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Good soldier Schweik, American style

May 23, 2007

Catching up on a bit of last week’s news, from IPS via Think Progress. Good news, this time.

I’ve mentioned earlier some of the mounting evidence that Robert Gates has been dragging his heels on Bush’s push to get his war on in Iran. Now it appears that Gates has an ally in high places.

Admiral Fallon was appointed head of Central Command, the regional armed forces command which includes Afghanistan and the Middle East, when John Abizaid was dismissed for failing to support the “surge”. Prior to this, only Army generals had held this critical post, and it was widely speculated that the Navy got theplum because any attack on Iran would perforce be largely a naval operation based in the Indian Ocean.

On May 14, IPS reported that back in February Fallon put the kibosh on Administration plans to send a third aircraft carrier group to the Gulf.

Admiral William Fallon, then President George W. Bush’s nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM.

Fallon’s resistance to the proposed deployment of a third aircraft carrier was followed by a shift in the Bush administration’s Iran policy in February and March away from increased military threats and toward diplomatic engagement with Iran. That shift, for which no credible explanation has been offered by administration officials, suggests that Fallon’s resistance to a crucial deployment was a major factor in the intra-administration struggle over policy toward Iran.

Think Progress goes on to note:

One source said Fallon sent a memo that “insisted there was no military requirement for” for an additional carrier.

This was an act of courage and patriotism on Fallon’s part. But such courage is perhaps becoming easier to muster. After all, there are multiple reasons why the White House would be reluctant to fire him over this.

First, they only just hired him; and with their talking point about Congress having to “listen to the generals in the field”, it would be particularly embarrassing to oust him because they didn’t cotton to his advice.

Second, in order to carry out the Iran blitz, they’d have to replace him with another non-Army commander, telegraphing their intentions just a little too blatantly.

Most important, they’ve just gone through the humiliating search for their “war czar”. And they found appetite among top personnel for the Iraq war so weak that they were finally forced to reach down to the three-star level to find a willing Lieutenant General. Enthusiasm for a Persian War runs even lower in the uniformed military. How would it make them look if they had to put some Colonel in charge of CentCom?

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