Admiral William Fallon
The sudden, unexpected resignation of Admiral William Fallon from Central Command in the Middle East is worrisome. The admiral left his post abruptly, he said, because of perceived disagreements with Washington over Iran. He opposes military action and favors instead a diplomatic approach. Since his views have become known, he said he felt he no longer could serve effectively.
The question is: why didn’t President Bush prevail upon him to stay? Or was Admiral Fallon pushed out? It recalls the treatment of then Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric Shinseke when he told a Congressional committee before the U.S. invaded Iraq that 300,000 or more troops might be needed in that war. Was he right? Of course he was. Did members of the administration listen? No. Instead Shinseke became someone they preferred not to know.
Admiral Fallon’s offense, apparently, was concurring in public with what his two predecessors at Central Command, Generals John Abazaid of the Army and Anthony Zinni of the Marines already have said. President Bush himself has made the same point, though he insists that the military option remain on the table. Commentator Arnaud de Borchgrave wrote that Admiral Fallon might truly have been concerned that Washington was about to bomb nuclear installations in Iran, and he didn’t want to be in the position of fighting that battle, given his objections now well publicized in Esquire magazine. Like Zinni, Abazaid and other generals, Admiral Fallon is convinced that bombing Iran would trigger retaliation against U.S. interests in the Middle East and elsewhere. So he did what he felt senior commanders opposed to the war in Iraq should have done in early 2003.
What seems even more likely to me is that Admiral Fallon was trying to tilt the argument that may well be churning inside the administration toward restraint, just as those who put together the National Security Estimate, released last December, saying that Iran has stopped its nuclear weapons program, probably hoped to do as well.
Also, it may be true, as one observer noted, that Admiral Fallon’s fear was not so much an imminent attack by Washington but accidental war caused by an excess of verbiage hurled at a government in Tehran not known for its subtlety. This he was trying to avert.
President Bush does himself and the nation no good when he refuses to listen to military opinion. He must understand, also, that decisions regarding Iran are best left to the next administration , barring a crisis. He must take care that any crisis that occurs is not of his own making. The path for the president to follow now is to hunker down, as motionless as possible, complete his term, and do no harm.