Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Admiral William Fallon Resigns

Today the news came out that Admiral William Fallon, who is (or was) Conmmander in Chief of Central Command (CINCENT, which for all you civilians, is pronounced "sink cent"), has resigned. CINCENT is the guy who's in overall charge of all operations in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean. He's General Petraeus's direct boss. In other words, it's a pretty potent position. And the news that he has suddenly resigned is very disturbing. Most of the civilian talking heads that I've heard today don't really understand what it might mean, and they're focusing on things that really aren't that important. So, as an ex-military guy, here's my take.

ADM Fallon is quite an accomplished military officer. He was a naval flight officer (NFO) and flew combat missions in Vietnam. He's commanded a jet squadron, a carrier air wing, a carrier battle group (meaning an aircraft carrier, all its planes, and all its associated ships), and served as Commander Second Fleet, Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet, Vice Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief, Pacific. In other words, he rocks.

He's also, by some accounts, a bit arrogant and abrasive. Hey, he's a naval aviator, what the hell did you expect? But he's also a strategic thinker who knows how the international game is played. I'd put his real knowledge of international relations at several levels above that of Condoleeza Rice. While she was polishing her doctorate in a university, he was learning by doing. And, most critical to this particular story, he speaks his mind. No bullshit here: what he says is what he thinks. Old-school Navy.

Which is what got him in trouble. While our idiot President has kept trying to drum up another war, this time with Iran, ADM Fallon let his thoughts become public knowledge. And his thoughts weren't in line with Bush's. ADM Fallon thought, for example, that it was a good idea to talk with the Iranians, to negotiate with them, rather than attack them. Heresy! Now you and I can say this all we want, and nobody gives a rat's ass. But ADM Fallon is a heavyweight in international relations, especially in the most volatile part of the world, and what he says carries the weight of US official policy. So when the most recent Esquire magazine carried an article that claimed that ADM Fallon is the only one standing between Bush and a war with Iran, that was the kiss of death.

One of the things that distinguishes the United States from countries such as, for example, Pakistan or Panama, is that we have civilian control over the military. It's ground into our military officers from Day One. No upstart Admiral or General would even think of trying to take over leadership of the country while still on active duty. Civilians set the policy, the military carries it out. That's it. So while ADM Fallon wears the uniform and (especially) occupies the position of power, he has to do what the Prez says. Even if the Prez is a certified lunatic, such as our current one. If the Prez starts down a road that ADM Fallon (or any other officer) thinks is wrong, he has two choices: salute smartly and carry out his orders, or resign. Criticizing the orders in public is not an option.

Over the past few years, many civilians have wondered about the generals who served in Iraq or wherever, then retired and started bad-mouthing Bush. Why, they wonder, didn't the generals speak up when they were on active duty? Well, re-read the above paragraph. Military officers may or may not have an input to their orders. If so, it's behind closed doors. When the decision is made, we march off and do it. Or resign.

Which is why today's news is disturbing. Admiral Fallon is probably the most capable individual to serve in that critical position in recent memory. His track record of speaking his mind, and the Esquire article, might be the cause of his resignation, as both he and the Administration are saying. I doubt that's the full story. I haven't read the article yet (you can see it here), but the suddenness of his resignation indicates to me a high degree of possibility that Bush is moving ahead with his plans to attack Iran, and that Fallon took the honorable step of resigning rather than carry out insane orders.

All the TV pundits are talking about the Governor Spitzer sex scandal. They're missing the real and important story: Admiral Fallon's resignation and what might be going on in Iran. YOU should be concerned, too.

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