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The Fox in winter

It’s widely believed that the sudden retirement of USCENTCOM commander Admiral William “Fox” Fallon signals a dangerous shift in U.S. policy toward Iran. Admiral Fallon, it is said, opposed the administration’s desire to go to war with Iran. Thomas P.M. Barnett, the author of a profile of Fallon in the new Esquire, paints the admiral as the only man standing between George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There is another view, likely shared by a fair number of current and former military professionals, that Fallon’s politics had nothing to do with his early exit.

[T]he constitution of the United States places foreign policy in the hands of the president as the commander-in-chief and the decision for declaring war is in the hands of the US Congress. Fallon’s role in all of this, as I am sure he must know, is to obey orders and to keep his mouth shut, a point that was undoubtedly made plain to him by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the immediate aftermath of the publication of this article. And, we might imagine, Gates put his objections to the article in the following terms: “Fox, just what in the hell do you think you were doing talking to Thomas Barnett?”

In other words, it wasn’t Fallon’s opposition to war with Iran that got him in trouble, it’s that he talked out of turn to the press. Besides, under direct orders from his president, Admiral Fallon would have prosecuted such a war to the best of his ability. Refusing to do so would be treason.

Maybe talking to Barnett was Admiral Fallon’s only way out of what he saw as a no-win situation.

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