As Hampton’s previous post demonstrates, a consensus has now emerged that Admiral William Fallon was forced to resign his Centcom command more because of the very public nature of his insubordination than the actual content of it. In other words, the hanging offense wasn’t that the Bush administration wants war with Iran and that Fallon is doing everything in his power to prevent it. It was that Fallon has consistently chosen to publicly frame the situation in those terms.
To me that still leaves three unanswered questions. First, is Fallon’s framing true? So far, most of the online murmurings suggest it isn’t, ie. that there are no secret plans being hatched to attack Iran. Second, was Fallon the victim of a drive-by profile? Thomas Barnett denies it vehemently, and you’d think that if there were some sort of exculpatory material that got selectively left out of the Esquire piece, Fallon would have made a stronger case in his own defense.
Which leaves the third question. What was Fallon’s play? Why did he toss this grenade knowing full well he would be the one to fall on it? Thomas Ricks reports rumors that Petraeus might wind up taking his place at Centcom, and Max Boot makes the case that by publicly taking the military option off the table, Fallon has emboldened Iran (both to meddle in Iraq and pursue their nuclear program), both potential outcomes that fly in the face of the two strategic positions that Fallon has reportedly been fighting so hard for: a drawdown of the American military commitment in Iraq, and a diplomatic regional engagement with Iran. (Links via Laura Rozen.)
By all accounts, Fallon is a pretty sharp strategic thinker. So either he made a very serious blunder on this one, or else he’s got a card up his sleeve.