Fallon’s First Interview as Civilian

Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, who resigned his post as CENTCOM commander after a controversial Tom Barnett interview was published in Esquire, gave his first interview as a private citizen to CNN’s Kyra Phillips. A brief excerpt from the transcript:

ADM. FALLON: I think the real story here is what’s important. What was important was not me. It wasn’t some discussion about where I was with issues. It was the fact that we have a war in progress. We had a couple hundred thousand people whose lives were at stake in Iraq and Afghanistan and we needed to be focused on that and not a discussion on me and what I might have said or thought or someone perceived I said. That’s the motivation.

PHILLIPS: Let’s talk about this article. It was the catalyst. It was the last straw. Tom Barnett made it appear that you were the only man standing between the president and a war with Iran. Is that true?

ADM. FALLON: I don’t believe for a second president bush wants a war with Iran. The situation with Iran is very complex. People sometimes portray it or try to portray it in very simplistic terms we’re against Iran, we want to go to war with Iran, we want to be close to them, the reality is in international politics that many aspects to many of these situations and I believe in our relationship with Iran we need to be strong and firm and convey the principles on which this country stands and upon which our policies are based. At the same time demonstrate a willingness and openness to engage in dialogue because there are things we can find in common.

PHILLIPS: Would have you negotiated with Iran?

ADM. FALLON: It’s not my position to negotiate with Iran. I was the military commander in the Middle East. I had responsibility for our people and their safety and well-being.

PHILLIPS: So when talk of the third war came out a war with Iran, the president didn’t say to you this is what I want to you do and did you stand up and say bad move?

ADM. FALLON: It’s probably not appropriate to try to characterize it in that way. Again, don’t believe for a second that the president really wants to go to war with Iran. We have a lot of things going on. There are many other ways to solve problems. I was very open and candid in my advice. I’m not shy. I will tell people, the leaders, what I think. Offer my opinions on Iran and other things and continue to do that.

[…]

PHILLIPS: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, talk about pulling troops out by next year. John McCain says, no, we got to stay the course. What is the best course for Iraq right now?

ADM. FALLON: I believe the best course is to retain the high confidence we have in General Petraeus and his team out there. Dave has done a magnificent job in leading our people in that country. Again, this situation is quite complex. Many angles. There’s a very, very important military role here in providing stability and security in this country but that’s not going to be successful as we know without lots of other people playing a hand. The political side of things in Iraq has got to move forward. That appears to be improving. People have to have confidence in their futures. They want to have stability. They would like to be able to raise their families in peace. They would like to have a job. They would like to look to tomorrow as better than today. It takes more than the military but the military is the one that provides stability and security. The idea we would walk away from Iraq strikes me as not appropriate. We all want to bring our troops home. We want to have the majority of our people back and we want the war ended. Given where we are today, the progress that they’ve made particularly in the last couple months, I think it’s very, very heartening to see what’s really happened here. The right course of action is to continue to work with the Iraqis and let them take over the majority of the tasks for ensuring security for the country and have our people come out on a timetable that’s appropriate with conditions on the ground.

The video of the complete segment is here.

As Bruce McQain notes, Fallon “refuses to take the bait” to trash the administration. And this furthers my predisposition on two things: Fallon is too much a professional to undermine his country’s foreign policy in media interviews and that war with Iran is not something the administration is pushing towards, much to the disappointment of many.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Cernig says:

    James,

    PHILLIPS: So when talk of the third war came out a war with Iran, the president didn’t say to you this is what I want to you do and did you stand up and say bad move?

    ADM. FALLON: It’s probably not appropriate to try to characterize it in that way.

    Not that it didn’t happen – but that it isn’t appropriate to say it did. Fallon does a great job of fence-sitting in this interview (other than saying outright we should negotiate with Iran – “demonstrate a willingness and openness to engage in dialogue because there are things we can find in common” – contra McCain). About the only thing you can definitely take away from this interview is that, for whatever reason, he’s being very careful about what he says.

    Regards, C

  2. Hal says:

    War with Iran is not something the administration is pushing towards

    Umm, Fallon doesn’t confirm your point of view. He merely says “don’t believe for a second that the president really wants to go to war with Iran.” There are many strong voices in this administration. Fallon certainly does nothing to set to rest the actual rumors to which you refer, which is that Cheney is pushing for war with Iran, nor the more general statement you’re asserting which is the administration. Certainly he doesn’t confirm this viewpoint, but nor does he provide any evidence to the contrary.

    Oh, and the much to the disappointment of many is a seriously cheap shot. Perhaps you really believe that, but I seriously doubt anyone who believes that there are forces within the administration – powerful ones – pushing for war with Iran think that it’s going to disappoint them if it doesn’t actually come true. To claim that it would is rather lame…