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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pocket Rocket Diplomacy

Republicans used to have a neverending field day with Bill Clinton’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants foreign policy despite the fact that it kept us out of bloody, expensive and endless wars, which, of course, was the reason while it was so vilified. There’s not much of a percentage in peace.

Yet if Bush goofing off surrounded by opulence in the Middle East and dancing the Watusi in the less troublesome nations of Africa has brought one point home, it’s this: Under George W. Bush, the American ship of state, once the flagship of the Free World, has been reduced to a pocket rocket. That is, it’s ludicrous, diminished and dangerous.

In trying to make permanent our illegal and murderous occupation of Iraq in the final year of his equally illegal and murderous administration, Bush effectively removes any pretense or need for pretense that he may have previously entertained about accomplishing any mission in Iraq that actually benefits the Iraqis.

We’re not talking about lowered expectations here but the realization of lofty expectations that were actually and, until now, secretly held. They began with Grenada-like promises of five minutes of firefight and five weeks of sun and sand, costing only a billion or so and Wolfowitz’s assurances to Congress that the reconstruction of Iraq would be paid for by their oil, based on ludicrously bloated predictions of their oil production.

$3 trillion is not money wasted if the lion’s share of that money winds up in the bulging pockets of Bush and Cheney’s base of Haves and Have Mores. Who cares whose pockets it came out of?

Also lost during the endless amateur hour is that war, while it can jumpstart a depressed economy, it cannot indefinitely sustain and invigorate one, especially when such a short-term effect is massively compromised by neverending tax cuts. And our economy was really booming (for many more people than it is now) when we’d invaded Afghanistan in late 2001.

The resignation today of Admiral “Fox” Fallon barely more than a year after becoming CENTCOM chief, is more telling than anyone, including Fallon, is willing to admit. Jeff Huber reminded us at the time that the choice of Fallon to head CENTCOM actually made sense when you realize that Bush was thinking specifically of someone who could wage war with Iran. As Huber said, “If anybody knows how to run a maritime and air operation against Iran, it's ‘Fox’ Fallon.”

Yet, Fallon has not been what the blood-crazed hyenas at PNAC and Pennsylvania Avenue would call a war hawk, even though he’s said that America needs to be strong and demonstrate “a willingness to engage.” That’s not warrior-speak: That’s a plain fact. Any national military needs to be ready to engage even if only to justify its existence and if Fallon believed otherwise, he never would’ve gotten out of Annapolis.

Yet, according to what he’d told al-Jazeera last autumn, via the Esquire article from which everyone in the government, including Fallon himself, is trying to distance themselves, Fallon’s dedication to warring with Iran was anything but non-negotiable, especially in light of the NIE that brought Iran's so-called nuclear threat back to manageable perspective. Last fall, Admiral Fallon told the Arabic news service, “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.”

Despite Fallon's pooh-poohing, that's pretty unambiguous.

Even if Fallon wasn’t talking about Iran, it still would’ve been an unwelcome message for a bunch of spittle-flecked armchair warriors inexperienced and unskilled in the art of war. And compounding the friction with the White House that Robert Gates and Fallon are trying to deny existed is the plain fact that mere months after taking over as CENTCOM chief, Fallon was already being quoted as saying that war with Iran “won’t happen on my watch.”

And those weren’t the only quotes both attributed and attributable to Fallon that were at odds with an administration that’s been acting toward the Middle East like the apes toward the monoliths at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, only with better and costlier sticks.

I believe that Fallon’s decision to resign effective at the end of the month was an autonomous one. But it’s also notable that Gates, at a delicate time in US-Iran relations (are there any other?) accepted Fallon’s resignation the first time. It also ought to be noted that Gen. John Abizaid, Fallon’s predecessor, publicly disagreed with McCain before Congress about a surge in Iraq before the surge had even been enacted. Abizaid had also quietly criticized the Bush administration for its policies in Iraq, contributing to Bush wanting to make “a clean sweep” of top commanders to whose judgment he professes to defer.

Fallon may be doing the typically cowardly thing almost expected of all commanders serving under Bush and claiming that Esquire was putting words in his mouth and making him sound more rebellious than he really was. But one thing is clear: Given the Bush administration’s history of vindictiveness toward generals and admirals who don’t completely toe the line, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility when Esquire’s Thomas Barnett wrote, “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.”

And now we’re looking for another officer to fill Fallon’s shoes. And Bush and his failed foreign policies are running out of four star generals and admirals who see things his jaundiced but rosy way.
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Blogger Citizen Carrie said...
It's interesting how yet one more top commander has resigned. Even the replacement commanders are being replaced. A president should reasonably be expected to have military leaders carry out orders, but this is looking more like a purge.