By lex, on January 5th, 2007
I have to admit that I didn’t know quite what to think about the news that Admiral “Fox” Fallon was leaving his command at PACOM to take the reins at CENTCOM. The Pacific Command is the pinnacle of achievement for a Navy four star – as a combatant commander the position is in some ways more to be envied even than that of our premier, the Chief of Naval Operations, who mostly focuses on policy and dealing with Congress.
Which I’m sure is a joy.
PACOM has traditionally been reserved for naval officers, since it encompasses huge swaths of the maritime domain – everything from the US west coast through the vital Pacific Rim, past India and into the Arabian Sea. It’s a huge pol-mil responsibility, including not just naval forces but all Army, Marines and USAF in the AOR. Far be it for me to judge, but by all accounts ADM Fallon is a brilliant officer who has done a superb job.
Still, there are two ground campaigns being fought in CENTCOM and choosing a Navy flag as the combatant commander is a surprising choice. Which I suppose is why Petraeus – a fighting general who knows when to shoot, and when to hold fire – is to be placed in charge of ground forces on his third pump in theater. Both Fallon and Petaeus have their critics of course – to wear multiple stars on one’s collar is to have significant power, and to have power is to inspire the envy and endure the sideline sniping of less successful and often embittered men.
Seeing the reactions of such lefty pol-mil experts as Digby and Jeff Huber (Commander, US Navy, retired) leaves me somewhat more at ease, however. Digby engages in armchair psychology before going on to quote Huber at length, who in turn predicts in part that naval aviator Fallon has been selected because the strike warfare expertise he gained flying A-6′s in Vietnam, and leading an air wing in 1991 would be a critical asset to a four-star officer planning the upcoming bombardment of Iran.
You read that right. Because that’s what you’d need to plan a bombing campaign. A four star admiral whose last flying tour was 16 years ago. Whose campaign experience during the 1991 Iraq War was driven – like the rest of the Navy’s effort – by a three-star USAF officer, the Joint Force Air Component Commander, or JFACC.
Nobody else would do, really.