Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mark Perry on Admiral William “Fox” Fallon
There is a bar. Set perilously atop the Marine Memorial Club and Hotel, the Leatherneck Lounge is one of San Francisco’s most legendary watering holes, an exclusive-of-sorts meeting place for veterans and their families. It is all that you might suppose it to be: semi-dark and warm, quiet and somber, with good steaks and smooth scotch and, if you are lucky enough to know the waiters, you can talk late into the night. I was a guest there several weeks ago, seated at a table with eight men who had seen a bit of war. Arrayed around me were retired three and four star Generals and a combat Colonel. While they talked (of the “Frozen Chosin,” the Ia Drang, “Helicopter Hell,” Beirut, the Highway of Death and Anbar) I listened: checking what they had experienced against what I had read.

The next morning, as the Boeing 737 carrying me home struggled into the air headed east, I memorialized the evening in the pages of my small notebook, filling twelve pages with anecdotes, quotes and descriptions. I did this knowing, of course, that I could never refer to any of the men at that table by name, nor place the words they had said in their mouths. It was not that the evening had been too personal or emotional, but that all of them had let down their guard to the point where I had been given insights to fundamental truths about their profession and its current state that were at once both damning and insightful. To the degree that I have been privy to such rare evenings among senior military officers (and I have) is not because I write about them — but because I don’t.

Which is why, after reading Thomas Barnett’s Esquire article on America’s Centcom Commander, I knew that William “Fox” Fallon would be forced into retirement. After reading the article, the men around that table would have thought as I do: that he was lucky he wasn’t fired. In truth, I would have busted him to Seaman Recruit.

Barnett’s piece has to rank as one of the most embarrassing portraits of an American officer in U.S. military history... more

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