Commentary Magazine


Even More About the Goofball

Why was Admiral William “Fox” Fallon forced into retirement? Mark Perry, a director of Conflicts Forum, offers his take in Asia Times. He points like others have to Thomas Barnett’s Esquire profile, which he says “has to rank as one of the most embarrassing portraits of an American officer in US military history. Both for Barnett, as well as for Fallon.”

One problem is Barnett’s style. Perry describes it as being in “pseudo Tombstone style — a kind of vague signaling that this is just-between-us tough guys talk – Barnett presents a military commander who is constantly on the go, trailing exhausted aides who never rest (oh, what a man he is!): Fallon doesn’t get angry (he gets ‘pissed off’); he doesn’t have a father (he has an ‘old man’); he doesn’t spend time (he does a ‘stint’); he doesn’t walk (he ‘sidles’); and he doesn’t talk, ‘he speaks in measured koans’.”

But it is not such lather alone that is the problem. Writes Perry,

[he's] boorish and, very often, it’s just plain wrong. Thus, Barnett: “If, in the dying light of the [George W] Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it’ll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it’ll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance. His name is William Fallon.”

Well, actually, yes — and no. The decision to go to war will come down to one man, but his name won’t be Fox Fallon, it will be George W. Bush. More accurately, the constitution of the United States places foreign policy in the hands of the president as the commander-in-chief and the decision for declaring war is in the hands of the U.S. Congress. Fallon’s role in all of this, as I am sure he must know, is to obey orders and to keep his mouth shut, a point that was undoubtedly made plain to him by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the immediate aftermath of the publication of this article. And, we might imagine, Gates put his objections to the article in the following terms: “Fox, just what in the hell do you think you were doing talking to Thomas Barrett?”

If that’s the question Gates posed, it was the right one. Given that Barnett is a well-known goofball, why exactly did Admiral Fallon collaborate with him? Selecting this particular journalist to write a puff-job about himself suggests that Fallon was not merely insubordinate but something of a goofball himself.