Also at Kos.
The "new way forward" team is taking shape. Robert Gates is in as Secretary of Defense. John Negroponte will move from Director of National Intelligence to Assistant Secretary of State. Retired Vice Admiral Michael McConnell will take Negroponte's old job as DNI. Raw Story reports that Lieutenant General David Petraeus, the former day-to-day commander in Iraq, to replace General George Casey as the overall commander of U.S. forces in that country.
The news that has everyone a bit agog is that the head of Central Command, General John Abizaid, will be relieved by Admiral William J. Fallon.
ABC reports that "Fallon, who is in the Navy, is currently head of Pacific Command; he will be overseeing two ground wars, so the appointment is highly unusual."
I think ABC is missing the point.
It seems highly unusual for a navy admiral to take charge of CENTCOM until you consider two interrelated things. First is that Bush needs a senior four-star in the CENTCOM job who hasn't gone on record as opposing additional troops in Iraq. Second is that Fallon's CENTCOM area of responsibility will include Iran.
A conflict with Iran would be a naval and air operation. Fallon is a naval flight officer. He flew combat missions in Vietnam, commanded an A-6 Intruder squadron, a carrier air wing and an aircraft carrier. As a three-star, he commanded Second Fleet and Strike Force Atlantic. He presently heads U.S. Pacific Command. His resume also includes duty in numerous joint and Navy staff billets, including Deputy Director for Operations with Joint Task Force Southwest Asia in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia.
If anybody knows how to run a maritime and air operation against Iran, it's "Fox" Fallon.
No Check, No Balances
The legislature's options for keeping Mr. Bush from sending more troops to Iraq is limited, but if he decides to unilaterally attack Iran, there's virtually nothing Congress can do to stop him.
Bush and his legal beagle Alberto Gonzales could probably claim that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) from September 2001 gives the executive power to exert armed force against Iran, especially given the echo chamber's recent rhetoric about Iran being responsible for the violence in Iraq. And if you've been listening closely enough, you've heard the subliminal message associating Iran with the 9/11 attacks.
But Bush and Gonzales have a fallback position that's darn near bulletproof. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 gives a president up to 90 days to commit forces to combat without permission from Congress. Ironically, the resolution was passed in the wake of the Vietnam conflict to prevent a president from waging extended conflicts without a declaration of war or "specific statutory authorization" from Congress, but today it gives Bush all the ammunition he needs to start a war with Iran (or anyone else, for that matter) on his own say so.
It's doubtful the Supreme Court could stop him; and even more doubtful that it would if it could.
The only chance of checking whatever aggressive ambitions Bush may have on Iran would be a passive coup by the senior members of the administration's civilian and military security team through a group resignation, and hoping for that is, well, hopeless. After the latest round of musical deck chairs is complete, everybody still on board will have signed on to the program in blood (somebody else's, of course).
What's even more frightening is that the escalation strategy--that includes more troops in Iraq, an expansion of the military and use of armed force against Iran--comes from the core neoconservative cabal headed by Bill Kristol and supported by Dick Cheney that got us into our Middle East miasma in the first place.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.