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Tilting at Windmills

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March 11, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

FALLON RESIGNS....Holy cats. Less than week after Esquire's admiring profile of CENTCOM chief Adm. William Fallon — admiring, that is, if you think dissenting from Cheneyesque bellicosity is admirable — Laura Rozen reports that he's stepping down. Not being warlike enough carries a heavy price in this administration.

More here. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, says the New York Times, "labeled as 'ridiculous' any speculation that the admiral's retirement portends a more bellicose American approach toward Iran." You betcha.

UPDATE: By the way, I'll bet that no military officer ever again speaks to Thomas P.M. Barnett, who wrote the Esquire piece. Fair or not, he's gotta be radioactive after this.

UPDATE 2: The suspicion that Fallon opposes the administration's policy on Iran goes back to last September, when he told al-Jazeera that the "drumbeat on Iran" was "not helpful" and "not useful." Shortly after that, Barnett approached Fallon to begin work on his profile.

Today, SecDef Gates said this about the idea that Fallon was at loggerheads with the administration: "We have tried between us to put this misperception behind us over a period of months and, frankly, just have not been successful in doing so."

So I wonder: did Fallon and Gates see the Barnett piece as a way of fighting "this misperception"? Did they figure that Barnett was a sympathetic writer and Fallon would be able to set him straight during their time together? And were they then stunned when the piece appeared and not only failed to fight the misperception, but actively amplified it? And does Fallon blame himself, or does he think Barnett screwed him?

Just wondering.

Kevin Drum 4:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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No wonder W's been singin' and dancin' lately, he'll get in one more war before he's done.

Posted by: RollaMO on March 11, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Golly. I guess the odds on the Armegeddon betting line just dropped like a stone. How do I escape the planet?

Posted by: troglodyte on March 11, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the white house really didn't like that Pentagon report about how there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda?

Or they really didn't want that to be todays top story?

Or that it is just a coincidence.

Posted by: jefff on March 11, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

There was a Fallon out with the administration.

His wording, at least in the story, is very circumspect:

The commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Admiral William Fallon, is to retire from his post early.

He cited the "embarrassing situation and public perception of differences between my views and administration policy" as the reason for retiring.


In a statement released through Central Command's Florida headquarters, Adm Fallon said: "I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command.

It isn't the objectives of our policy that people argue with; it's the Bush Administration's focus on militarism as a means of achieving those objectives that have caused all the problems. Of course, announcing this when he's "traveling", and so, unable to answer questions, suggests pretty strongly that they don't want him to answer any questions.

Posted by: MG on March 11, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'd Like to point out that Hillary Clinton is the only democratic Presidential candidate who voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment - which will make that "more bellicose American approach toward Iran" all the easier.



Posted by: mica on March 11, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'll be the Rapture Index just jumped a few points.

Posted by: JM on March 11, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Dear God Kevin, HOLY CATS?! Shoot me now.

I am ignoring the Fallon thing. Why?

Because we're all doomed. Bush is going to attack Persia this summer and I don't see how we can stop him.

Posted by: MNPundit on March 11, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

IIRC (I probably don't) when he came on board, we were "all" sure it meant that we were driving up the Persian Gulf and heading toward Iran. Otherwise, why bring a Navy guy in when our biggest concerns were landlocked countries?

So.... Does his resignation say anything about our judgment then, or now?

Posted by: jerry on March 11, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Fallon said that Iran would not be attacked on his watch. Coincidence? I think not.

Posted by: Joshua Norton on March 11, 2008 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Jerry: I wouldn't be surprised if that was the reason the Bushies picked a Navy guy, but evidently it didn't work out for them; they accidentally picked an honest man (rather, relatively honest; there are limits to how honest one can be and still be successful in a large bureaucracy).

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 11, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Now we know why Big Dick Cheney west to the mideast.

Posted by: nonheroicvet on March 11, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Joe, I think your's is a reasonable answer to that. I just want to make sure we don't fall into a trap of not being able to examine our past analysis.

Posted by: jerry on March 11, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

And does Fallon blame himself, or does he think Barnett screwed him?

Scroll down to Kevin's March 6 post on the Barnett article for the answer:

Thomas Ricks reports Fallon's reaction:

Asked about the article yesterday, Fallon called it "poison pen stuff" that is "really disrespectful and ugly."

Posted by: rea on March 11, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

He seemed so normal when we elected him--a guy you could enjoy a beer or cocaine with.

Posted by: Luther on March 11, 2008 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should pledge to reappoint him.

Posted by: Bob M on March 11, 2008 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

To amplify, on what I said at 6:06, back on March 6, just after the Barnett article came out, Kevin wrote that he couldn't understand why Fallon took such strong exception to an article that made Fallon out to be a hero. I couldn't udnerstand it either, but the answer is now apparent--the article's spin cost Fallon his job

Posted by: rea on March 11, 2008 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

"The Best and the Brightest" David Halberstam.

Chapter 11

"As the war effort began to fall apart in late 1962 and early 63 the Military Assistance Command in Saigon set out to crush its own best officers in the field on behalf of its superiors in Washington." page 201

Here are a few good officers that spoke out in 1962 about the Vietnam War, they all were put out to pasture: Colonel Wilbur Wilson, 111 Corps; Colonel Dan Porter, 1V Corps; LTC John Paul Vann 7th Divison and LTC Fred Ladd 21st Divison.

Another York had just received his first star and decided to put his career on the line and handed a detail and pessimistic report on the war...York never heard for Harkins but his commander's response "Lies," "More Lies".

Some things never change--but we know Fallon was very competent and one of the good guys. cleve

Posted by: cleve on March 11, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it considered 'bad' for our military to hold to one of the rules we have them promise: That they will not carry out an illegal order, or an order they suspect is illegal?

Another sad day in US history.

Posted by: Crissa on March 11, 2008 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

These (neo)con artists are incompetent at everything except raiding the public coffers (and coffins), so I wouldn't look for too much forethought about this or anything.

Posted by: Kenji on March 11, 2008 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Bob M: "Obama should pledge to reappoint him."

Some issues should neither be observed nor analyzed through the warped prism of an election campaign.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on March 11, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Huh? How does Fallon's "resignation" put the "misperception" to rest rather than amplifying the fuck out of it?

Posted by: Macswain on March 11, 2008 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

i think barnett was a willing dupe who set in motion this very outcome. there was no way fallon could remain with a published article of his resistance to administration -- but especially, bush -- policies.

i would also suggest taking a closer look at gates' statement:

Gates dismissed as "ridiculous" any notion that Fallon's departure signals the United States is planning to go to war with Iran. Pressed on that point, he said, "As I say, the notion that this decision portends anything in terms of a change in Iran policy is, to quote myself, ridiculous."

of course, there's no change in iran policy. it's always been to attack.

Posted by: linda on March 11, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Poor guy didn't even last a year under Bush as CENTCOM commander. What was all that Republican blather in the 2004 elections about not changing horses in mid-stream?

Guess that only applies to criminally incompetent politicians, not able, experienced military commanders.

Just one more data point to help determine the half-life of someone with integrity unfortunate enough to serve in the Bush maladministration.

Posted by: trex on March 11, 2008 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK
Some issues should neither be observed nor analyzed through the warped prism of an election campaign. Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on March 11, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Huh? It's obvious that the reason this guy resigned is because he can see Obama coming,and he doesn't want to be around when the new sheriff gets in town and starts arresting all these criminal bastards. Obama hasn't even got into office yet and he's already casting a long shadow. Imagine what will happen when he gets there!

Swooooooooon... Sigh....

Posted by: ObamaRulesAll on March 11, 2008 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should pledge to reappoint Fallon, not for political reasons, the only driver of the right, but for the good of the United States. Why the hell do you think oil went up before Fallon announced his resignation? Even Pickens was saying it would fall. But high level righties were betting on an attack on Iran before today. The word was out. That is my reading of the price rise. Surely potential leaders of the mainstream should head off that attack on Iran. After all, it only domestic politics at work for Republicans, having nothing to do with the external good of the United States. Obama is the only one with the stature to take the leadership role against these plotters, and the best way is to say publicly that he will reappoint Fallon, thus undercutting the Republican plotting.

Posted by: Bob M on March 11, 2008 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

* : )

Posted by: mhr on March 11, 2008 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

"The US military is under the control of civilians."

Change that last word to plotters under this Administration.

Posted by: Bob M on March 11, 2008 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bob M - Can I have some of that stuff you have been smoking?

Posted by: optical weenie on March 11, 2008 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

fwiw, back when Fallon was appointed, there was much chatter about the overlapping carrier groups in the Persian Gulf and the admiral being put in charge of CENTCOM. It was clear sign, my local Cheneyologist declared, that war with Iran was eminent.

So now Fallon's leaving and -- it's a sign that war with Iran is eminent.

Just saying.

Posted by: trotsky on March 11, 2008 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK


Yes, but as someone else pointed out above, the initial fears that Fallon was put in place because an attack on Iran was imminent were not irrational. Available ground troops are tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the talk was of air strikes on Iranian nuke facilities. Strikes that would have to have a major component of cruise missiles and naval aircraft.

Then Fallon came out with the "not on my watch" and the "there are several of us who are trying to put the crazies back in the box" comments. So, sigh, relief.

Now that he's gone, it's perfectly reasonable to wonder if perhaps the packing tape on the box wasn't strong enough, and the crazies have escaped.

Personally, I don't believe that Bush will attempt an attack on Iran, but there are rational reasons to be concerned.

Posted by: JM on March 11, 2008 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe he wanted out and wanted to get a spotlight put on Iran deliberations in the process.

Posted by: B on March 11, 2008 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

UPDATE: By the way, I'll bet that no military officer ever again speaks to Thomas P.M. Barnett, who wrote the Esquire piece. Fair or not, he's gotta be radioactive after this.

First response: Who cares?
Second response: They'll talk out of ego, or pique or to kiss up to someone
Third response: Who forced Fallon to talk in the first place?
Fourth response: Who wants Generals spouting off anyway? Despite the myriad of crimes and horrors foisted on us by this lunatic administration, Generals serve civilian government. They shouldn't be the ones opining in the first place.

Posted by: Jay B. on March 11, 2008 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I still really, really doubt we're going to war with Iran.

Kevin wrote:

UPDATE: By the way, I'll bet that no military officer ever again speaks to Thomas P.M. Barnett, who wrote the Esquire piece. Fair or not, he's gotta be radioactive after this.

Why's that? Because he reported a rumor that Fallon was going to be fired? I don't follow you.

Posted by: Swan on March 11, 2008 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget what Adm. Fallon had to say about the administration's darling, David Petraeus, who has often been accused of currying favor with superiors, military and civilian, to advance his career.

It was widely reported that Fallon told Petraeus [in March 2007] that he considered him [Petaeus] to be “an ass-kissing little chickenshit” and added, “I hate people like that”, sources said. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began a meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

Posted by: DevilDog on March 11, 2008 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't believe that Bush will attempt an attack on Iran"

What makes you think Bush is in control of US foreign policy? (or really anything else for that matter... aside perhaps, from what he's having for breakfast).

Posted by: Buford on March 11, 2008 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

For those who say Obama should reappoint Fallon if he is elected, it can't be done. When you retire from a position in the military, you are retiring from the military itself.

Posted by: bob in fla on March 11, 2008 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

JM has it (mostly) right. I did hear a different conjecture that is worth considering. Cheney doesn't really intend to attack Iran, but hopes to bluff them (with his obvious derangement) into thinking we just might be crazy enough to do it. Fallon was getting in the way. Good cop (Fallon) bad cop (Cheney), just wasn't working out.

Posted by: bigTom on March 11, 2008 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Fallon gone, Cheney on his way to Israel, with oil over $100 this is a perfect storm. Iran just went to full alert. I think the Admiral played the only card he had.

Posted by: Tim on March 11, 2008 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

God I can't wait until Bush is gone. It is going to take this country decades to heal from the wounds this vile man has inflicted on us - not to mention the centuries it will take Iraq and Afghanistan to heal.

I am beginning to envisage a nightmare scenario where Jeb Bush is McCain's VP and a major terrorist event occurs, like an American city being vaporized. Then, McCain/Bush sweeps into power in November on a wave of fear and then, then, wait for it - McCain drops dead of a heart attack! And, OH GOD, WE HAVE BUSH III!!!!


Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on March 11, 2008 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Ricks' reporting in the Post intimates that there may be more than one thing going on here, citing Fallon's disagreements with Petraeus over the absolute priority American policy has given Iraq as well as his concern about our course toward Iran.

It's probably worth pointing out that Fallon's views on using force against Iran became public knowledge a long time ago. Having them referenced again in the Barnett article is unlikely to have been more than an additional irritant in the White House.

Posted by: Zathras on March 11, 2008 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

We are truly fucked. Cheney is on the loose again. Why can't the democrats in congress get off their asses and start impeachment hearings and inquiries?

Posted by: Jeff in Clearwater on March 12, 2008 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Wanna bet the next one up is a Bible-thumper from the Air Force? ... I hope Fallon steps forward and informs the American people about the administration's true intent with respect to Iran. ... And while he's at it, maybe he could shed some light on what those missing nukes were all about.

Posted by: JeremiadJones on March 12, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

JinC: Why can't the democrats in congress get off their asses and start impeachment hearings and inquiries?

I can understand to some extent why impeachment is a political nonstarter for the Dems. For one reason, they'd never get sufficient votes in the Senate to convict, so it would end up being a bigger circus than the Clinton impeachment without actually resulting in the ouster of the Bush/Cheney regime.

But on a more practical level, it would seem to make sense for the Dems at this point to focus primarily on damage limitation and simply preventing Bush/Cheney from screwing things up even more before they're out. Nine months and counting, man.

But if Iran is attacked, which I doubt will happen, then all bets are off.

Posted by: JM on March 12, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

didn't they know what kind of man he was before
appointing him?

is it just a warning to iran, "don't be too
comfortable after the nie, we can still get you", or
is it the beginning of something more concrete, if not
intervention itself than at least military escalation
and crisis mongering, and fallon was on the way?

last week's iraq meeting cancellation, cheney coming
to the region, warship to lebanon, brit intel unhappy
about iran program ... is this a trend?

i think gates is unhappy. they fired him despite
gates. he and fallon's positions are very similar. or
not? a few months ago "a high level us officila"
talked to ft along the same lines. it was gates or

do you remember kagan and gerecht pieces (talk to
iran, otherwise we'll lose a year with bush doing
nothing and then sonmeone like obama comes and he will
try his hand at direct negotiation, we'll lose another
year there, and one day we'll wake up and discover
that they'll have the bomb. not to let this, talk to
them and show the world that it's not working. "


Posted by: turcopundit on March 12, 2008 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this Admiral may have been the last rational man left in a high post in this administration. His firing is a big red flashing signal to the world that Bush will attach Iran. Seems to me just sitting around til it happens 'just won't do'. The leading dems should all come out against an attack on Iran now, get everyone on the record, pass a law that says there can be no major bombing on Iran without Congressional authorization etc...
It probably wouldn't work, but it sets an important precident about how most of America feels about more war in the middle east.

Posted by: latimlf on March 12, 2008 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

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."

Posted by: Tom on March 12, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

A bill like that was introduced a few months ago, but went nowhere when AIPAC came out against it. I believe Hillary voted against it.

If they put three aircraft carrier battlegroups off Iran, the balloon will be going up.

Posted by: NJ Osprey on March 12, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Iraninan president traveled by car along the usually dangerous road from the airport to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's residence near the US-controlled Green Zone. What more powerful evidence can be available about Irans influence in Iraq.
If U.S. attacks Iran, Iran can twist U.S. arm in many ways with influence on Shia population in Iraq, and using its other allies in the region, and this can cause really bad consequences for US, though Iran might get hid very hard too. This is the reason US is in no position to attack Iran.
And because of U.S. failure to stop Irans nuclear program, and indirectly threaten Irans new leaders during election time, and send an indirect message to them saying, we did not attack you because of Fallon, the chief of U.S. forces in Middle East, who was against military action against Iran. And now as Fallon is gone, Iran might face military action, if it continued its nuclear program.
This indirect threat and drama played by US using Fallon, is evidence of its weakness in handling Irans nuclear issue.

Posted by: MJM on March 18, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Reply to the 100 reasons not to vote for Hillary: There is only 1 reason to vote for her if she gets the nomination--John McCain.

On Fallon: Perhaps, like all the other good people who have bowed out of this mess we are in, he did not want to get caught when the you-know-what hits the fan.

We don't have to worry about terrorists. We are letting the powers that be destory this country one piece at a time. We are no more than a house of cards now. One little poof of wind and we are done. The only thing that is holding this country together is the administration telling people to shop. Now they are giving us money to shop (in May). What happens when we have bought all the crap we need from China? Will we wake up or will it be too late?

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