The military and war with Iran


FT Also Sees Pentagon Opposition to Iran Attack
by Jim Lobe
LobeLog, 2007-11-12

In the Hands of the Military
by Chris Hedges
TruthDig.com, 2007-11-12

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

The last, best hope for averting a war with Iran
lies with the United States military.
The Democratic Congress,
cowed by the Israel lobby and
terrified of appearing weak on defense before the presidential elections,
will do nothing to halt an attack.
The media, especially the electronic press,
is working overtime to
whip up fear of a nuclear Iran and
tar Tehran with abetting attacks against American troops in Iraq.
The American public is complacent,
unsure of what to believe,
knocked off balance by fear and passive.
We will be saved or doomed by our generals.

The last wall of defense
that prevents the Bush administration from targeting Iran,
an attack that could ignite a regional conflagration
and usher in apocalyptic scenarios in the Middle East,
runs through the offices of
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates;
Adm. William Fallon, the head of the Central Command (CENTCOM); and
Gen. George Casey, the Army’s new chief of staff.
These three figures in the defense establishment
have told George W. Bush and the Congress
how depleted the U.S. military has become,
that it cannot manage another conflict, and
that a war with Iran
would make the war with Iraq look like an act of prudence and common sense.

The reliance on the military command, however,
to be the voice of reason in the debate about a new war
is not a healthy sign for our deteriorating democracy.
Compliant generals can always be found to carry out
the Dr. Strangelove designs of a mad White House.
[Please, don’t put so much of the blame on the Bush administration.
Sure, it may sign the order that commits the U.S. to attack Iran.
But in signing that order,
it will only be carrying out the will of all the relevant power centers
that affect our foreign and military policy.]

Those who resist implementing decisions can easily be removed.
The protective cover provided by these figures in the defense establishment
could vanish.

The United States is able to
launch a massive and devastating air attack on Iran’s military installations.
It can obliterate the Iranian air force.
It can cripple if not dismantle
effective communications and military command and control.
It can destroy some of Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.
But our intelligence inside Iran, as was true in Iraq, is uneven.
We do not know where all of Iran’s nuclear facilities are.
And it is probable that an Iranian response against American targets,
such as the Green Zone in Iraq,
as well as Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks on American soil,
would follow.
[Overseas, the most vulnerable targets would seem to be
the supply lines for Am Forces Iraq, which run through the Shiite south,
and the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, which are in heavily Shiite territory.]

Shiites in the region would interpret an attack
as a war on the Shiite community
and would unleash unrest, terrorism and violence
against us and our allies from Lebanon to Pakistan.


There is a petition circulating
that was put together by Marcy Winograd from the Progressive Democrats.
The petition is addressed to
the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all U.S. military personnel.
It urges them to defy orders to attack Iran.
It points out that a pre-emptive war with Iran
is a war crime under international law.
It reminds military personnel of the statute in the
Army Field Manual 27-10, Section 609, and
Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 92,
that states:
“A general order or regulation is lawful
unless it is contrary to the Constitution, the law of the United States. ...”
[Not so:
see UCMJ, Article 92.]

[This is sick.
It is absolutely impossible for the military to defy
the collective wishes of the media/political complex.
In the first place,
to do so would be an abdication of responsibility to carry out lawful orders.
Military leaders are not constitutional scholars;
unless the situation was far more clear-cut than this
there is no way that they could discern that an order was unconstitutional.
There is nothing unconstitutional on the face of an order to attack Iran.
In the second place, if they did so
the very same media/political complex
that has gone along so far with the march to war
would cut them to ribbons.
Can you imagine the cries of the neocon media jackals
if the military were to defy the president on attacking Iran?
That would be a constitutional crisis.
Or if a large number of military leaders went the resignation route,
once again they would be demonized by much of the media.
That may be the best alternative,
but even that would have no effect on the march to war;
new leaders would be put in place to take us to war.
The resigned leaders would have the right to say “we told you so”,
but that’s about all.]


More Neo-Con Military Advice
by Jim Lobe
LobeLog, 2008-01-27

[An excerpt:]

[N]eo-conservatives and their allies in the administration
may be engaged in a below-the-radar campaign
against Adm. William “Fox” Fallon,
the current chief of the U.S. Central Command (CentCom),
perhaps for being too dovish on Iran.

The Firing of Fox Fallon

The Man Between War and Peace
By Thomas P.M. Barnett
Esquire, on web 2008-03-05

As head of U. S. Central Command, Admiral William “Fox” Fallon
is in charge of American military strategy
for the most troubled parts of the world.
Now, as the White House has been escalating the war of words with Iran,
and seeming ever more determined to strike militarily
before the end of this presidency,
the admiral has urged restraint and diplomacy.
Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?

[I find it fascinating that the author, Barnett,
and the editors at Esquire would publish
such a blatant challenge
to the principle of military command and control.
Did they do it deliberately, to force the White House to dismiss Fallon?

Here is an excerpt from the article;
emphasis is added.]

What America needs, Fallon says,
is a “combination of strength and willingness to engage.”

Those are fighting words to your average neocon--
not to mention your average supporter of Israel,
a good many of whom in Washington
seem never to have served a minute in uniform.
But utter those words for print
and you can easily find yourself defending
your indifference to “nuclear holocaust.”

How does Fallon get away with
so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?

[Note well that the poisonous assertion
that Fallon is “brazenly challenging his commander in chief”
is merely Esquire’s assertion.]

The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer.
President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate
who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does,
and the president may have had enough.

[Again, is this an invitation for Fallon to be dismissed?
Talk about putting words into the president’s mouth,
and inviting presidential action.

Note, by the way, that Barnett is author of the hyper-neocon book
The Pentagon’s New Map.
As for Barnett’s own desire for regime change in Iran,
see his words in his book just mentioned.
In particular, he wrote that,
if the current mullah-led regime could not be changed by internal Iranian pressures,

Iran must become the main focus of our pressure for change
once Kim is dethroned in North Korea
[that was item number two on Barnett’s global to-do list;
item one is “re-creating Iraq as
a functioning, connected society within the global economy”],
if only for
the regime’s continued support of
transnational terrorist groups in general
and al Qaeda in particular.

[Thomas P. M. Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map]

Commander Rejects Article of Praise
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post, 2008-03-06

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The top U.S. commander in the Middle East
is the subject of a glowing magazine article describing him as
the only person who might stop the Bush administration
from going to war against Iran.

Esquire magazine’s forthcoming profile of Adm. William “Fox” Fallon
portrays the chief of the U.S. Central Command as
“brazenly challenging” President Bush on Iran,
pushing back “against what he saw as an ill-advised action.”

Written by Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College,
the article in the magazine’s April issue predicts that
if Fallon leaves his position at Central Command,
“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.”


Asked about the article yesterday,

Fallon called it
“poison pen stuff”
that is “really disrespectful and ugly.”

He did not cite specific objections.


The White House declined to comment,
but administration insiders said the article was being discussed there yesterday.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said,
“Secretary [of Defense Robert M.] Gates has read the profile on Admiral Fallon
but chooses not to comment on it or other press accounts.”


Fallon has previously made it clear
he has differences with the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
Some White House aides were said to be unhappy with
his decision to dump “the long war”
as a phrase to describe U.S. efforts against terrorism.
In addition, some White House officials were irked by the persistent friction
between him and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Fallon and Petraeus
are known to have disagreed about plans and troop levels in Iraq,
but Petraeus, even though technically subordinate to Fallon,
appears to have more influence with Bush.


Fallon, a career naval aviator
and one of the last Vietnam War veterans on active duty,
took over as chief of the Central Command in March 2007,
becoming the first Navy officer ever to hold that post.
Conservatives have been critical of him for years,
faulting him for taking what they considered a dovish stance on China
in his previous position of U.S. military commander in the Pacific.
Their antagonism has deepened over the past year.
“You heard negative things about him almost from the moment he was named,
and the chorus has been almost unrelieved,”
said Tom Donnelly, a hawkish defense expert
at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Others describe it as an appendage of right-wing Zionists.
Too bad the WP won’t point out
its connections to Israel and to starting the Iraq War,
nor those of Donnelly.
And why is such a war-mongerer as Donnelly
given the most prominent “independent” criticism of Fallon?
Could this be considered pro-war bias on the part of the Post?]

Admiral Fallon and His Empire
CounterPunch, 2008-03-07

Mideast Commander Retires After Irking Bosses
New York Times, 2008-03-12

[The complete article; emphasis is added.]

Adm. William J. Fallon, the commander of American forces in the Middle East
whose outspoken public statements on Iran and other issues
had seemed to put him at odds with the Bush administration,
is retiring early,
the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

Admiral Fallon
had rankled senior officials of the Bush administration in recent months
with comments that
  • emphasized diplomacy over conflict in dealing with Iran,

  • endorsed further troop withdrawals from Iraq
    beyond those already under way

  • suggested the United States had taken its eye off
    the military mission in Afghanistan.

A senior administration official said that, taken together,
the comments
“left the perception he had a different foreign policy than the president.”

Admiral Fallon, 63, took over the Central Command only a year ago,
becoming the first admiral to become the top officer there.
In a statement issued by his headquarters,
he acknowledged that
“recent press reports suggesting a disconnect
between my views and the president’s policy objectives
have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts”
across his region.

His premature retirement was announced by his civilian boss,
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates,
who said he accepted the admiral’s request to retire
“with reluctance and regret.”

The White House issued a statement from President Bush that,
while complimentary,
was pale by comparison to other messages of farewell
for senior officials with whom Mr. Bush has worked more closely.
The statement said Admiral Fallon
had served his country with “honor, determination and commitment” and
deserved “considerable credit” for the progress in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In his statement, Admiral Fallon said,
“I don’t believe there have been any differences
about the objectives of our policy” in the Middle East.
many of his public statements
have fallen within the range of views
expressed by Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen,
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But there was no question that the admiral’s premature departure stemmed from
what were perceived to be policy differences with the administration
on Iran and Iraq,
where his views competed with those of Gen. David H. Petraeus,
the American commander in Iraq, who is a favorite of the White House.

During a news briefing to announce the retirement of Admiral Fallon,
a man hailed by the defense secretary
as one of the most brilliant strategic minds in the military,
Mr. Gates was asked whether the unexpected departure
could be seen as a prelude to preparation for a war with Iran.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Mr. Gates responded.

Across the officer corps,

a large number of senior military leaders
share Admiral Fallon’s broad assessment that
a war with Iran would bring
unexpected and, perhaps, unmanageable, risks
elsewhere in the Muslim world and around the globe.

But many said they agreed that
once it became clear he had lost the confidence of his civilian bosses,
it was the responsibility of the four-star admiral to retire.

That was especially so, they said, as it became obvious that
no great effort was being made by civilian leaders
to persuade him to remain in command.

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.

A number of officials said the last straw came
in an article in Esquire magazine
by Thomas P. M. Barnett, a respected military analyst
[Barnett in fact is a Ph.D. in political science
who has never served a day in the military,
but who has worked for DoD as a political/military analyst.
His book, The Pentagon’s New Map, shows that his interests and background
are hardly in military affairs as traditionally defined,
but rather in how to promote globalization.]
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
was “not helpful and not useful.”

“I expect that there will be no war,
and that is what we ought to be working for,”
Admiral Fallon was quoted as saying.
“We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”

Readers of the Esquire article who are among the admiral’s supporters
said they did not believe after reading it
that the admiral had made comments that could be viewed as
insubordinate to the president.
But the cast of the lengthy article
put him at odds with the White House.

[In other words,
they say that the problem is the article by Barnett, not the admiral.]

“If, in the dying light of the Bush administration,
we go to war with Iran,
it’ll all come down to one man,”
the article begins, referring to Admiral Fallon.
“If we do not go to war with Iran,
it’ll come down to the same man.”

Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen have maintained an unwavering public line that
disagreements with Iran should be resolved diplomatically, and that
any military option was only the last resort.
That view is frequently expressed by Mr. Bush,
although some White House officials are said to hold
far more hawkish views on dealing with Iran.

Mr. Gates said Tuesday that Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey,
the Army officer who is No. 2 at Central Command
and has served two tours in Iraq since the invasion of 2003,
would temporarily take Admiral Fallon’s place
when the admiral retires at the end of this month,
and would serve until a permanent replacement
was nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader,
pounced on the retirement announcement,
calling it “yet another example that
independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views
are not welcome in this administration.”

When Admiral Fallon was nominated in January 2007
to be the commander of American military forces
across a region where they are engaged in two ground wars,
the choice struck many analysts as odd.

Admiral Fallon replaced Gen. John P. Abizaid of the Army.
At the time, a range of senior Pentagon civilians and military officers said
Mr. Gates had recommended that Admiral Fallon
move from his post as commander of American forces in the Pacific
to bring a new strategic view — as well as maritime experience —
to the Middle East.

Although known for being tough on his subordinates,
he also developed a reputation for
nuanced diplomatic negotiations with friendly nations,
and with some with whom the United States has more prickly ties.

Top U.S. Officer in Mideast Resigns
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post, 2008-03-12

‘Fox’ Fallon Fired
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-03-12

First Casualty Of The Iran War
Center for American Progress Progress Report, 2008-03-13

Fallon’s Fall Is Bad News
by Jim Lobe
LobeLog, 2008-03-13

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

As much as I would like to agree with Steve Clemons and Chris Nelson,
I think Admiral Fallon’s resignation is very bad news,
less because it signals war with Iran, as a few analysts have argued
(although it certainly makes war more possible),
than it suggests rather strongly that

the “realists” have lost ground
in their never-ending war
with the hawks in and outside the administration
over control of the “global war on terror.”

It seems very clear to me,
among other things from the comments of Secretary Gates,
who leads the realist faction, that
the resignation resulted from White House pressure,
and that
Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, among others,
really did not want Fallon to go.

For much of the past year,
Fallon had acted as their “point man” (in the military sense)
in trying to promote a saner strategic policy
toward the entire region covered by the Central Command
and not one that was so obsessed with achieving “victory” in Iraq
(and unmitigated hostility toward Iran).

His departure will clearly weaken the realists’ hand
in the ongoing battles against the neo-conservatives
(who, as I noted most recently in late January,
had mounted a mostly under-the-radar campaign
to get Fallon relieved of his responsibilities
at the earliest possible moment)
and other hawks, particularly those most closely associated with Cheney.

Gates insisted that
Fallon had “reached this difficult decision entirely on his own,”
a somewhat questionable assertion given
Fallon’s remarkably strongly worded public rejection
of the Esquire profile by Thomas Barnett
that most analysts believe
was the straw that broke the camel’s back at the White House.

“I believe it was the right thing to do,” Gates went on,
“even though I do not believe
there are, in fact, significant differences
between his views and administration policy”
(which, of course, raises the question
why, if there were indeed no significant differences,
they could not be cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction.

After all, as the New York Times noted Wednesday,
“many of [Fallon’s] public statements
have fallen within
the range of views expressed by Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen…”
I would add that this includes both
calming tensions with Iran and
pausing only briefly in July
before continuing to draw down troops in Iraq
to as few as 110,000 by the end of the year.)
Gates noted that he accepted Fallon’s resignation
“with reluctance and regret”
and described him as
“enormously talented and very experienced”
and as having
“a strategic vision that is rare.”

Of course, that strategic vision,
which is spelled out at some length in Barnett’s profile, is
anathema to the hawks
as much as it is
ambrosia to the realists.
Fallon was already in bad odor with the hawks
for his eagerness to engage the Chinese military
when he served as the head of the Pacific Command from 2005 to 2007;
it was a major bureaucratic coup
that Gates and the Pentagon brass prevailed in his transfer to Centcom.
That Fallon subsequently argued within administration councils
for a similar kind of outreach toward Iran —
he pushed hard for an “incidents-at-sea” agreement with Tehran
no doubt only fueled the hawks’ hostility and distrust.

for him to promote the case publicly through Barnett’s article
was too much for the White House to bear,

[it is not at all clear to me
that Fallon was the one promoting the case to Esquire's readers]

particularly when Cheney and others had been complaining for months that
Fallon’s repeated declarations against war with Iran
had effectively undermined the administration’s insistence that
all options for dealing with Tehran remained “on the table.”
Fallon’s well-known scepticism about the ultimate success of the “Surge,”
his barely concealed contempt for Bush and neo-con hero, Gen. David Petraeus, and
his belief — shared by the intelligence community and the Pentagon brass,
not to mention Gates himself —
that the most threatening “central front” in the war on terror
was to be found in Pakistan and Afghanistan, rather than in Iraq and Iran,
combined to make him the most vulnerable of the realists to the hawks’ assault.
And, of course, the way Barnett framed Fallon’s role —
as the “one man” standing between the hawks and war with Iran
(a silly and unnecessarily sensational characterization
given the well-known views of both Gates and the Joint Chiefs)
who was “brazenly challenging his commander-in-chief” —
constituted an irresistible provocation to the White House
and Bush’s own self-image as “the Decider.”

As noted by the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) daily Progress Report
First Casualty Of The Iran War” Thursday,
the hawks, and particularly the neo-conservatives,
are most pleased with the latest turn of events
(and not because it supposedly vindicates
the principle of civilian control of the military, as they insist).
Max Boot, who, after touring Iraq with Petraeus earlier this year,
characterized Fallon as “unimpressive,”
called the resignation “good news,”
while the Wall Street Journal’s neo-conservative editorial board called it “especially good news.”
In the National Review Online,
Center for Security Policy (CSP) president and ueber-hawk Frank Gaffney
reached back to what he called
Fallon’s “toxic leadership” and “appeasement of Communist China”
during his Paccom tenure
and accused him of “serial acts of insubordination”
who had “proven himself utterly unserious about the Iranian threat”
by suggesting, among other things, that Tehran
could eventually participate in a summit of Persian Gulf chiefs of defense.
The notion that Iran could, if it is willing to make certain concessions,
become a part of a new regional security structure
apparently is beyond the pale,
despite the fact that the administration itself
has not excluded such a possibility.

Meanwhile, the Weekly Standard ran a lengthy and tendentious piece
by Naval War College Professor Mackubin Thomas Owens
that bemoaned the turbulent state of civil-military relations
and accused Fallon,
without providing any concrete evidence,
“of contradicting the president in public,”
presumably with respect to the Surge
(where Fallon’s reservations were voiced privately
and clearly reflected those of both Gates and the Pentagon brass,
including the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey)
and on Iran
(where Fallon has repeatedly echoed the official U.S. line
that Washington did not want to go to war
but never ruled it out altogether either).
“The differences between Fallon and the administration were real,
not the result of any misperception,”
Owens insisted,
thus contradicting statements not only by Fallon and Gates,
but by the White House, as well.

What is really at stake here, of course,
is control over U.S. policy
and the way it is conducting its “global war on terror.”
Fallon’s enemies see Iraq as the central front in that war
and that Washington must “win” it at all costs,
even at the risk of further degrading overstretched U.S. ground forces.
(The Journal, channeling John McCain, suggests that
the answer to that risk [is]
to substantially increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.)
And they oppose any detente with Iran,
even at the risk of triggering an accidental war
that the U.S. military and the oil-consuming public can ill afford.
They see Fallon’s “strategic vision,”
which it seems that Gates and the Joint Chiefs share,
as a major threat to their priorities.

And they should.
As noted in a release by the National Security Network Wednesday,
“Adm. Fallon’s resignation yesterday as head of Central Command
underscores the deep divisions and philosophical debate between
those in the Bush Administration who seek to narrowly focus on Iraq,
and those who seek to create a broader strategic and regional framework
of which Iraq is one component.
Fallon’s abrupt resignation
highlights the concerns of those who hold the latter view,
and further demonstrates how
the Bush Administration is neglecting this perspective
to the detriment of America’s short and long-term national security interests.”

That view is echoed by Wayne White,
the highly regarded former State Department analyst
who spent most of his nearly 30-year foreign service career
devoted to the Middle East and South Asia region:
“Whatever the story here–
differences with the Administration over Iran,
clashes with Petraeus over Iraq,
a tendency toward somewhat more independent regional diplomacy,
or all the above–
Fallon’s departure is a major loss.

“This Administration clearly needs someone who could step back from Iraq–
or the issues of Iran, Afghanistan & Pakistan collectively–
in order to take a hard look at the situation
(including the impact of these challenges
in the context of so-called U.S. global reach,
the readiness of American ground forces,
and overall U.S. credibility)
at the strategic level.

“Fallon was able to think not only strategically,
but also ‘out of the box,’
something so often lacking in the deliberations of the Administration since 2002–
an Administration which has been plagued by groupthink.”

White’s comments offer the most succinct reason why I think Fallon’s departure —
and the fact that Gates and the Joint Chiefs, who, to my mind,
clearly share his strategic views, if not his outspokenness —
is bad news.
The fact that the realists will no longer have
an officer of Fallon’s stature “walking the point”
in the bureaucratic battles over U.S. strategy
in the months before Bush leaves office
is a potentially serious blow
to their efforts to reduce the hawks’ influence on U.S. policy
and one that could well influence the calculations of the regional players
in ways that will increase tensions and the chances of a major confrontation,
rather than reduce them.

In that respect,
the juxtaposition of Fallon’s resignation
with Cheney’s trip to the region
has to be seen as particularly worrisome.
While I have no doubt a major purpose of the trip is
to jawbone the Saudis and the UAE into increasing their oil production
as a way of enhancing
the chances of a Republican victory in the November presidential elections,
the Israel leg of the trip seems particularly fraught.
On the one hand, it may be that,
given the part played by Cheney
in undermining Powell’s efforts to resume peace Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
in early 2002,
Bush and Rice decided that the vice president would be especially effective
in persuading Israel’s leaders
to make serious concessions to Abbas,
including a real freeze on settlement activity,
to get make the Annapolis process more credible.
But I have my doubts.
With Fallon’s departure —
not to mention
the administration’s last-minute efforts to make it more difficult
for the media and the public to get their hands on
the Pentagon report detailing
just how wrong the hawks were
in trying to connect Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda —
Cheney and his allies may be feeling their oats.

A Failing Campaign
By swearing off military action,
a U.S. commander weakens the diplomatic offensive against Iran.

Washington Post Editorial, 2008-03-14

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

the U.S. Middle East commander who resigned on Tuesday,
was portrayed in a recent Esquire magazine article
as the main obstacle
to a potential decision by the Bush administration to go to war with Iran.
Though the article seems to have precipitated Adm. Fallon‘s resignation,
the assertion was ludicrous on more than one count.

there is very little impetus among senior Bush administration officials
for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in the next 10 months.
More to the point,
it’s more likely that
Adm. Fallon increased rather than lessened the small chance of war
by stating publicly during his travels in the region
that there would be no U.S. attack.
Not one for diplomatic nuance,
the blunt-spoken seaman
[Adm. Fallon in fact was a naval aviator, with 1400 carrier landings to his credit.
To most people, that hardly makes him a “seaman”.]

appeared unable to grasp that
in the absence of a credible threat of force,
the U.S.-led campaign to stop Tehran’s nuclear program by peaceful means
would not succeed,
leaving war and acquiescence to an Iranian bomb as the only alternatives.

In fact,
notwithstanding the passage last week
of a third U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution,
the diplomatic offensive against Iran is flagging.
Not only has the threat of U.S. force been undermined,
but a December National Intelligence Estimate
that Iran had stopped work on the weaponization branch of its nuclear work
gave numerous governments
an excuse to oppose the sort of tough sanctions that might work.

The latest resolution contains mostly symbolic steps;
efforts by France and Britain
to push the European Union into adopting its own measures
so far have gone nowhere.
Though there are signs of some discontent inside Iran
with the hard-line government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
today’s parliamentary election will be a match between conservatives
because of the exclusion of hundreds of opposition candidates.

This doesn’t mean the Bush administration should abandon diplomacy
or prepare for war.
As we have said,
we oppose an attack on the Iranian nuclear program by this administration.
Not all the steps that might be taken against Iran have been tried:
For example, the administration is now considering
new sanctions against the Iranian central bank,
which could enhance what has been
a modestly successful effort
to squeeze Tehran’s access to the international financial system.
The administration should continue to press for action by the European Union,
which could adopt measures that would seriously threaten the Iranian economy
if the governments of E.U. countries were to choose
to stop protecting their own business executives.
Democratic presidential candidates are proposing
broad bilateral negotiations with the Islamist regime,
although an established bilateral channel in Iraq has produced no results.
[Compare the letter from Joe Volk, in particular, this.]

a new U.S. military chief in the Middle East
should be prepared to take military action against Iran
and should avoid ostentatious posturing to the contrary.
That readiness, even if never acted on,
is essential to
checking the surging ambitions of the current Iranian regime.

Admiral Fallon and Iran
by Joe Volk
Washington Post, Letter to the Editor, 2008-03-19

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

The March 14 editorial “A Failing Campaign” itself failed to see
where U.S. policy toward Iran has gone wrong;
sanctions, threats of force and isolation
have not led to regime change in Iran
or compelled Iran to acquiesce to U.S. demands.
In fact, U.S. policy
has strengthened the conservatives and weakened the reformists.
U.S. threats also have jeopardized nonproliferation efforts.

By insisting that

Iran submit to U.S. demands
before talking can begin,

the United States has protected those in Iran
who do not want to work toward normal, peaceful relations
by shielding them from any need to compromise.

Last year, I spoke with Iranians in Tehran,
including former president Mohammad Khatami
and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
as part of
an ongoing dialogue between Iranian leaders and U.S. religious leaders.
I learned that
reformists and conservatives need no sanctions or threats
to go to the negotiating table.
They love that the Bush administration deposed their enemy Saddam Hussein
and elevated the political role of Shiites in Iraq.
While they will make trouble for a U.S. administration that rejects them,

they clearly would prefer
talks leading to
normalized relations and entry into the World Trade Organization,

and say
they would answer U.S. demands in exchange.

Sanctions and isolation have failed for nearly three decades.
Another way is open to our government.

Executive Secretary
Quaker Friends Committee on National Legislation

Hear No Reason
The American Conservative, 2008-03-24

[The following is an item in the biweekly news digest/editoral “Fourteen Days” in the 2008-03-24 issue, which went to press on 2008-03-13.

Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

For five years now,
President Bush has summoned the authority of generals
to extinguish unwelcome questions about his Mideast policies.
Occupation not working out in Iraq?
Well, says the prez,
I’m just listenin’ to what my commanders on the ground are tellin’ me.
After a long list of generals
found that Iraq wasn’t receptive to American makeover,
General David Petraeus arrived, and Bush stood in his shadow
to overrule the Iraq Study Group and escalate the war.
Those who failed to salute
got their patriotism and “support for the troops” called into question.

So what happens when a senior commander lets it be known that
the United States can’t solve its strategic problems in the Muslim world
by invasion and occupation?
Ask Admiral William Fallon.

Fallon was head of U.S. Central Command—
the top military officer responsible for the U.S. defense posture
[that is quite an euphemism for
the activities of the United States in that region]

in central Asia and thus in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He let it be known with increasing frequency that
war with Iran was not a desirable policy option for the United States.
He said this before Arab audiences and to Thomas Barnett,
the Navy War College professor who penned a piece on the admiral for Esquire.
Fallon thought it dangerous for American strategy to be “mesmerized” by Iraq
and called for a quicker drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq
than the administration wants.

For President Bush,
some advice from commanders is less welcome than others,
and Fallon was given the axe.

Sources tell TAC that
Vice President Cheney was the driving force behind Fallon’s abrupt ouster,
demanding that it be done quickly, before his trip to the Mideast.

The message to other top brass—
many of whom share Fallon’s skepticism about the use of bombs
to win America friends and influence in the Mideast world—
could not be clearer.

If you want to keep your job and advance under the Bush administration,
tell the president and the vice president exactly what they want to hear,

and stay on message.
It’s a lesson White House favorite David Petraeus
seems to have learned very well.
On the other hand,
telling the truth about the limits of American military power
will end your career—
even if you know more about the subject than anyone else.

Push for New Direction Leads to Sudden Dead End for a 40-Year Naval Career
New York Times, 2008-05-31

[Its beginning.]

HIS friends call him Fox, and for years William J. Fallon
was considered one of America’s most successful four-star admirals,
serving most recently as the commander of military operations
in the territory stretching from the Horn of Africa across Central Asia.

Now, the 63-year-old former aviator is struggling with reinvention,
nudged into early retirement in March after a 40-year naval career
because of his blunt talk
that left the perception he was disloyal to his commander in chief.

[I think that is quite inaccurate, if not a deliberate lie.
What was most in-the-face disrespectful
to the proper command-and-control relationship
was not what Admiral Fallon actually said,
but how it was described
by T.P.M. Barnett and the editors of Esquire
in particular, this statement by Barnett.]

Breaking his silence since his departure in an hourlong interview,
Admiral Fallon said he had felt the pressure building for several months.
He had, after all, taken public positions favoring diplomacy over force in Iran,
troop withdrawals from Iraq that were greater than officially planned
and more high-level attention to Afghanistan.

But the catalyst for his departure
was not a policy disagreement with the White House, he said;
it was an article in Esquire magazine this year that portrayed him as
the man standing between President Bush and war against Iran.

If the admiral’s comments
had been kept behind the closed doors of the White House and the Pentagon,
he might have survived.
The problem was that in the highly hierarchical world of the military,
in which the cardinal rule is to salute — not break ranks with — the president,
his dissent was simply too public.

[Again, I think that, clearly and objectively,
the principal problem was not “his comments”,
but how they were depicted by the media.]

The admiral claims not to have been misquoted,
but to have been misunderstood.


Asked about a Washington newspaper column that said
he had been squeezed out because he was “rigid” and “overbearing,”
he replied:
“I don’t tolerate fools. I challenge every briefing and pitch.
If people present me with only one solution to the problem,
I’m the type to reject it immediately.”

This is, he said, “a no-nonsense business.
I’m not getting paid to be a nice guy.”

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