Adm. William J. Fallon, whose push for diplomacy clashed with Bush administration policy on Iran, is retiring early, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Fallon, the U.S. military commander in the Middle East, also endorsed faster troop withdrawals from Iraq, and suggested the U.S. had let its military mission in Afghanistan waver. Fallon said in a statement released by his office 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. (The New York Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
Fallon’s departure is “good news,” said Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). What the general doesn’t “understand” is that his “very public assurances that America has no plans to use force against Iran embolden the mullahs to continue developing nuclear weapons and supporting terrorist groups that are killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Bush administration certainly doesn’t waste time, said Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog. Less than a week has passed since Fallon’s doom was sealed by an “admiring” article in Esquire, which praised him for “dissenting from Cheneyesque bellicosity” by suggesting it would be a bad idea to attack Iran. “Not being warlike enough carries a heavy price in this administration.”
“The admiral has made more than enough dissenting statements about Iraq, Iran, and other things to warrant his dismissal as much as early retirement,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. “But his departure will be especially good news if it means that President Bush is beginning to pay attention to the internal Pentagon dispute over Iraq.” Some “have been urging deeper troop cuts in Iraq beyond the five 'surge' combat brigades already scheduled for redeployment this summer,” but that would only give an insurgency “degraded” by last year’s surge a chance to regroup.
“On the surface,” Fallon’s fate “appears to be another instance of the Bush administration's contempt for military advice and a mark of potential war with Iran,” said William M. Arkin in The Washington Post’s Early Warning blog. “Yet we are not going to war against Iran, and Fallon's leaving is not going to change anything in Iraq. The issue is that we have entered a new era of micromanagement and control, where the view of the ‘commander’ in the field is secondary to the needs of Washington.”