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Terrorism & Security

Speculation persists about Admiral Fallon's departure from Pentagon

Broad outspokenness, and not a White House plan for war with Iran, most likely led to his retirement from Central Command.

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Fallon also came under fire for his positive stance toward China, The Christian Science Monitor writes.

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Before he was assigned to Central Command, he was the commander of US Pacific Command. There, he often "leaned forward" on engaging with China, arguing that US-Chinese relations were too important to ignore. Some conservative critics believe he was too friendly with the Chinese, whose military buildup and global ambitions are unclear.

Most reports agree that Fallon's departure at its core is not due to the White House's plans for Iran, but rather to Fallon's vocal disagreements with the Bush administration, on Iran and on other military topics. In an editorial, The Boston Globe writes that despite tradition that top military commanders keep their dissent private, "the usual strictures against airing policy differences in public should not have been enforced" in this case, due to "the validity of Fallon's advice" and the Bush administration's "history of stumbling into grievous strategic errors" when ignoring the advice of military commanders.

The Dallas Morning News, in an editorial, also blames Fallon's outspokenness for his departure, but argues that it was right for him to go.

"We do think the Pentagon's top commanders should speak up – privately – when they think the president is contemplating a bad move. But it's essential that the commander in chief set the policy. Once that's done, the president's orders must be followed without inappropriate second-guessing in public."

And in his column for The Washington Post, David Ignatius chronicles a series of conflicts between the White House and Fallon, "a guy with a mouth that could peel the paint off the walls." In particular, Mr. Ignatius notes that Fallon frequently butted heads with Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, and General Petraeus's close relationship with the White House "made for an awkward chain of command." Ignatius concludes:

"I understand the White House's desire for an orderly chain of command and the need for military officers to trust each other's discretion. But in the case of Fallon, I see a lot of good that came from having a headstrong blowtorch of a man speaking truth to power."
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