What’s that you say, there’s no Saddam/al-Qaeda connection? But Steve Hayes promised! And Doug Feith! Dick Cheney! Um.
Secretary Robert Gates has announced that Centcom commander Adm. William Fallon has submitted his resignation. Fallon was subject of a recent Esquire article, which stated that the admiral could be “relieved of his command before his time is up next spring,” in favor of a commander more amenable to war with Iran.
According to Gates, Fallon resigned because the fall-out from the article. Gates said Fallon told him: “The current embarrassing situation, public perception of differences between my views and administration policy, and the distraction this causes from the mission make this the right thing to do.” Gates said he approved Fallon’s request to retire with “reluctance and regret.” Watch it:
Last week, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino downplayed Fallon’s possible retirement, decrying “rumor mills that don’t turn out to be true.”
Fallon opposed the “surge” in Iraq and has consistently battled the Bush administration to avoid a confrontation with Iran, calling officials’ warmongering rhetoric “not helpful.” He rejected the praise in the Esquire piece, calling it “poison pen stuff.”
A reporter noted to Gates there was a “line in that Esquire story that said basically if Fallon gets fired, it means we’re going to war with Iran. Can you just address that?” Gates responded, “Well that’s just ridiculous.”
UPDATE: Sources at the Pentagon said that Fallon was worried the White House would “perceive the magazine piece as a challenge to the president’s authority, and insisted that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
UPDATE II: Last year, Fallon vowed that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.”
UPDATE IV: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has issued this statement:
I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this Administration.
UPDATE V: Spencer Ackerman writes:
Gates said in a press conference just now that no one should think the move reflects any substantive change in policy. That sure won’t be how Teheran sees it. The Iranians will consider Fallon’s resignation to indicate that the bombing begins in the next five minutes.
UPDATE VI: The National Security Network compiles examples of Fallon’s dissenting views from the Bush administration.
Admiral William Fallon, sometimes said to be standing between George W. Bush and the “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” policy, is resigning amidst a storm of controversy surrounding suggestions that he’s been standing between Bush and war with Iran. More insta-analysis here at The Washington Independent. Basically, there seems to be a mobius-strip like quality where it’s awkward for people to think Fallon is dissenting from the administration’s Iran policy, so he’s on his way out, though the administration and Fallon both deny that there is any such dissent or that any Iran policy changes are in the works. Got that?
Michael O’Hanlon and John McCain may be bullish about America’s prospects in Iraq, but Carl Levin and John Warner want to know why so much of Iraq’s oil money is in offshore banks rather than being invested in the costly business of running the country. Swopa offers one obvious possibility — they’re stashing billions in foreign banks to prepare to go back into exile when things collapse over there.
Michael O’Hanlon, like some mythic monster, has emerged again in a major newspaper to once again offer us the Wise Middle Ground of Endless War as an appealing policy option in Iraq. Check the Spack for more commentary, but I’ll give you this. O’Hanlon, by way of criticizing the Democratic position on Iraq, says that “only those who have concluded that the war is already lost tend to back such a position.” I mean, this is a majority of the public and just amounts to observing that only people who agree with the Democrats agree with the Democrats. But who else is supposed to agree?
Meanwhile note that the larger framing here is about the need for Democrats to act as a “loyal opposition.” Because apparently now disagreeing with Michael O’Hanlon is a form of treason. Or something. Good work, Brookings!
All that really happens after you read Michael O’Hanlon’s efforts to elaborate on the meaning of “Brookings Benchmarks” is that this business of handing out scores (zero! one half! one!) on eleven separate metrics and then adding them up is fundamentally silly. O’Hanlon is trying to introduce a spurious sense of precision to an inherently subjective judgment. Try to ask a coherent question like “is there a broadly based government that enjoys legitimacy across sectarian divides for us to support in Iraq?” and the answer is clearly “no.”