Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why Did Admiral Fallon Really Quit?

Up until the beginning of this week, Admiral William J. Fallon has served as the Commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). He'd been doing so since March of last year. On Tuesday, however, he resigned. The big question is why?

Picture of Admiral William FalconThe position of Commander of CENTCOM is an extremely important position in terms of current armed conflict in the Middle East. It stands to reason that Adm. Fallon probably had a damn good reason for stepping down from one of the most powerful positions in the military, especially since he'd been serving as Commander for less than a year.
At first glance this appears to not be the case. In the official announcement given by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the actual reason given for Adm. Fallon's resignation was that he resigned because of the "distraction" caused by public perception and "The current embarrassing situation ... of differences between [his] views and the administration policy." Distraction? It seems extremely unlikely that one would step down from one of the most powerful positions in the United States armed forces simply due to a "distraction" caused by "public perception." What seems more likely is that we haven't been privy to the whole story.

When I first read about Admiral Fallon's resignation, my first reaction was to be somewhat annoyed. If what Robert Gates, and the New York Times, had to say on the matter was entirely true, it would imply that Adm. Fallon had been pressured into stepping down because of what he had to say: it was actually reasonable and Made Sense. This unfortunately also meant that it went against the current party line in the White House.

The apparent cause of all the public misconception and controversy were centered around statements made by Fallon some time ago in which he asserts that the "constant drumbeat of conflict [is] not helpful or useful," and that we really should just try to sort things out diplomatically with Iran instead of pushing for another war.
Again, this makes sense. Wars cost a huge amount of money and resources, they end up creating thousands (if not more) casualties and, most of all, the United States is already involved in two (major) active armed conflicts. The last thing America needs is to begin a war on another front. Really: diplomacy is just cheaper.

And yet, it appeared that common sense and an unwillingness to harm your country (economically) was not a trait that the Bush Administration desired in it's CENTCOM Commander.

HOWEVER after you get past the media spin and scandal it turns out that there's more to the story. Adm Fallon was indeed probably pressured into resigning from his position, but it had more to do a focus shift in conflict in the middle east. Stratfor believes that Fallon stepped down to make way for either Gen. Petraeus himself or Gen. James Mattis.
Both of these men have become extremely important since the start of the armed conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. They both led various forces in the actual conflict and worked closely with each other to create the new counterinsurgency manual which has been adopted by the military. Both of these men clearly have a great understanding of the current situation in the middle east, have experience in leading the armed forces and show a willingness to adopt new strategies.
Where Fallon has failed (by allowing the situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan to deteriorate so substantially) one of these two men might succeed.

The point being: Fallon stepping down isn't necessarily a case of not staying in line, by publicly saying the 'wrong things' and succumbing to the ensuing media frenzy. It might be a convenient way for Fallon to quit while he's 'ahead' - as opposed to appearing to be kicked out for someone better qualified and more capable. Fallon stepping down creates the potential for things really improving in the middle east, at least as far the U.S. is directly involved, assuming of course that either Patraeus or Mattis takes on this new challenge.