Breaking: Fallon resigns as head of Centcom; Update: In the works for awhile?

posted at 3:47 pm on March 11, 2008 by Allahpundit

Everyone in the blogosphere’s going to be linking this Thomas P.M. Barnett profile in Esquire published just last week suggesting that Fallon’s the only thing standing between the U.S. and war with Iran, and as such, if he leaves Centcom it’s a surefire sign that he’s lost the debate and the bombs will soon be dropping. Well, he’s out. Read the Esquire piece while I go look for updates.

Allegedly he isn’t a big fan of Petraeus either, so bear that angle in mind too as explanations emerge. Stand by.

Update: From WaPo’s write-up of the Esquire article:

As he was preparing to take command, Fallon said that a war with Iran “isn’t going to happen on my watch,” according to retired Army Col. Patrick Lang.

Lang, a former analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in an interview that he asked Fallon how he would avoid such a conflict. “I have options, you know,” Fallon responded, which Lang interpreted as implying Fallon would step down rather than follow orders he considers mistaken.

Update: A key passage from Esquire. Bear in mind, we’ve been hearing rumors from the likes of Seymour Hersh about the “imminent” attack on Iran for two years:

Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon’s statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.

Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon’s caution was justified. But still, 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.

Maybe his allies suspected he was being pushed out for other reasons and wanted to get a jump on the narrative by framing it this way? Any alternative theory to Barnett’s theory is a good alternative.

Update: Or was Fallon’s cooperation with Barnett for his article the problem?

Update: Yup, maybe:

Officials said the last straw, however, came in an article in Esquire magazine by Thomas P.M. Barnett, a respected military analyst, that profiled Admiral Fallon under the headline, “The Man Between War and Peace.” The article highlighted comments Admiral Fallon made to the Arab television station Al Jazeera last fall, in which he said that a “constant drumbeat of conflict” from Washington that was directed at Iran and Iraq was “not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”…

Readers of the Esquire article who are among the admiral’s boosters said they did not believe on reading that piece that Admiral Fallon himself had made comments that could be viewed as insubordinate to the president.

Like the Times says, Gates is known to be dovish on Iran too. If the jets are being warmed up, when did he come around, exactly?

Update: Further to the “Esquire article as preemptive strike” theory, here’s Blackfive claiming that he’s been hearing Fallon was on his way out for months now and it has nothing to do with Iran. Jim Miklaszewski at NBC says it does have something to do with Esquire, though — namely, his alleged insubordination. This was posted this morning, about four hours before the resignation came down:

The Pentagon sharks are circling CENTCOM Commander Adm. William “Fox” Fallon for a magazine interview in which he appears to openly criticize President Bush on the administration’s Iran policy. The very public comments raised speculation Fallon would either volunteer or be forced to resign…

Still, the gruff, outspoken CENTCOM commander has his detractors. “How many times can [Fallon] get away with these kinds of remarks,” before he’s forced out the door, asked one senior Pentagon official. The reason may be that on Iran, Gates and many senior military officials happen to agree with Fallon.

Gates has said publicly and privately that under current conditions he’s opposed to war with Iran. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen is also against it. In fact, almost every senior military officer we’ve talked to is against launching military strikes against Iran, because as one senior official told us, “then what do you do?”

Update: The official explanation is that it was the Esquire article that led him to leave — namely, the “misperceptions” that he didn’t see eye to eye with the administration on Iran when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Ahem.


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I wish we could get to the bottom of what motivates people like Pat Lang/Larry Johnson, who have been pretending the drumbeat of war with Iran has been beating.

Even before the 2004 election, we were hearing from those guys that Bush would bomb Iran as a way to keep himself in office.
What do these guys have to gain from their reverse fear-mongering?

MayBee on March 11, 2008 at 6:51 PM

Its time to bring back a middle ages Warfare idea, the punishment raid.

You very simply bomb them back to the stone age… no invasion, no worrying about “colateral damage”… you bomb the military, and bridges and infrastructure, and oil refineries (both of em)… and essentialy destroy what economy they have. You also shut them down from exporting oil…

Economy tanks. People get fed up. Government falls.

We have the power and technology to do it, and it would be WAY cheaper than invading and occupying the country (our mistake in Iraq).

Romeo13 on March 11, 2008 at 6:41 PM

Especially with Stone Age and Medivel leaders like in the Mid-East.

Couldn’t agree more – that’s why we’ve been betrayed and -

Liberty is dead.

mksmithwriter on March 11, 2008 at 6:55 PM

ADM. WILLIAM ‘FOX’ FALLON, THE TOP COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, IS RESIGNING, CITING AN ARTICLE IN WHICH HE CRITICIZED PRESIDENT BUSH’S POLICY…

It’s about damn time…!
It took a fine sailor with a real man’s cajones…!
Following winds and fair seas, Sir!
HooYaah…!
Olde soldier sends…!

J_Gocht on March 11, 2008 at 7:16 PM

Fallon got his fourth star from Clinton, and his sentiments lie in the same general directiona as Wes Clark. We all know what an asshole he is. Expect an endorsement of Obama (with an expected appointment in that administration) in short order.

Alamo on March 11, 2008 at 3:55 PM

Roger That, Alamo!! You nailed it.

c3ichief on March 11, 2008 at 7:21 PM

Please point out a sustained bombing campaign, conducted by Israel, between 1948 and 2008.

Limerick on March 11, 2008 at 6:46 PM

Only in the interests of technical accuracy, not to prove or disprove any wider point–The War of Attrition against Egypt at the Suez Canal, 1970. Even included air battles against Soviets flying MiGs for the Egyptians.

Horatius on March 11, 2008 at 7:22 PM

I think what we have here is another Wesley Clark . . . a political flag officer positioning himself for a job in a future Democratic administration. Not unusual in today’s environment. Military Service has taken on an entirely new meaning.

rplat on March 11, 2008 at 7:23 PM

Ah yes, we can crush the barbarians, they won’t come back in 20 years.

Sure bomb the oil refineries. I’m sure the Chinese will love you bombing the oil they bought.

If you really want to do it, make a deal with the Chinese to do it, and they get to keep all the oil.

What you’re forgetting is the fact that the barbarians are going to develop and increase their power and influence regardless.

There are still going to be consequences if the Iranians are left to develop for 20 years without a war. And the consequences will probably be worse.

Riposte on March 11, 2008 at 7:28 PM

Fallon got his fourth star from Clinton, and his sentiments lie in the same general directiona as Wes Clark. We all know what an asshole he is. Expect an endorsement of Obama (with an expected appointment in that administration) in short order.

Alamo on March 11, 2008 at 3:55 PM

Roger That, Alamo!! You nailed it.

c3ichief on March 11, 2008 at 7:21 PM

ADM Fallon has been crucial to our strategy against China in the Pacific, we all will owe him a debt in 20 years.

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 7:30 PM

Thomas PM Barnett states the reason he wanted to do the interview with Fallon:

What set Mark [Warren] off was Fallon’s statements to Al Jazeera that the “drumbeat on Iran” was “not helpful” and “not useful.” Mark, aware of Fallon’s history of marching to his own drumbeat re: China, was intrigued by his capacity and willingness to voice a contrarian view within an administration that seemed to be pushing the war option on Iraq with some vigor. So the intrigue for me became, If Fallon could stand up on China, would he do the same on Iran?

Fallon was already on the record as wanting a more rapid drawdown on Iraq, putting him with Gates and the JCS versus Petraeus and the White House.

To me, Fallon’s story was interesting enough solely on the China/Iran comparison, but likewise because he’s from the Villanova “mafia” that’s been so prominent lately (Cebrowski, Zinni, etc.), a group I knew well enough.

He went with an angle and he got it. Fallon was probably stupid to do the interview.

MayBee on March 11, 2008 at 7:47 PM


You also shut them down from exporting oil…

Romeo13 on March 11, 2008 at 6:41 PM

Wow, it looks like 100 dollars (and more) for oil is not high enough for you! It looks like our tanking economy is not enough!

mycowardice on March 11, 2008 at 7:49 PM

ADM Fallon has been crucial to our strategy against China in the Pacific, we all will owe him a debt in 20 years.

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 7:30 PM

What strategy? To choke them to death with our worthless dollars and priceless technology???/

mksmithwriter on March 11, 2008 at 8:14 PM

Anyone ever heard of Harry Truman and Douglas McCarthar? The General works FOR the President and when the general contradicts and speaks against the Presidents foreign policy, he MUST resign–or be fired–then he is free to say anything he wants.

rightwingpastor on March 11, 2008 at 8:23 PM

mksmithwriter on March 11, 2008 at 8:14 PM

No, but he was checking Chinese military growth in the Pacific quietly, while the rest of the world ignored it. He is a smart man, that is why the Navy has most of the Joint Commands now :)

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 8:26 PM

Fallon setup a few Mil-to-Mil visits, inviting Chinese officers over here to see how a real miltary operates.

That might be a little hint into his views about Iran. China being the only other super-power in the world, certainly has a say, good or bad, in whatever will or will not occur in Iran.

Titus Flavius on March 11, 2008 at 8:29 PM

He set up those visits to show that while we are friends right now, we aint effing round.

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 8:33 PM

Perfect reason why an Admiral should not be in charge of a Combatant Command in a ground war…Let the boys in blue fight the Air Wars, the Navy can have the sea battles and the Soldiers and Marines can run the ground campaigns. The job is too important for OJT…Would you want an Army guy running an air campaign???

Nozzle on March 11, 2008 at 8:34 PM

Would you want an Army guy running an air campaign???

Plenty of Navy guys fighting on the ground in Iraq.

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 8:38 PM

From accounts Fallon was part of a group that FEARED confronting Iran over control over the Gulf and preferred to surrender to Iran defacto control over the Gulf.

Aggressive acts by the Iranians which under Reagan resulted in the sinking of the Iranian Navy were left … unresponded to.

Part of that is fear over newer and better anti-ship missiles and newer and better anti-aircraft missiles. The exercise that resulted in the sinking of a carrier group by swarming speedboats. Fallon and a number of officers preferred to surrender to Iran than confront them over who controls the Gulf.

THAT is not a surrender the US can afford and runs counter to policy since FDR. More to the point, it seems unpopular among the Air Force, elements of the Navy. Which don’t like being told to surrender to Iran without a shot fired.

Of course, given 30 years of unchecked Iranian aggression and the belief that the US is soft, expect confrontations in the Gulf, and possibly the sinking of US ships. What then?

Well, we bomb Iran into the stone age, seize their oil fields, and pump them DRY.

whiskey_199 on March 11, 2008 at 8:42 PM

From accounts Fallon was part of a group that FEARED confronting Iran over control over the Gulf and preferred to surrender to Iran defacto control over the Gulf.

What accounts are those? Given my experience with ADM Fallon, I would doubt he feared confrontation with anyone…

He certainly would not propose backing out of the Gulf, no self-respecting Navy man would.

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 9:24 PM

I doubt anyone who has been in the U.S. military for any period of time is intimindated by Iran on any level.

Iran fought an 8 year war with Iraq to a draw.

The U.S. drove Iraq out of Kuwait in about 6 weeks counting the air campaign. The U.S toppled the Saddam regime in two months.

Hog Wild on March 11, 2008 at 9:49 PM

I know ADM Fallon by reputation and he is a considered and intelligent leader. He was brilliant at PACCOM, he got the CENTCOM job because of Iran (it will be mostly a Naval war if it comes), he is not losing it for being afraid of them.

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Wow, it looks like 100 dollars (and more) for oil is not high enough for you! It looks like our tanking economy is not enough!

mycowardice on March 11, 2008 at 7:49 PM

I don’t think a nuclear armed Iran would help the price of oil either. We should do the right thing, disable the program and destabilize the government.

Zorro on March 11, 2008 at 10:20 PM

I don’t think a nuclear armed Iran would help the price of oil either. We should do the right thing, disable the program and destabilize the government.

Zorro on March 11, 2008 at 10:20 PM

Why would a nuclear Iran make any difference in the price of oil, unless you think they will initiate some kind of war (which I think is less than unlikely to happen).

mycowardice on March 11, 2008 at 10:29 PM

…unless you think they will initiate some kind of war (which I think is less than unlikely to happen).

I take them at their word, which is that they have publicly stated hundreds of times that they will wipe Israel off the map. Not to mention “Death to America”. Also, with nukes, they would pressure Saudi and the Gulf states to not sell to the west. They could threaten again to restrict passage thru the Straits of Hormuz. The price of oil will spike they day they detonate their first bomb.

Zorro on March 11, 2008 at 10:48 PM

Zorro on March 11, 2008 at 10:48 PM

Just a note, it is the Strait of Hormuz (singular)
Sorry, as a Navigator its a pet peeve :)

Squid Shark on March 11, 2008 at 11:31 PM

What a a–hole this guy is!!!!!!!!!

beachkatie on March 12, 2008 at 12:32 AM

Allegedly he isn’t a big fan of Petraeus either, so bear that angle in mind too as explanations emerge. Stand by.

Not that many at the Pentagon are big surge till they merge, or surge because they are not merging fans.

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:06 AM

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.

West Point cadets are obligated to stay in the Army for five years after graduating. In a typical year, about a quarter to a third of them decide not to sign on for another term. But last year, when the 905 officers from the class of 2001 had to make their choice to stay or leave, 44 percent quit the Army. It was the service’s highest loss rate in three decades.”

An hour after General Cody’s talk at Fort Knox, several captains met to discuss the issue over beers. Capt. Garrett Cathcart, who has served in Iraq as a platoon leader, said: “The culture of the Army is to accomplish the mission, no matter what. That’s a good thing.” Matt Wignall, who was the first captain to ask General Cody about the Yingling article, agreed that a mission-oriented culture was “a good thing, but it can be dangerous.” He added: “It is so rare to hear someone in the Army say, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ But sometimes it takes courage to say, ‘I don’t have the capability.’ ” Before the Iraq war, when Rumsfeld overrode the initial plans of the senior officers, “somebody should have put his foot down,” Wignall said.”

“Yingling’s commander at Tal Afar, H. R. McMaster, documented a similar crisis in the case of the Vietnam War. Twenty years after the war, McMaster wrote a doctoral dissertation that he turned into a book called “Dereliction of Duty.” It concluded that the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1960s betrayed their professional obligations by failing to provide unvarnished military advice to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as they plunged into the Southeast Asian quagmire. When McMaster’s book was published in 1997, Gen. Hugh Shelton, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs, ordered all commanders to read it — and to express disagreements to their superiors, even at personal risk. Since then, “Dereliction of Duty” has been recommended reading for Army officers.

Yet before the start of the Iraq war and during the early stages of the fighting, the Joint Chiefs once again fell silent. Justin Rosenbaum, the captain at Fort Knox who asked General Cody whether any generals would be held accountable for the failures in Iraq, said he was disturbed by this parallel between the two wars. “We’ve read the McMaster book,” he said. “It’s startling that we’re repeating the same mistakes.”

McMaster’s own fate has reinforced these apprehensions. President Bush has singled out McMaster’s campaign at Tal Afar as a model of successful strategy. Gen. David Petraeus, now commander of United States forces in Iraq, frequently consults with McMaster in planning his broader counterinsurgency campaign. Yet the Army’s promotion board — the panel of generals that selects which few dozen colonels advance to the rank of brigadier general — has passed over McMaster two years in a row.

McMaster’s nonpromotion has not been widely reported, yet every officer I spoke with knew about it and had pondered its implications. One colonel, who asked not to be identified because he didn’t want to risk his own ambitions, said: “Everyone studies the brigadier-general promotion list like tarot cards — who makes it, who doesn’t. It communicates what qualities are valued and not valued.”

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:18 AM

The official explanation is that it was the Esquire article that led him to leave — namely, the “misperceptions” that he didn’t see eye to eye with the administration on Iran when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Ahem.

I call your ahem and raise you a double ahem.

Hillary’s having no idea of what Bill was up to is more believable.

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:22 AM

Allegedly he isn’t a big fan of Petraeus is not as competent nor as strategically brilliant as Gen. Patraeus either….

Branch Rickey on March 11, 2008 at 3:51 PM

Bravo Sierra.

Petraeus is concentrating on tactics in Iraq and has thrown strategy out the window. Not that he has much choice.

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:27 AM

I’ve never been too fond of too many Navy types. The Air Force is unacceptably liberal, but they’re nothing compared to the sailors. While many are very competent, too many sailors (like this less-than-professional admiral, if he did say those things about his Army General Patraeus) are nothing more than double-talking, insubordinate liberals that you can count on to undercut authority at every turn. For loyalty and competence, I’d always turn to the Army and the Marine Corps. They’ve got their liberals, too, but not nearly as many.

Support the Troops.
Support most of the Troops.
Support most of the Troops most of the time.
Support many of the Troops.
Support many of the Troops much of the time.
Support some of the Troops.
Support some of the Troops some of the time.

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:42 AM

Less dead weight around the ankles of hope for light at the end of the tunnel for the men and women fighting stuck in Lodi again Iraq.

joewm315 on March 11, 2008 at 4:22 PM

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:49 AM

Just about five years ago, I set out on the Army road,
Seekin my fame and training, lookin for a pot of gold.
Things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.
Oh ! lord, stuck in Iraq again.

Flew in on a big plane, I hope I’ll be in one piece flyin out when I go.
I was just passin through, must now be thirteen months or more.
Running out of time and patience, looks like they took more of my friends.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck in Iraq again.

The man in the White House said yet again I was on my way.
Somewhere I lost his connection, he ran out of words to say.
I came into Baghdad, a one year stand, looks like the plans fell through
Oh ! lord, stuck in Iraq again.

Mmmm…
If I only had a woman, for evry tour Ive done.
And evry time Ive had to fight while people back home shopped till they dropped and then sat there power drunk.
You know, Id like to catch the next plane back to where Im from.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck in Iraq again.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck in Iraq again.

- CCR Soldier Boy

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:54 AM

So much work, so little time.

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:55 AM

Just about four years ago, I set out on the road,
Seekin my fame and fortune, lookin for the presidency.
Things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.
Oh ! lord, stuck on stupid again.

Came in a limo, Ill be flyin out in a private jet when I go.
I was just passin through, must be four years or more.
Ran out of time and money, looks like they took my votes.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck on stupid again.

The man from Zogby said I was on my way.
Somewhere I lost about a hundred thousand ballots, ran out of chads to play.
I came into town, a one night stand, looks like my plans fell through
Oh ! lord, stuck on stupid again.

Mmmm…
If I only had a rich wife, for evry yarn Ive spun.
And evry time Ive had to speak while people sat there stunned.
You know, Id catch the next private jet back to the mansion where I
live.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck on stupid again.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck on stupid again.
- CCR Sailor Boy

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 2:00 AM

I think the worst of Bush’s legacy will have been his failure to recognize the extraordinary extent to which the Clintons partisanized virtually all branches of government, and his subsequent failure to purge not only the military commands but the CIA, DoJ, and virtually every other agency of just such operatives.

Blacklake on March 11, 2008 at 4:38 PM

Saddam did a lot of purging of high ranking military and intelligence officers.

How did that work out for him?

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 2:06 AM

Perfect reason why an Admiral should not be in charge of a Combatant Command in a ground war…Let the boys in blue fight the Air Wars, the Navy can have the sea battles and the Soldiers and Marines can run the ground campaigns. The job is too important for OJT…Would you want an Army guy running an air campaign???

Nozzle on March 11, 2008 at 8:34 PM

Do you know why 5 out of 7 top inter-service posts are Navy?

That was Bush’s idea.

Do you know why?

MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 2:15 AM

Perfect reason why an Admiral should not be in charge of a Combatant Command in a ground war…Let the boys in blue fight the Air Wars, the Navy can have the sea battles and the Soldiers and Marines can run the ground campaigns. The job is too important for OJT…Would you want an Army guy running an air campaign???
Nozzle…

Would you want an Army guy running an air campaign???
Plenty of Navy guys fighting on the ground in Iraq.
Squid Shark…

MARINE: http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/6A9F54EACD3677188525722200698195

SEAL: http://www.navy.mil/moh/mpmurphy/

ARMY: http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/smith/

MEDAL OF HONOR… winners fightin’ on-the ground…!

Two outta three for the Navy; ain’t too bad…!
Olde soldier sends…HooAaah…!

J_Gocht on March 12, 2008 at 10:00 AM

MB4, please, the public display of masturbation is intolerable!

I know it makes you feel good,

but it has no other purpose for the rest of us.

Sonosam on March 12, 2008 at 10:10 AM

“…McMaster’s nonpromotion has not been widely reported, yet every officer I spoke with knew about it and had pondered its implications. One colonel, who asked not to be identified because he didn’t want to risk his own ambitions, said: “Everyone studies the brigadier-general promotion list like tarot cards — who makes it, who doesn’t. It communicates what qualities are valued and not valued.”
MB4 on March 12, 2008 at 1:18 AM

Damn fine point[s] MB.

I’ve noted from many of the comments on this page, that there persists a general; lack of knowledge of military history, scope of understanding of military operations and politics and a rather smug attitude of…
Never served…
Never wanted to serve…
And there, but for the grace of God go others and not me…!

Thanks for your service.

J_Gocht on March 12, 2008 at 10:42 AM

Was this the real reason…?

BAGHDAD — Newly declassified statistics on the frequency of insurgent attacks in Iraq suggest that after major security gains last fall in the wake of an American troop increase, the conflict has drifted into a stalemate, with levels of violence remaining stubbornly constant from November 2007 through early 2008.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/world/middleeast/12iraq.html?_r=1&ex=1362974400&en=c341125788d6c3ae&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin

The Admiral was in charge, after all..!

J_Gocht on March 12, 2008 at 11:51 AM

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