The New York Times is reporting here that Admiral William J. "Fox" Fallon is taking early retirement. Fallon, commander of Central Command (CENTCOM) which encompasses the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, has often seemed critical of the Bush Administration’s policies in the area, especially its persistent aggressive stance towards Iran.
Fallon’s resignation appears to have been precipitated by this profile of him in Esquire magazine by military analyst Thomas P. M. Barnett. From it’s opening sentence, the profile is glowing, bordering on worshipful.
"If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it’ll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it’ll come down to the same man."
Barnett serves up a stark contrast between Fallon’s brilliant strategic acumen and long-term thinking vs. the aggressive Washington cowboys who "seem never to have served a minute in uniform" with all the subtlety of a drill sergeant. The comparison may very well be completely accurate, but it’s not hard to see how it could infuriate the Pentagon and the White House.
One interesting aspect of this, highlighted by both Barnett and the Times, relates to the impact Fallon’s resignation may have on junior officers.
Barnett, with some foresight, notes,
"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. "
The Times says something very similar:
"At the same time, some younger officers who have been critical of senior commanders for not speaking up about the risks of invading Iraq now see a senior officer who did speak his mind publicly being prompted to choose early retirement."
Well, I don’t know how to assess Fallon’s abilities, but if he’s as good as Barnett suggests, then it’s possible his retirement may be brief. After all, there’ll be an opening for the position of Secretary of Defense in just a few months.