Kevin Drum had one, fairly establishment-mainstream view of Admiral Fallon's abrupt departure and the spin being put on it at White House behest today:
There's a limit to how much public freelancing can be tolerated from a regional commander — or any other military officer. Although most liberals are probably sympathetic toward Fallon's views, it's worth keeping in mind that a year from now the shoe is probably going to be on the other foot. Do we really want the commander in Iraq in 2009 telling the press that President Obama's withdrawal plans are likely to lead to chaos and need to be slowed down? Even if that's his heartfelt professional opinion?It's a take Matt Yglesias disagrees with - but also one Tom Barnett, author of the Esquire piece that catalyzed what seems to have been a long-running background turf fight, would take issue with. Barnett today writes:
I don't think so. Bottom line: I'll stick with civilian control of the military, even if I don't happen to like the current civilians. It sounds like Fallon crossed the line once too often.
the rules changed with this administration.Barnett should know if the rules changes under Bush - after all, he worked for him.
It's the secrecy by which decisions are made that has poisoned the well. If "outing" any opposition to the administration's line puts that person at risk, then is the journalist's choice simply to ignore the internal debate to spare the public such knowledge?
Cause if it is, then we're offering descriptions of our own government that historically are better leveled at authoritarian regimes, where America constantly needs to be careful shining a light on dissidents lest they fall under attack by authorities.
If we place our military leadership in that category, then this country is in a world of trouble.
The public's right to know of internal debates on matters as crucial as to whether or not we go to war with Iran is sacrosanct in my mind. Wars of choice have to be national choices, not just leadership choices.
I have to say, my own preferences for the nation as a whole to exercise command and control of both civilian and military leadership agree with Barnett. The nation can only do that if it is well informed on differences of opinion and nuances of debate - something we've been very short on with the bush administration. then, both civilian and military leadership has to be willing to listen to and take direction from "the people" - again, something we've been short on this past seven years.
Meanwhile, we're being told by the administration that any suspicion this all means attacks on Iran have gotten more likely is just "ridiculous". Over at FP Passport, Mike Boyer notes an Israeli intel assessment that says 2008 is the "Year of Iran" and says we shouldn't relax just on the administration's say-so.
With Dick Cheney departing for the Middle East next week, this assessment is worrisome. Israeli President Shimon Peres recently said that the Israelis would not consider unilateral action against Iran. But they would likely leap at the chance to conduct coordinated strikes with the U.S. And Cheney's ear is reportedly sympathetic to the argument that diplomacy with Iran is futile. "Full-scale" war with Iran is probably militarily out at this stage, but strikes conducted by air and sea -- with the Navy taking the lead -- are still a very real possibility before the Bush administration is through. And that does make Admiral Fallon's departure worthy of concern.Indeed it does - let's hope Dem leaders actually carry through on their wish to have Fallon testify to a congressional hearing and ask him some pointed questions about it all.