Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Wow. That was quick. The question now is, What just happened? More specifically, what game was Fallon playing? He ostensibly quit because of the implication of a disconnect between him and the White House on Iran, which created an untenable situation. At the same time, given Fallon's past comments and known position on Iran (Bob Gates called the 'resignation' "...a cumulative kind of thing"), there's a lot of reason to believe that this was inevitable and that the Esquire article just forced the White House's hand. Fallon immediately distanced himself from the article, but the article's author, Thomas Barnett, suggested just after the piece appeared that that was disingenuous:
Writing a piece that pretended there was no tension, when it exists in spades, would have been dishonest. Not preparing the American public for the possibility that Fallon's stance may cost him much like it did MacArthur would also have been poor journalism... Finally, it would have been wholly irresponsible...to not raise the issue that what Fallon's doing here is exactly what so many young officers in the military now say wasn't done before Iraq: providing strategic context to the debate about whether or not this country goes to war again...
But let me be clear here regarding any impression garnered from the admiral's "rejection" of the piece: I approached the admiral expressly on the issue of his ongoing stance on Iran, informing him that Esquire was interested in exploring the man and the vision attached to this stance. The subject constituted a major portion of my first interview with him and later ones following the trip.
There's just so many different levels on which to speculate here that it's hard to know where to start. Is this an NIE-type maneuver, broadcasting a tell (ie. Fallon gone = war with Iran) in order to mobilize resistance to the outcome? Is it a ploy to put the fear of Cheney into the Iranians' hearts, in the hopes that they might become more cooperative if they know the countdown clock's been re-started? Is he signalling to the officer corps' that it's now or never to push back against an ill-conceived attack on Iran?
One thing is sure. When a strategic genius like Fallon gives the kind of access he granted to Barnett, he knows what he's doing and he has a plan. I'm not a strategic genius, so it will take me a while to figure out what that plan is.
Cross-posted to World Politics Review.