Here’s a radical thought: The abrupt resignation Tuesday of the combatant commander of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William J. “Fox” Fallon, is not the end of a career but a move calculated to catapult the former naval officer into the vice-presidential sweepstakes. After all, a military man who has proven himself utterly unserious about the Iranian threat would be perfect running mate for either Senators Obama or Clinton.
The superficial appeal of such a cynical gambit may prove short-lived, however. The more one knows about Admiral Fallon’s conduct as a senior officer in sensitive positions around the world, the more unappealing his candidacy should be. Would any president want on his (or her) team an individual who had engaged in serial acts of insubordination and sabotage of a previous commander-in-chief? Consider just a few of the more public examples of such behavior:
According to a recent, fatuous profile in Esquire, no sooner had Adm. Fallon assumed his previous post as commander of Pacific Command in 2005, than he began an aggressive campaign to establish closer military-to-military ties with China’s People’s Liberation Army. The history of such efforts was replete with examples of the Chinese using these contacts as opportunities to collect intelligence against our forces, while systematically withholding information about their military’s capabilities, prompting many in the Pentagon and Congress to oppose the resumption of these exchanges.
Fallon’s appeasement of Communist China continued in 2006 when, as the Washington Times’s national-security correspondent, Bill Gertz, reported, he “restricted U.S. intelligence-gathering activities against China, fearing that disclosure of the activities would upset relations with Beijing.” Never mind that the PRC is engaged in even more comprehensive and aggressive espionage against this country than that of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.
The admiral’s assignment to Centcom commander came as a shock to those who had observed what some called his “toxic leadership” in the Pacific Command. Having secured this new posting, he inflicted a similar disfunctionality on the headquarters for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He actively worked against the surge in Iraq and, at every turn, sought to impede Gen. David Petreaus’s implementation of a successful counterinsurgency strategy there. He has acknowledged that he did not forcefully deliver a message from Washington aimed at discouraging Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf from imposing martial law on his country.
Fallon also takes pride in having “banished the term ‘long war’ from Centcom’s vocabulary.” The Esquire puff-piece details how:
[Fallon] believes real victory in this struggle will be defined in economic terms first, and so the emphasis on war struck him as ‘too narrow.’ But the term also signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable. He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Then, there is the matter of Iran. Fallon was most clearly in breach of the principle of civilian command of the military as he sought to contradict presidential assessments of the threat posed by the mullahocracy there and to promote his own diplomatic initiatives with Tehran. For example, he told Esquire that Iran could eventually participate in a summit of Persian Gulf chiefs of defense, similar to one he convened earlier this year in Tampa. He also asserted that engagement with Iran is crucial to stop the flow of munitions into Iraq, when every indication is that the Iranians perceive such diplomatic openings as signs of American weakness and lack of resolve, to be exploited wherever possible.
Not least, Fallon opined on al-Jazeera last fall that, “This constant drumbeat of conflict . . . is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.” Asia Times carried a report last year that he would resign if ordered to go to war — a sentiment he never denied.
The question is: Will rank insubordination on a scale arguably not seen in a military commander since MacArthur faded away nearly six decades ago be rewarded by still higher office? Will Democratic politicians, so anxious to demean George Bush’s presidency and seek partisan advantage by pandering to the American people’s penchant for ignoring, rather than confronting emerging threats, resist the temptation to embrace Fox Fallon? Or will they seek to burnish their own, woefully inadequate national-security credentials by enlisting this arrogant, short-sighted, and insubordinate officer in a new, and probably even more problematic, political career?
Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected since its initial posting.
– Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy.