March 06, 2008


Kevin Drum points to a new Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, which includes this remarkable anecdote:
When the Admiral took charge of Pacific Command in 2005, he immediately set about a military-to-military outreach to the Chinese armed forces, something that had plenty of people freaking out at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The Chinese, after all, were scheduled to be our next war. What the hell was Fallon doing?

Contrary to some reports, though, Fallon says he initially had no trouble with then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld on the subject. "Early on, I talked to him. I said, Here's what I think. And I talked to the president, too."

It was only after the Pentagon and Congress started realizing that their favorite "programs of record" (i.e., weapons systems and major vehicle platforms) were threatened by such talks that the shit hit the fan. "I blew my stack," Fallon says. "I told Rumsfeld, Just look at this shit. I go up to the Hill and I get three or four guys grabbing me and jerking me out of the aisle, all because somebody came up and told them that the sky was going to cave in."
Now, I assume the ideal situation here would be for military commanders from China and the United States to stay in close contact, so that they can defuse tensions and avoid incidents that could escalate into something unpleasant. But then where would the defense contractors be? So not only do we get the Air Force and Navy hyping the China threat to justify a fresh generation of nuclear subs and aircraft carriers, but anything that so much as smells like d├ętente gets castigated. Thankfully, Fallon stood down the shriekers in this case, but those are some screwed-up incentives.

P.S. Plus of course there's this business about Fallon getting pushed out because he might resist a military action against Iran.
-- Brad Plumer 10:16 PM || ||