Archive for the ‘Esquire Magazine’ Category

A Centcom Chief Who Spoke His Mind

March 13, 2008

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
Thursday, March 13, 2008; Page A17

The first thing that many of Adm. William Fallon’s colleagues note about him is that he’s a Navy officer. By that, they mean he has the stubborn self-confidence, some would say arrogance, that is part of command at sea.
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He knows how to wear his dress whites and receive a snappy salute — and he likes telling people off when he thinks they’re wrong.

Those headstrong qualities were part of why Fallon was chosen to run Central Command, arguably the most important senior post in the U.S. military today.
Adm. William Fallon in Mosul, Iraq, last fall.

Adm. William Fallon in Mosul, Iraq, last fall.
(By Brian Murphy — Associated Press)
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And they explain why Fallon finally crashed and burned Tuesday, tendering his resignation after his blunt comments to an Esquire magazine writer had gotten him into one too many conflicts with the White House and the military brass.
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Stories about Fallon’s resignation focused mostly on his rejection of administration saber-rattling on Iran. “I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for,” he told al-Jazeera last fall when war fever was high. But there’s less of a gap between Fallon and the administration on Iran than those comments suggested.
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Top administration officials have made clear for months that they know there isn’t a good U.S. military option against Iran.Fallon’s problems were less dramatic — but they go to the heart of what America should want from its senior military leaders.
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After what many viewed as the overly deferential style of the two previous chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the White House decided to go for something different in a senior commander — a guy with a mouth that could peel the paint off the walls.

I have traveled with Fallon several times since he became Centcom commander and have talked at length with him, so perhaps I can offer a glimpse into the flap over his premature retirement.
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Fallon’s early friction was with Gen. David Petraeus, whom President Bush had trusted with the implementation of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq. Their turf war was ironic because Petraeus had supported Fallon for the job. But the new Centcom chief bristled at his nominal subordinate’s close relationship with the White House, and it made for an awkward chain of command.

The tension was evident in May when I traveled to Baghdad with Fallon. He brought me into all his meetings with Iraqi officials, despite objections from some Green Zone politicos. Those fractious discussions reinforced Fallon’s worry that the vaunted troop surge, while clearly improving Iraqi security, wasn’t creating the space for national political reconciliation.

In a May 15 piece from Baghdad, I quoted an upbeat Petraeus: “How long does reconciliation take? That’s the long pole in the tent.” I asked Fallon if he had an assessment of his own, and he said, specifically rebutting Petraeus: “We’re chipping away at the problem. But we don’t have the time to chip away. Reconciliation isn’t likely in the time we have available, but some form of accommodation is a must.”

By last fall, it was clear….

Read the rest:
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/12/AR2008031203395.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

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Top U.S. Officer in Mideast Resigns

March 12, 2008

By Thomas E. Ricks 
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 12, 2008; Page A01

The top U.S. commander in the Middle East, whose views on strategy in the region have put him at odds with the Bush administration, abruptly announced his resignation yesterday, calling reports of such disagreements an untenable “distraction.”

Adm. William J. “Fox” Fallon became head of U.S. Central Command last March, putting him ostensibly in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he clashed frequently with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, over strategy and troop levels, Pentagon officials said. Though technically Fallon’s subordinate, Petraeus has more experience in Iraq and has forged a strong connection with President Bush.
Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U. S. Central Command, ...
Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U. S. Central Command, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in this May 3, 2007 file photo. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Tuesday, March 11, 2008, that Fallon is resigning.
(AP Photo/Dennis Cook)  

Fallon, 63, had made several comments reflecting disagreement with the administration’s stance on Iran, most recently in an Esquire magazine article last week that portrayed him as the only person who might stop Bush from going to war with the Islamic republic.

“Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president’s policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time,” Fallon said in a statement. Though he denied that any discrepancies exist, he said “it would be best to step aside and allow” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates “and our military leaders to move beyond this distraction.”

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seen here in February 2008, ...
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seen here in February 2008, chose not to comment Monday on a magazine article that says the commander of US forces in the Middle East may soon be replaced because of his opposition to war with
Iran.  Gates suffered a shoulder injury this winter when he slipped on ice ourside his Washington DC home.
(AFP/File/Raveendran)


Fallon is expected to step down at the end of the month, after barely a year in his position, and just eight days before Petraeus is scheduled to testify before Congress about conditions in Iraq. Military officers said it appeared that it was made clear to Fallon that nobody would object if he stepped down.

Admiral Fallon reached this difficult decision entirely on his own,” Gates said yesterday in an unscheduled news conference. He added: “I believe it was the right thing to do, even though I do not believe there are, in fact, significant differences between his views and administration policy.”

The defense secretary also praised Fallon’s abilities as a strategist, even though it was the admiral’s strategic views that seemed to trouble the administration. “He is enormously talented and very experienced, and he does have a strategic vision that is rare,” Gates said.

The Esquire article, written by Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former Naval War College professor, asserted that if Fallon left his job anytime soon, it could signal that Bush intends to go to war with Iran. Asked about that yesterday, Gates called it “just ridiculous.”

Several Democrats were quick to accuse the administration of not tolerating dissent. “It’s distressing that Admiral Fallon feels he had to step down,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.). “President Bush’s oft-repeated claim that he follows the advice of his commanders on the ground rings hollow if our commanders don’t feel free to disagree with the president.” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) asked whether Fallon’s resignation is a reflection that the administration is hostile to “the frank, open airing of experts’ views.”

A likely successor to Fallon is Petraeus, some defense experts said. The general could be promoted to the Centcom post and replaced in Baghdad by Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who until last month was Petraeus’s deputy in Iraq. Odierno, who has been nominated to become Army vice chief of staff, developed a strong working relationship with Petraeus.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, center, ...
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, center, arrives for a youth soccer tournament in central Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 1, 2008. Gen. Petraeus will ask President Bush to wait until as late as September to decide when to bring home more troops than already scheduled, a senior administration official said Friday.
(AP photo/Dusan Vranic)
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Another possible successor mentioned yesterday is Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the head of Special Operations in Iraq. McChrystal recently was nominated to be director of the staff of the Joint Chiefs, a key Pentagon position.On Iraq, Fallon butted heads with Petraeus over the past year, arguing for a more rapid drawdown of U.S. troops and a swifter transition to Iraqi security forces. Fallon even carried out his own review of the conduct of the war — a move that surprised many Pentagon officials, in part because Odierno and Petraeus had already revamped U.S. strategy in Iraq and, with Bush’s approval, had implemented a buildup of about 30,000 additional troops, moving them off big bases and deploying them among the Iraqi population.

In the Esquire article, Fallon contends that Iraq was consuming excessive U.S. attention. In a part of the world with “five or six pots boiling over,” he is quoted as saying, “our nation can’t afford to be mesmerized by one problem.”

The article was “definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back,” a retired general said, especially because of its “extraordinarily flip, damning and insulting” tone. He noted that since it appeared last week, it has been the talk of military circles, where it was expected that Fallon would be disciplined.
 
Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.
Adm. William J. Fallon, left, in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2007.

Fallon, one of the last Vietnam veterans in the U.S. military, was the first Navy officer selected to lead Centcom, a role traditionally granted to Army and Marine generals such as H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Tommy R. Franks and Anthony C. Zinni. One reason he was chosen to replace Army Gen. John P. Abizaid was because the administration — dealing with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a diplomatic crisis over Iran’s nuclear program — wanted a seasoned officer who could step into the job quickly, without having to learn the ropes of top command, according to a person involved in his selection.

As a veteran of Pacific Command, where he focused on dealing with the rise of China, Fallon was seen as someone who would be comfortable operating at the highest levels of diplomacy and politics. He had told colleagues that he viewed Iran as a problem similar to China — one that mainly required steady engagement rather than aggressive confrontation. That stance put him at odds with Iran hawks both inside and outside the administration.

Peter D. Feaver, a former staff member of Bush’s National Security Council, said that the public nature of Fallon’s remarks made it necessary for the admiral to step down. “There is ample room for military leaders to debate administration policy behind closed doors,” said Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University. “However, taking such arguments into the media would violate basic democratic norms of civil-military relations.”

But Richard Danzig, who served as Navy secretary from 1998 to 2001 and has known Fallon for 15 years, said Fallon’s departure will leave a significant hole in a critical region. “Any turnover in Centcom has real costs, because this is an arena in the world, more than others, that depends a lot on relationships and extensive periods of conversation and mutual understanding,” he said.

That might prove especially true in Pakistan. Fallon had become a point man for crucial military relations there as the Pentagon implements a stepped-up program to help Pakistani forces deal with Islamic extremism along the border with Afghanistan. In visits to Islamabad in November and January, he cemented ties with Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the new armed forces chief of staff. The administration hopes that Kiyani will keep the military out of Pakistani politics while showing new aggression toward al-Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Afghan border.

Fallon’s departure also reflects Gates’s management style. During his 15 months at the Pentagon, the defense secretary has shown a willingness to move decisively in cases of internal conflict. A career intelligence officer, he demanded the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey last year because of the way he handled the fallout from reports about substandard care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Gates also declined to nominate Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a second two-year term, amid concerns that a Democratic-controlled Congress would grill Pace on Iraq.

Yesterday, Gates said the perception that Fallon disagreed with the administration’s policies was enough to concern Fallon that he may no longer be effective in the region. Gates quoted Fallon as saying that the situation was “embarrassing.”

Staff writers Josh White, Karen DeYoung and Peter Baker contributed to this report.

Related:
Admiral William Fallon Resigns as U.S. Mideast Military Chief

Esquire Magazine on Admiral William “Fox” Fallon

Esquire Magazine on Admiral William “Fox” Fallon

March 11, 2008

By Thomas P. M. Barnett
Esquire Magazine
March 11, 2008

As the White House talked up conflict with Iran, the head of U.S. Central Command, William “Fox” Fallon, talked it down. Now he has resigned.
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If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it’ll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it’ll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance. His name is William Fallon, although all of his friends call him “Fox,” which was his fighter-pilot call sign decades ago. Forty years into a military career that has seen this admiral rule over America’s two most important combatant commands, Pacific Command and now United States Central Command, it’s impossible to make this guy–as he likes to say–“nervous in the service.” Past American governments have used saber rattling as a useful tactic to get some bad actor on the world stage to fall in line. This government hasn’t mastered that kind of subtlety. When Dick Cheney has rattled his saber, it has generally meant that he intends to use it. And in spite of recent war spasms aimed at Iran from this sclerotic administration, Fallon is in no hurry to pick up any campaign medals for Iran. And therein lies the rub for the hard-liners led by Cheney. Army General David Petraeus, commanding America’s forces in Iraq, may say, “You cannot win in Iraq solely in Iraq,” but Fox Fallon is Petraeus’s boss, and he is the commander of United States Central Command, and Fallon doesn’t extend Petraeus’s logic to mean war against Iran.
Commander of the U.S. Central Command Navy Adm. William Fallon ... 
Commander of the U.S. Central Command Navy Adm. William Fallon testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington March 4, 2008.
REUTERS/Larry Downing 

So while Admiral Fallon’s boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century’s Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it’s left to Fallon–and apparently Fallon alone–to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: “This constant drumbeat of conflict . . . is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”

What America needs, Fallon says, is a “combination of strength and willingness to engage.”

Read the rest:
http://www.esquire.com/features/fox-fallon

Related:
Admiral William Fallon Resigns as U.S. Mideast Military Chief

A Centcom Chief Who Spoke His Mind

Fallon’s Exit Provokes Concern on Path of Bush’s Iran Policy

Several Warriors Welcome Fallon’s Resignation