From Ray Close -
Subject: Fallon's Fall
I believe that the Bush people have long since given up (privately) on the thought of actually launching a preemptive attack on Iran (with or without Israeli collaboration), for many very obvious military and political reasons of which the whole world is well aware. However, I believe they (especially the Cheney crew) are too stubborn and arrogant to acknowledge that the so-called military option is a practical impossibility, despite their constant sinister reminders that it is still "on the table".
The Bush administration is, unfortunately, at a complete loss to devise any workable alternative strategy, and that is making them more sensitive and prickly than ever.
The White House therefore recognized (as did we all) that Fallon's openly contrarian views on the subject were undermining the credibility of their hollow bluff. It was acutely embarrassing when this controversy was exposed to friends and foes alike all over the world (especially in a barbershop journal like Esquire), and controversial and divisive within the inner offices of the Washington policy establishment --- hence unacceptably insubordinate. This is not an Administration that tolerates criticism on any level, and especially when its own insiders expose once again their most precious but worst kept secret --- that the Iraq quagmire has left the world's greatest superpower, the United States of America, effectively incapable of employing its awesome military might to back up its publicly proclaimed strategic objectives. Someone once neatly reversed Teddy Roosevelt's famous dictum in describing this as "Walking stickly but carrying a big soft."
Here's a good summary of some of the background, by Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service
Dissenting Views Made Fallon's Fall Inevitable
By Gareth Porter*
*WASHINGTON, Mar 11 (IPS) -
Admiral William Fallon's request to quit his
position as head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and to retire from
the military was apparently the result of a George W. Bush administration
decision to pressure him to resign.*
Announcing the resignation, Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates said he
believed it was "the right thing to do", thus indicating the
administration wanted it.
On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, asked whether Gates
still had full confidence in Fallon, would only say that Fallon "still
enjoys a working -- a good working relationship with the secretary of
defence", and then added, "Admiral Fallon serves at the pleasure of the
The resignation came a few days after the publication of an Esquire
magazine article profiling Fallon in which he was described as being "in
hot water" with the White House and justified public comments departing
from the Bush administration's policy toward Iran. The publicity that
followed the article accelerated the pressure on Fallon to resign.
But Fallon almost certainly knew that he would be fired when he agreed to
cooperate with the Esquire magazine profile in late 2006.
On Tuesday, Fallon issued a statement saying, "Recent press reports
suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president's policy
objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts
in the Centcom region."
The resignation brings to an end a year, during which time Fallon clashed
with the White House over policy toward Iran and with Gen. David Petraeus
and the White House over whether Iraq should continue to be given priority
over Afghanistan and Pakistan in U.S. policy.
Fallon's greatest concern appears to have been preventing war with Iran.
He was one a group of senior military officers, apparently including most
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were alarmed in late 2006 and early 2007
by indications that Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were contemplating
a possible attack on Iran.
Gates chose Fallon to replace Gen. John P. Abizaid as CENTCOM chief
shortly after a Dec. 13, 2006 meeting between Bush and the Joint Chiefs at
which Bush reportedly asked their views on a possible strike against Iran.
Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former intelligence officer on the Middle East for
the Defence Intelligence Agency, told the Washington Post last week that
Fallon had said privately at the time of his confirmation that an attack
on Iran "isn't going to happen on my watch", When asked how he could avoid
such a conflict, Fallon reportedly responded, "I have options, you know."
Lang said he interpreted that comment as implying Fallon would step down
rather than follow orders to carry out such an attack.
As IPS reported last May, Fallon was also quoted as saying privately at
that time, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the
box". That was an apparent reference to the opposition by the Joint Chiefs
of Staff to an aggressive war against Iran.
Even before assuming his new post at CENTCOM, Fallon expressed strong
opposition in mid-February to a proposal for sending a third U.S. aircraft
carrier to the Persian Gulf, to overlap with two other carriers, according
to knowledgeable sources. The addition of a third carrier was part of a
broader strategy then being discussed at the Pentagon to intimidate Iran
by making a series of military moves suggesting preparations for a
The plan for a third carrier task force in the Gulf was dropped after
Fallon made his views known.
Fallon reportedly made his opposition to a strike against Iran known to
the White House early on in his tenure, and his role as CENTCOM commander
would have made it very difficult for the Bush administration to carry out
a strike against Iran, because he controlled all ground, air and naval
military access to the region.
But Fallon's role in regional diplomacy proved to be an even greater
source of friction with the White House than his position on military
policy toward Iran. Personal relations with military and political leaders
in the Middle East had already become nearly as important as military
planning under Fallon's predecessors at CENTCOM.
Fallon clearly relished his diplomatic role and did not hesitate to
express views on diplomacy that were at odds with those of the
administration. Last summer, as Dick Cheney was maneuvering within the
administration to shift U.S. policy toward an attack on bases in Iran
allegedly connected to anti-U.S. Shiite forces in Iraq, Fallon declared in
an interview, "We have to figure out a way to come to an arrangement" with
When Sunni Arab regimes in the Middle East became alarmed about the
possibility of a U.S. war with Iran, Fallon made statements on three
occasions in September and November ruling out a U.S. attack on Iran.
Those statements contradicted the Bush administration's policy of keeping
the military option "on the table" and soured relations with the White
Fallon also antagonised administration officials by pushing for a faster
exit from Iraq than the White House and Gen. Petraeus wanted. Fallon had a
highly-publicised personal and policy clash with Petraeus, for whom he
reportedly expressed a visceral dislike. Sources familiar with reports of
his meetings with Petraeus in Baghdad last March told IPS last spring that
he called him an "ass-kissing little chickens**t" in their first meeting.
Fallon later denied that he had used such language, suggesting to Esquire
that the sources of the report were probably army officers who were
indulging in inter-service rivalry with the navy. In fact, however, the
sources of the report were supporters of Fallon.
Fallon's quarrel with Petraeus was also related to the latter's insistence
on keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, even while the NATO position in
Afghanistan was growing more tenuous. Fallon was strongly committed to a
strategy that gave priority to Afghanistan and Pakistan as the central
security challenges to the United States in the Middle East and Asia.
Fallon made his distaste for a long war in Iraq very clear from the
beginning. He ordered subordinates to stop using the term "long war",
which had been favoured by the Bush administration. He was reported to be
concerned that the concept would alienate people across the Middle East by
suggesting a U.S. intention to maintain troops indefinitely in Muslim
Fallon's policy positions made him unpopular among neoconservative
supporters of the administration. One neoconservative pundit, military
specialist Max Boot, criticised Fallon last November for his public
comment ruling out a strike against Iran and then suggested in January
that Petraeus should replace the "unimpressive" Fallon at CENTCOM.
Fallon was playing a complex political game at CENTCOM by crossing the
White House on the two most politically sensitive issues in Middle East
policy. As a veteran bureaucratic infighter, he knew that he was
politically vulnerable. Nevertheless, he chose late last year not to lower
his profile but to raise it by cooperating fully with the Esquire article.
IPS has learned that Fallon agreed to sit for celebrity photographer Peter
Yang at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa Dec. 26 for the Esquire spread,
despite the near-certainty that it would exacerbate his relations with White
House. That may have been a signal that he already knew that he would not
be able to continue to play the game much longer and was ready to bring
his stormy tenure at CENTCOM to an end.
*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. The
paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of
Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.