Admiral William “Fox” Fallon — CentCom Commander — has been fired for insubordination, for not stewarding his own views about war and peace privately and in a way that did not embarrass his commander in chief.
By numerous accounts, President Bush was absolutely enraged by an Esquire article — since amended noting Fallon’s demise — that posited that Admiral Fallon was not on the same page as President Bush and that he was the single military man standing between war and peace.
Rumors are running rampant now in the aftermath of Fallon’s resignation today that Bush called a war room gathering on Saturday this past weekend — and launched plans to hatch a strike of some sort on Iran this spring. Internet bulletin boards, listserves, and chatter among many on the left and the right are hyperventilating (and some excited) about the prospects of a hot conflict with Iran.
My sources in the intelligence arena, in various command staff operations, near Defense Secretary Gates, and even in the White House tell me that nothing structural has changed in America’s stance towards Iran. The US is still engaged in an effort to get Iran to the negotiating table if it stops its nuclear enrichment activities. It is continuing to apply UN sanctions pressure via unanimous consent of the UN Security Council to bring Iran into compliance with international obligations. And as Bush, Gates and others have said — other options can be on the table.
But the diplomatic course is still dominant and preferred — and there has been no decision to launch a war despite the opportunistic bravado that will no doubt soon be uttered by Vice President Cheney, John Bolton, Richard Perle and others who have long pined for a conflict with Iran’s mullahs.
But the pieces are not there to support a full conflict with Iran, or even a near term military strike. That is not where Bush is headed — but he felt he needed to remove someone who was undermining his authority and direction.
As one source told me shortly ago, “if there was a real chance we were flipping into war mode, there would be six Fallons commenting — and six fired.”
This source said “Fallon’s real mistake was going public with what was common banter among many of the senior military officials about America’s engagement in the Middle East and with Iran. His views are not atypical — no matter what the Esquire article asserts — but he made the mistake of being publicly vain and indulgent about his own take on this.”
From my reading of the situation, Bush had to fire Fallon for his comments. I admire Fallon’s sense of America’s strategic situation — but the sad thing about this incident is that the combined efforts of Gates, Rice, Hayden, McConnell and others to bring a new direction to America’s national security course had worked. Bush had bought in. Fallon had to brag about it — and that was a mistake.
– Steve Clemons