Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran?

McCain's catchphrase seemed to be the major concern about Admiral William Fallon's abrupt resignation as CENTCOM commander this weekend. These fears of imminent war were due to the rather oddly coincidental recent release of an Esquire profile that basically portrayed Fallon as the only man between Bush-Cheney and bombs falling in Tehran. I have to admit that "Uh-Oh the Hawks are back in charge" was probably the first thoughts in my mind, since I really hadn't heard much besides the guy's name before that Esquire piece.

However, people who know more than me, like Fred Kaplan, have spoken up about the resignation... saying essentially that it is his unauthorized public policy proclamations about Iraq (not Iran) that have gotten him in trouble:

Last month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that after the five "surge" brigades left Iraq this July, there would be a "pause" before any further withdrawals would commence. In a Feb. 27 interview with the New York Times, Fallon said this pause would be brief, just long enough to allow "all the dust to settle," after which the drawdown would resume. Moreover, he said, U.S. strategy would shift—focusing on "supporting, sustaining, advising, training, and mentoring" the Iraqi army, not so much on fighting or providing security ourselves.

In a Slate column the next day, I wondered if Fallon was speaking on behalf of Gates, the administration, or anybody besides himself. I have since learned, from a senior Pentagon official and from a high-ranking Army officer, that he was not. I have also learned that many of Fallon's statements on policy matters have been similarly unauthorized.

Now it seems to me that Kevin Drum had the right of it. While I agree with Fallon, I certainly wouldn't want a Republican Admiral in a Democrat's Administration mouthing off to the press how President Obama was leaving too quickly and going to send the region into chaos. We do have civilian leadership for a reason and it seems like he was acting inappropriately. Perhaps positioning himself for a even higher profile role in a Democrat administration?

Regardless, what do Fred Kaplan's instincts/sources tell him about Iran?
Fallon has publicly expressed extreme skepticism toward the wisdom of a war with Iran. But so have Secretary Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The option of bombing Iran no longer seems to be on the table. But if President Bush were suddenly to put it back on the table, Fallon—or anyone in his position—would have no power to stop it, unless he simply refused to carry out his orders, and nowhere has Fallon said, or suggested, that he was willing to do that.
Well, that's not particularly reassuring but I'll take what I can get.

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