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Admiral Fallon
March 5, 2008 4:59 PM   Subscribe

The Man Between War and Peace. "As head of U. S. Central Command, Admiral William 'Fox' Fallon is in charge of American military strategy for the most troubled parts of the world. Now, as the White House has been escalating the war of words with Iran, and seeming ever more determined to strike militarily before the end of this presidency, the admiral has urged restraint and diplomacy. Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?" [Via Think Progress.]
posted by homunculus (50 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, it's not like the Bush folks have ever let reasonable, intelligent arguments get in their way before. Why start now? Beside if they play their cards right they can declare some sort of martial law and stay in power indefinitely.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:15 PM on March 5, 2008


Gosh, let me think ... who will prevail? Who ... will ... prevail?

Can I get a hint?

It's the president, isn't it? I think it's the president.
posted by kcds at 5:26 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not actually sure people would follow Bush's orders to strike Iran if it came to that. Look at the declassification of the Iran NIE, which basically blew up all the arguments for a strike. It didn't happen because Bush wanted it to happen.

Given the release of the NIE, I do doubt we'll hit Iran before the end of Bush's first term. If it did happen, it would be a pretty big problem. But it makes sense that Bush would want to fuck up the country just that little bit more on the way out.
posted by delmoi at 5:34 PM on March 5, 2008


I'm not actually sure people would follow Bush's orders to strike Iran

Easy problem to solve, keep replacing commanders until you find the one who cares about career advancement more than morals.
posted by parallax7d at 5:43 PM on March 5, 2008


I think delmoi is referring to actual people, you know, the grunts who make the bulk of any army. A general without an army is pretty much useless.
posted by elpapacito at 6:16 PM on March 5, 2008


Yeah, I'm betting on Bush there. If the Admiral stands firm, he'll be replaced ASAP, same as all the other military high ups who dared to oppose Bush's idiot schemes.
posted by sotonohito at 6:18 PM on March 5, 2008


I got 6 bucks that says the crazy man won't do it.

I'll see any takers at http://gambling.metafilter.com
posted by mattoxic at 6:19 PM on March 5, 2008


Israel could start it of course. Then the United States would have to join in.
posted by srboisvert at 6:27 PM on March 5, 2008


Easy problem to solve, keep replacing commanders until you find the one who cares about career advancement more than morals.

I don't see how being "The guy who let bush fuck up the country 9 months before he left office" could be good for your career.
posted by delmoi at 6:55 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


delmoi: I do doubt we'll hit Iran before the end of Bush's first term

Predicting the past is way easier than predicting the future.
posted by kcds at 6:56 PM on March 5, 2008


delmoi (again, sorry dude): The guy who let bush fuck up the country 9 months before he left office

Right ... because that totally hasn't already happened.
posted by kcds at 6:58 PM on March 5, 2008


Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?

Commander in Chief ain't just a turn of phrase, you know.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:08 PM on March 5, 2008


seeming ever more determined to strike militarily before the end of this presidency

Is there any support for this besides the empty fear-mongering provided in the links?
posted by Krrrlson at 7:27 PM on March 5, 2008


If the Admiral, or anyone else in CENTCOM, refused an order from the President to attack Iran, that would be mutiny and they'd be prosecuted for it.

Diplomacy and policy are not the Admiral's business -- and he knows it. His job is to carry out the orders given him by the Commander in Chief. He can express his opinions, but he will not refuse an order. Anyone who thinks otherwise has been smoking something.
posted by Class Goat at 8:30 PM on March 5, 2008


According to the Universal Code of Military Justice:
Any person subject to this code who—
(1) with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny;
    (snip)
A person who is found guilty of attempted mutiny, mutiny, sedition, or failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.
If the President ordered bombing raids against Iran, that would be a lawful order. It would be exactly the same as Clinton's order to bomb Serbia, and Clinton's order to bomb Sudan, and Clinton's order to bomb Afghanistan, which were also lawful orders.
posted by Class Goat at 8:46 PM on March 5, 2008


I'm not actually sure people would follow Bush's orders to strike Iran if it came to that. Look at the declassification of the Iran NIE, which basically blew up all the arguments for a strike. It didn't happen because Bush wanted it to happen.

As we learned with the October 2002 NIE (rushed together after the decision for war had already been reached), NIEs are political documents, leaked or released for political reasons. The Iran NIE was released because Bush wanted it to happen. Backing off the Nuke talk was payback* to Iran for the muzzling of al Sadr, and the release/leak offered the Administration a face-saving way to step back from the tough talk.


-----------------
*You want a source? Sorry, I'm sitting on it.
posted by notyou at 9:11 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Honest question: does the source of an order truly determine its lawfulness/UNlawfulness?

Hypothetically speaking, if the top commander of the armed forces went on record to tell a president to take their lawful order and shove it should such an order be disputed. Wouldn't a very good legal expert be able to stitch together a winning defense based on international law dictating criminal military acts?
posted by Sam.Burdick at 9:30 PM on March 5, 2008


There is a way in which the Admiral can refuse one order: it's by retiring. Retirement from flag grades is very often a statement.
posted by jet_silver at 9:34 PM on March 5, 2008


true... but some media outlets like to paint retiring military officers as spoiled children who are taking their toys and going home, since they don't want to play cooperatively. And, as such, I'm not sure that it works very well as a statement. Especially since it gives your opposition the opportunity to appoint someone who is more likely to follow their orders.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 9:47 PM on March 5, 2008


I'm not actually sure people would follow Bush's orders to strike Iran

Easy problem to solve, keep replacing commanders until you find the one who cares about career advancement more than morals.


There is precedence for this strategy. In 1973 when Nixon ordered Attorney General Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Cox who was investigating Nixon's misdeeds, Richardson resigned. He was replaced by Assistant Attorney General Ruckelshaus who also refused and resigned. Finally Nixon got down to Solicitor General Robert Bork who cheerfully carried out the order to fire Cox. Of course this didn't help Bork's career since he was Borked in his nomination to the Supreme Court.
posted by JackFlash at 10:55 PM on March 5, 2008


If Fallon were to refuse an order, any consequences to him would be dependent on Bush's ability to carry them out. It's the same issue as with the "contempt of Congress" standoff. If it came right down to brinkmanship, and those charged with arresting Fallon refused to do so, then Bush would not be in any position to make it happen. If sufficiently many sections of the armed forces were willing to take up the cause for Fallon, and sufficiently few for Bush, Bush could not make it happen.

This would amount to a coup, of course (arguably, so does the Justice Department's refusal to prosecute contempt of Congress cases, although that has the figleaf of executive authority over it). Contemplating a coup raises two other questions: is it worth risking a civil war (I don't think Bush would hesitate for a second to risk civil war to ensure his authority, but I'm sure it would give Fallon pause); and does he want to end the republic? Even if Fallon were to declare the ordinary rule of law and conduct of government in the USA to otherwise continue, he would still have effectively demonstrated dictatorial power. From there, even if he hands the reins back, he will have actually wiped away the legal fiction of the US as a democratic republic.

Because it is a legal fiction. No government, anywhere, rules without the tolerance of its armed forces. They are a segment of the population who, basically by definition, are able to force everyone else to do their will. All that restrains a nation's armed forces them are the upper ranks' actual decisions to obey, the men and the officers' deeply ingrained habits of obedience, and sufficiently strong political opinion aligned with the nation's current government. Democracy only ever exists as long as the military say "Yes, Mr President". As soon as they say "No. Try and make me.", democracy is over.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:39 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Backing off the Nuke talk was payback* to Iran for the muzzling of al Sadr....
*You want a source? Sorry, I'm sitting on it.


so you pulled it out of your ass then?
posted by srboisvert at 12:17 AM on March 6, 2008


Well, we've conveniently allowed the Prez to unilaterally declare war in people so far, why not extend to yet another country without asking Congress if it's OK? Who needs the approval of Congress? So long as we use words that mention every kind of military action conceivable but never use the word "war" it's cool, because technically we would be starting a war, but because we never call it one the Prez can just start it! Hooray for technicalities!

At some point though Bush might have to stop. Seriously. We'll eventually run out of troops. We just don't have enough as it is. Spread thin in the places that matter so we can have extras in the places we shouldn't be. Way to go, asshole. If the idiot prince actually decides to go into Iran he'll have to institute a draft to keep numbers up. I can't really see any other way we could legitimately be fighting in three countries without doing so.

If Bush wants to bomb Iran maybe he should take a cue from the other side, just strap one on and deliver it personally. If we're going to go on launching what amounts to an anti-Islam jihad, we may as well do it up right.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:57 AM on March 6, 2008


so you pulled it out of your ass then?
That's exactly right, srboisvert. I made that shit up.
posted by notyou at 6:44 AM on March 6, 2008


It takes a lot of work to manufacture evidence, why can't you people just let the nice man do whatever he wants? Stop harshing his buzz!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:57 AM on March 6, 2008


That was a great article, and what felt like a good look into American diplomacy outside of the goddamned hammer-handed State Department. I don't think it'll be a problem with Fallon if it comes to war with Iran. At some point (I read this last night) he says that if they don't want to act like 'big boys in the neighborhood' it's no problem, 'they're like ants'. The man is obviously not a peacenik, and has no qualms about using force when necessary. He's just not convinced it's necessary yet so he's giving Iran the chance to act like big boys.

What did strike me as weird about Fallon is his emphasis on economics. He comes across as a big believer in the buck, in terms of bringing isolated, poverty-stricken areas within the region up and giving them access to the global economy (or at least roads). You'd think he'd be more in step with the economic role the military industrial complex plays in American policymaking and diplomacy, what with being such a higher-up.
posted by carsonb at 11:10 AM on March 6, 2008


Fallon is now calling the article "poison pen stuff" that is "really disrespectful and ugly." I suppose calling him "a man of strategic brilliance" is a little over the line. Or maybe somebody got a smackdown.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:36 AM on March 6, 2008


I've called my Missouri Senators and Representative and informed them that an attack on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel will prompt me to travel to Washington and join the first riot I can find. I mean it too.
posted by wrapper at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2008


If the Admiral, or anyone else in CENTCOM, refused an order from the President to attack Iran, that would be mutiny and they'd be prosecuted for it.

And they'd be a hero.

But alas, heroes are in short supply. Sad, but true.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:42 PM on March 6, 2008


The Iran hawks' latest surge. U.S. and Israeli hard-liners -- some with close ties to John McCain -- are once again hyping the Iranian nuclear threat.
posted by homunculus at 9:20 PM on March 6, 2008


just strap one on

Quoted for accuracy.
posted by Wolof at 12:05 AM on March 7, 2008


And they'd be a hero.

This word hero, I do not think it means what you think it means.

If he resigns rather than carry out an unwise but lawful order, that would be heroic. If he defies civilian control of the military and disobeys a lawful order, he would be a traitor of the worst sort. There are plenty of "colonels" and "generals" who are tinpot dictators around the world, promising to support and protect the democratic process ... sometime in the unspecified future.

The best protection the military can give to democracy is to stay the hell out of the democratic process.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:04 AM on March 7, 2008


And when the democratic process has been overthrown by a rigged election, as it was in the USA the first time GWB got into office, a man not voted in but instead placed illegally by the Supreme Court?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:45 AM on March 7, 2008


he would be a traitor of the worst sort.

No, he would be the perpetrator of a coup. This is not the same as treason, by any means. Treason is an act of betrayal to a specific enemy. A coup is an illegal assumption of authority. The US's definition of treason is: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." There might be an argument to be raised that the coup leader is themselves a specific enemy, and therefore they have betrayed the nation to themselves, but that's the sort of argument that could only be made after the coup had failed.

As to "worst sort", I can think of a dozen ways to betray a nation that are markedly worse than to illegally take control of its governmental apparatus for the good of its citizens, under conditions where it is absolutely clear that that apparatus has been turned to the corrupt benefit of a small group, at severe cost to the rest of the nation's population and the world.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:06 AM on March 8, 2008


If he resigns rather than carry out an unwise but lawful order, that would be heroic.

I'll take issue with that as well. If carrying out the order would be a war crime, then it's not lawful. But if the order is not actually a war crime, but so spectacularly unwise that its unwisdom brings its lawfulness into question (because the authority to give orders is granted for a clear reason, with a clear requirement to use it wisely), the officer so ordered can relieve his superior of command, take the superior into custody, take such actions as are necessary to restore order in the ranks, and submit as soon as possible to a court martial to sort the matter out. He may even have a positive duty to do so.

The US President is commander in chief of the armed forces of the USA. As such, he directly commands generals and admirals. So there's at least a presumption there that these generals have the right to relieve the US President of command, under military law and with military discipline. In practice, it would need to be a decision made with the clear support of all the officers at that level, or else it just triggers a lawful mutiny at the next step down.

Obviously it has never been tested (I doubt it's even been seriously contemplated), but then the USA has never before had such a corrupt and unwise President.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:21 AM on March 8, 2008


Essentially, The Mandate of Heaven is what makes it okay to overthrow the Presidency.

Mind, it should be updated a bit. The occurrence of a Katrina shouldn't be what causes the President's mandate to be withdrawn: it's the horrific years-long fuck-up related to it that should result in the President's mandate being withdrawn.

But more importantly, the Mandate should be withdrawn because Bush chose of his own volition to engage in an unnecessary, destabilizing war; and because Bush has selected policies that are resulting in the destruction of the US economy.

The singular problem with the US's style of government is that it essentially installs a four-year dictator into power. Other governments have ways of withdrawing the mandate: in Canada, a non-confidence vote can topple a government, forcing a re-election; several other countries, the same.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:28 AM on March 8, 2008


Killing ourselves in Afghanistan: In a secret meeting with a Taliban commander, I learned how Bush administration aid to Pakistan helps fund insurgents who kill U.S. troops.
posted by homunculus at 11:46 AM on March 10, 2008


Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?"
Unfortunately, it looks more and more like the President...
posted by horsemuth at 12:44 PM on March 11, 2008


And Fallon Resigns.
posted by folgers crystals at 12:53 PM on March 11, 2008


Uh-oh.
posted by homunculus at 12:54 PM on March 11, 2008


From the article: "How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief? The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough."

Prescient.
posted by Avenger at 1:43 PM on March 11, 2008


Time for Canada to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. No point in having them there being killed by American idiocy.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:10 PM on March 11, 2008


Writes Josh Marshall:

The interlocking rumor and speculation mills are now buzzing with theories about whether Adm. Fallon jumped or was pushed from his perch as the top military commander for US military forces across the Middle East (what the Pentagon refers to as 'Central Command'). But there is a big picture that is important to keep in focus. That is, quite simply, that Fallon is leaving because he was apparently too sane for the Bush White House.

Those may seem like fighting words, but they're not.

By all accounts, the points of contention between Fallon and Bush administration officials centered on three points: 1) his belief that the indefinite occupation of Iraq is a disaster for the US military, 2) that diplomacy has a central role in American foreign and national security policy, 3) that war is not a credible policy for the US to pursue in dealing with Iran. The last of these was believed to be the key issue.
posted by cell divide at 2:18 PM on March 11, 2008


He's resigned.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2008


Oops, just noticed that was already mentioned above.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2008


Shit. Oh well, Obama might need a VP soon, and Fallon brings a lot to that table. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:03 PM on March 11, 2008


Right Wing Jubilant Over Fallon’s Resignation: It’s ‘Good News’
posted by homunculus at 3:14 PM on March 12, 2008


This "right wing" that you mention — how many people does it number? 'cause I'm thinking those that identify as "right wing" must surely by now be dwindling in number. Giving credence to the "right wing's" opinion may be as silly as giving credence to the opinions of cargo cultists.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:32 PM on March 12, 2008


...those that identify as "right wing" must surely by now be dwindling in number.

Well, you're certainly optimistic! Sure hope you're right. Don't necessarily think you are, but I sure hope so!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:38 PM on March 12, 2008


Petraeus Wins in Iraq Battle, Kills Iran War
posted by homunculus at 3:05 PM on March 13, 2008


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