Monday, September 17, 2007

A Whiff Of Chickenshit

Gareth Porter, a historian, policy analyst, and international studies professor known for refuting the Domino Theory in 1969, has broken an important story in the Asia Times about a serious rift in the US military command structure responsible for Iraq: Petraeus Out of Step With US Top Brass. We know desperation fosters disagreements in war, but there is probably a key signal contained in this story, particularly with regards to the Cheney effort to attack Iran.

Porter cites anonymous sources who state that relations between Admiral William Fallon and General David Petraeus are subject to "acute tension," rivaling the antipathy of Patton and Montgomery. Petraeus, the general commanding ground forces in Iraq, nominally reports to Fallon, a superior well-regarded for his effectiveness in stemming an Islamic insurgency in the Philippines. Reportedly, at their first meeting in March of this year, Fallon called Petraeus "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" for disapproving of the general's efforts to ingratiate himself. Apparently, the relationship further devolved from that auspicious beginning. To quote the article:
Fallon's derision toward Petraeus reflected both the Centcom commander's personal distaste for Petraeus's style of operating and their fundamental policy differences over Iraq, according to the sources.

The policy context of Fallon's extraordinarily abrasive treatment of his subordinate was Petraeus's agreement in February to serve as front man for the George W Bush administration's effort to sell its policy of increasing US troop strength in Iraq to Congress.

In a highly unusual political role for an officer who had not yet taken command of a war, Petraeus was installed in the office of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in early February just before the Senate debated Bush's troop increase. According to a report in the Washington Post on February 7, senators were then approached on the floor and invited to McConnell's office to hear Petraeus make the case for the "surge" policy.

Fallon was strongly opposed to Petraeus's role as pitchman for the "surge" in Iraq adopted by Bush in December as putting his own interests ahead of a sound military posture in the Middle East and Southwest Asia - the area for which Fallon's Centcom is responsible.

The Centcom commander believed the United States should be withdrawing troops from Iraq urgently, largely because he saw greater dangers elsewhere in the region. "He is very focused on Pakistan," said a source familiar with Fallon's thinking, "and trying to maintain a difficult status quo with Iran."
As Goethe once said, the sweetest sounds which reach your ear tend to be spoken by someone who voices your deep convictions. Having previously ranted on the subject of a nuclear-armed Pakistan, I agree with Fallon, and it's a welcome surprise to hear his alleged thinking. Any idiot analyzing the region's scenarios would carefully consider the composition and volatility of Pakistan, an unstable powder keg jiggling on the end of a cordite-sprinkled fuse. Quite an "ally." Lest we forget, the perps of 9/11 were harbored and financed from there. ("No one could have imagined...that terrorists could fly planes...into buildings.") That, and Petraeus is an ass-kissing little chickenshit in the best careerist tradition. While he's smart enough to plagiarize old counterinsurgency strategy, which is an improvement over predecessors, he's vainglorious enough to present the strategy as his own and accept the plaudits. The little chickenshit did not steal very well; the COIN manual has been written many times before, probably most accessibly to Petraeus by Bernard Fall, who reported what worked and what did not in Indochina and later Vietnam.

The signal is this: in response to an attack on Iran, in the Asia Times article, Bill Fallon stated there would be no attacking Iran on his watch. This is in contradiction to current intel on the drumbeats for that war dance. While Porter doesn't cite his source and doesn't back it up with the opinions of others, Fallon's conclusions are militarily obvious. Any attack on Iran will produce heavy fallout and blow-back. Buttressing that, Fallon is also said to be against a war with China, and Porter says he resisted moving three major carrier groups into the Persian Gulf back in February, which was a major worry at the time (and there were a total of six carriers there if you included Marine amphis carrying troops and jump-jets).

The article's pronouncements may be soft-sourced and thus speculative, but the reporter is pretty reliable, has an impeccable record of integrity over four decades, and has bullshit-dispelling proclivities. As for Fallon he has been in the Navy for 35 years, is from a more risk-taking culture than the Army, and his retirement is secure. If he resigns suddenly, you know what it means.

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