March 12, 2008

IF YOU WANT TO MAKE POLICY RUN FOR OFFICE:

The Fall of Admiral George B. McFallon: contradicting the president in public, Admiral Fallon exceeded his authority--and was right to step down (Mackubin Thomas Owens, 03/12/2008, Weekly Standard)

On March 11, Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM)--a regional combatant command that includes Iraq and Iran-stepped down from his post, offering as his reason the public "misperception" that he had disagreed with the Bush administration over policy in the Middle East, especially with regard to Iran. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Fallon wrote that "The current embarrassing situation and public perception of differences between my views and administration policy and the distraction this causes from the mission make this the right thing to do."

The proximate cause of Fallon's departure was an article by Thomas Barnett in the April issue of Esquire. Entitled "The Man Between War and Peace," the piece begins: "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?"

Barnett's rather fawning profile of Fallon portrays the latter as "brazenly challenging" President Bush on Iran, pushing back "against what he saw as an ill-advised action." While reasonable people can disagree over the wisdom of the Bush administration's policy regarding Iraq, the really troubling aspect of this article is that it reveals the extent to which a combatant commander had taken it on himself to develop and disseminate policy independently of the president. This flies in the face of the American practice of civil-military relations, going back to the American Revolution.


It's a minor flap but with a significant angle -- given how unserious the Democrats are about national security, could either of them stand up to such an insubordinate underling?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2008 3:48 PM
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