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Barnett's Love Letter to Fallon

9:36 AM, Mar 18, 2008 • By MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS
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Tom Barnett's piece in the April issue of Esquire is blamed--or credited--with bringing about the fall of Adm. William Fallon, who will step down soon as commander of U.S. Central Command. Barnett portrayed Fallon as a guy who stood up to the president on Iran. Barnett also portrayed Fallon as a scourge of "hardliners led by [Vice President] Cheney," "neocons," and "supporters of Israel."

Now, not too long ago, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was also known as a hardliner, and even in some circles as a "neocon." Of course, such people use the term "neocon" as nothing more than shorthand for either "hardliner" or "friend of Israel," which makes it sound like a coinage of the department of redundancy department.

But guess who wrote a profile of Don Rumsfeld three years ago, one at least as fawning as the one of Fallon? Why none other than Tom Barnett.

The piece, which appears in the same magazine's July 2005 issue, is entitled "Donald Rumsfeld: Old Man in a Hurry: The inside story of how Donald H. Rumsfeld transformed the Pentagon, in which we learn about wire-brushing, deep diving, and a secret society called the Slurg." Here is what Barnett has to say on the first page of the piece:

It is from this suite of rooms that Rumsfeld has become one of the most loathed and revered men in the world. The man is too impatient, too damned arrogant, too beyond politics, and just too stubborn for his own good. He is the famously combative, two-time SecDef (both youngest and oldest ever) who chews up and spits out experienced reporters in what are easily the most skillfully performed press conferences since John Kennedy walked the earth. He has brilliantly executed a couple of wars, and badly botched a peace. Let us stipulate all these truths just to move the conversation along.

But something else has been going on in this office, and it's nothing short of the most profound transformation of the U. S. military since World War II--a historic process that will, paradoxically, yield a force Americans haven't seen since our frontier days. The United States had one Defense Department on January 20, 2001, and it will have a very different one by January 20, 2009. Donald H. Rumsfeld, thirteenth and twenty-first secretary of defense, is the reason why.

Does one whiff a touch of opportunism floating on a tainted breeze?

I would also note that when Robert Kaplan wrote a piece for the June 2005 issue of the Atlantic Monthly entitled "How We Would fight China," Barnett referred to it on his website as "Kaplan's strategic lap dance for the U.S. Navy and Pacific Command?"

He continued: "'Sell out' isn't too strong a term for what Kaplan does in this piece. As someone who's worked for the Navy for a decade and a half, I don't think I've ever seen analysis that whores itself more for the most over-the-top strategic fantasies of naval leaders who feel embittered and betrayed by the end of the Cold War. This is U.S. Navy and Pacific Command propaganda at its best."

Oh, by the way, guess who was commander of Pacific Command at the time of the Kaplan piece. None other than Adm. William "Fox" Fallon.

Hmm. It sounds like Barnett did Kaplan one better. If Kaplan's piece on Fallon's PACOM in 2005 was a lap dance, Barnett's fawning piece on Fallon last week might best be described by a word that ends in "job".