Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, the U.S. Centcom commander who has spoken up several times at Congressional hearings and to the press the past year to suggest a military confrontation with Iran would be ill advised, has resigned, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has just announced. Fallon was the subject of a flattering Esquire profile by military analyst Thomas P.M. Barnett this month - a piece that highlighted tensions between Fallon and the White House over his outspoken statements. Earlier today, NBC's Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported:
The Pentagon sharks are circling CENTCOM Commander Adm. William "Fox" Fallon for a magazine interview in which he appears to openly criticize President Bush on the administration's Iran policy. The very public comments raised speculation Fallon would either volunteer or be forced to resign. ...
Asked on Monday whether Defense Secretary Robert Gates still has full confidence in Fallon, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell would only say that Fallon "still enjoys a working a good working relationship with the Secretary of Defense."
Although reporters did not specifically ask about a possible Fallon resignation, Morrell freely offered, "Admiral Fallon serves at the pleasure of the president." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but far from a political death knell.
Now we know that it was.
"As I say, the notion that this decision portends anything in terms of change in Iran policy is, to quote myself, 'ridiculous,' " Gates said.
Nevertheless, it is quite a signal for the White House to send to aides and in particular to the military to keep their thoughts on policy to themselves -- a concern voiced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts' views are not welcomed in this Administration," Reid said in a statement.
Can anybody say "Eric Shinseki?"