Central Command Musical Chairs
Fallon’s departure also reflects Gates’s management style. During his 15 months at the Pentagon, the defense secretary has shown a willingness to move decisively in cases of internal conflict. A career intelligence officer, he demanded the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey last year because of the way he handled the fallout from reports about substandard care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Gates also declined to nominate Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a second two-year term, amid concerns that a Democratic-controlled Congress would grill Pace on Iraq.
So who’s going to succeed Fallon? Ricks brings you the scorecard:
A likely successor to Fallon is Petraeus, some defense experts said. The general could be promoted to the Centcom post and replaced in Baghdad by Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who until last month was Petraeus’s deputy in Iraq. Odierno, who has been nominated to become Army vice chief of staff, developed a strong working relationship with Petraeus.
Another possible successor mentioned yesterday is Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the head of Special Operations in Iraq. McChrystal recently was nominated to be director of the staff of the Joint Chiefs, a key Pentagon position.
For more on Odierno, see this piece. If he becomes commanding general in Iraq post-surge, we’ll surely get a better sense of whether he is, in fact, a true counterinsurgent. Meanwhile, if Petraeus gets the promotion to Centcom commander, and the Democrats win the White House, Petraeus will in all likelihood be tasked with drafting a plan for withdrawal from Iraq. Ironies compound. (I suggested something similar in this column, which got the right all up in arms because I wasn’t willing to treat Petraeus as God Made Flesh. For the record, the purpose of the column wasn’t to sabotage Petraeus, it was to think through his possible political aspirations and their implications. OK?)