was one of the great leaders of irregular soldiers of modern history. His books are still de rigeur reading amongst military officers- -surely a testament to their value and are avidly read by British and Israeli officers.

Posted by: Valuethinker on March 7, 2008 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

I'm always fascinated how civilians find it hard to understand military chain of command.

Fallon can argue against a policy until he is blue in the face. To the 11th hour and the 59th minute.

He can resign his commission if he strongly disagrees with policy-- he can ask to be relieved of his command. He can also do this (and is obligated to do so) if he believes that an order either contravenes the Constitution of the United States, or Military Law.

Douglas Macarthur also was able to get a Congressional hearing. The legislative branch can intervene.

But if the Commander in Chief picks up the phone and says 'Go', then Fallon will execute. Whatever his reservations, he will execute to 100% of his abilities.

He would probably resign afterwards (the guy in charge of planning the logistics for the 2003 invasion of Iraq did so). But if his Commmanding Officer says 'jump', he says 'how high?'

Posted by: Valuethinker on March 7, 2008 at 4:55 AM | PERMALINK

Not to be picky, but "whom he thinks is"? Doesn't Esquire keep a copy-editor on staff anymore?

Posted by: on March 7, 2008 at 5:03 AM | PERMALINK

Trashy wrote: The campaign in Afghanistan could not use, nor could we logistically support there, more than a fraction of our fighting capacity. Therefore, there was plenty of capability for the Iraq campaign.

Bullshit. We diverted assets from Afghanistan to Iraq. If there was "plenty of capability," there would have been need to do so. QED.

It's interesting that you feel the need to lie so blatantly to defend the mendacity and incompetence of the Administration whose water you carry, Trashy. Shame on you.

Posted by: Gregory on March 7, 2008 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Fallon's opposition to war with Iran was well-reported last May, with the IPS story being picked up by WaPo:

"Admiral William Fallon, then President George W. Bush’s nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM.

Fallon’s resistance to the proposed deployment of a third aircraft carrier was followed by a shift in the Bush administration’s Iran policy in February and March away from increased military threats and toward diplomatic engagement with Iran. That shift, for which no credible explanation has been offered by administration officials, suggests that Fallon’s resistance to a crucial deployment was a major factor in the intra-administration struggle over policy toward Iran."

(http://thinkprogress.org/2007/05/16/fallon-carrier/)

Posted by: filmex on March 7, 2008 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

gregory wrote:

"Bullshit. We diverted assets from Afghanistan to Iraq. If there was 'plenty of capability,' there would have been need to do so. QED."
________________

Yep, QED. Thanks for reinforcing my point, gregory. If, as you claim, we didn't have plenty of capability to do both Afghanistan and Iraq adequately, then we certainly don't have the capability to take on Iran. The talk about an attack on Iran is nothing but speculation born of ignorance.

Posted by: Trashhauler on March 7, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

to follow up on filmex above....


"There are several of us trying to put the crazies (bush admin.) back in the box." - Admiral William Fallon 5/15/07

Posted by: mr. irony on March 9, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

May Soon be Unemployed?? Here's a news flash - change it to IS UNEMPLOYED.

Posted by: betrueseektruth on March 12, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

I understand the ADM's response to the article whether factual or not. I also believe that intense coverage / "over" reporting often stops good things that are being done behind the scenes.

Posted by: Kevin on March 13, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

cloufhki qroh rbkotman qjrvcwzp kuailqjx txhblreag tqcf

Posted by: prjkmqih vdhmbp on April 1, 2008 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK

cloufhki qroh rbkotman qjrvcwzp kuailqjx txhblreag tqcf

Posted by: prjkmqih vdhmbp on April 1, 2008 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK

wurfvdejx roucs wqliztdmh iljkqn lfeiajbx sbdageiwf snetafkqi fydtvgbp esvc

Posted by: ofcbaxweh zrovjicbx on April 1, 2008 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK

mkoni ypngqkzic flvy zsjodi uvdbljqc byoez gqzoiftjr

Posted by: mohxdtpqn rplnisjvm on May 7, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

kzcgnp jvkdzhpy ezxb dgcioa ecxlzq pdjlon sjxnuemf http://www.bzxm.ohrcynfp.com

Posted by: hdbnspg ufodpxlw on May 7, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

zqfmcjt ezongqy xlcr ghdxw efatx bvfezlcg lvxd eiazlm ukgphl

Posted by: cmqr iyeokn on May 7, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly