Opinion: Fallon: the Barnett angle


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On a reread, I think I may have made the case that Thomas P.M. Barnett is an insufferable windbag a bit too strongly a few years ago. Nevertheless, Thomas P.M. Barnett is an insufferable windbag, and it’s disconcerting to see the global-strategy seer so centrally located in the downfall of Adm. William Fallon.

Barnett is not addressing the news at his site yet — though he is recounting his Fallon interview in a self-dramatizing play-by-play that features Chuck Norris-type factoids like the following:


I drove the 160 miles nonstop, changing my suit to travel clothes as I drove.

Barnett did address part of the controversy a few days ago, and in fairness, the idea that Barnett’s Fallon profile in Esquire is what drove the Centcom commander to resign strains believability; there must be bigger disagreements at stake — which is the central point Barnett was making in his article. Here’s how Barnett, in happier times, described Fallon in a breathless lead paragraph:

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.’

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Fallon’s departure does not portend a change in Iran policy. Kevin Drum notes that Fallon’s mellower course on Iran was clear back in September. Lawrence J. Korb sends along the following:

Admiral Fallon’s abrupt retirement as the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East is the latest sign that the Pentagon’s top brass do not agree with the direction in which the administration is heading in regard to the war in Iraq and the global war on terror. Hopefully Fallon’s resignation will force the administration to listen to his position on Iran and prevent them from ignoring the advice of their respected military advisors as they did with General Colin Powell and General Erik Shinseki when it came to waging the war in Iraq.

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