Fred Kaplan: Fallon wasn't pushed out over Iran

Kaplan knows the military and isn’t inclined to give Bush the benefit of the doubt ever, both elements of which make this compelling. Blackfive and NBC hinted yesterday that his resignation had less to do with him standing in the way of war with Iran than with intangibles. Here’s Kaplan backing them up, coming close but not quite all the way to accusing Fallon of insubordination:

Contrary to the charges of some Democratic lawmakers, this is not another case of an officer’s dissent being stifled. Nor does Fallon’s departure herald a tilt in U.S. policy toward war with Iran…

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…

Fallon, who is one of the military’s finest strategic minds, may well be right. Certainly his views match those of many senior officers. But they are contrary to the president’s views, and Fallon knew this. There is much debate within military circles these days over how far, and in what forums, a general or admiral should take his disagreements with political leaders. By most standards, Fallon probably went too far, too publicly. The U.S. Constitution does call for civilian control of the military, and generally, we should be thankful for that.

The big winner: Fallon’s alleged nemesis, Petraeus, who’s more reluctant to draw down in Iraq prematurely than the admiral is and may be in line for Centcom commander himself — which would please the left just fine. Meanwhile, Kaplan ends with a question I asked yesterday myself: If this is all about bomb bomb bomb, bomb bombing Iran, why hasn’t Gates been pushed out too?