Using the old tactic of releasing controversial news just before the weekend in the hope minimising attention as people set off to enjoy a weekend break, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Friday afternoon that “he will advise President Bush to replace Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
The reason? According to Gates he feared that a contentious renomination hearing in the Senate would focus too heavily on six years of war.
“I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform, and Gen. Pace himself would not be well-served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” said Gates.
Apparently President Bush took Gate’s advice.
If all goes according to plan, Pace’s replacement will be Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen.
Assuming the Senate approves his nomination, Mullen’s selection will be the first time in 21 years that both the head of the Joint Chiefs and the CentCom Commander, Adm. William Fallon, have been Navy officers.”
When Fallon was appointed in January to lead CentCom, analysts noted the choice of a Navy officer reflected ‘a greater emphasis on countering Iranian power, a mission that relies heavily on naval forces and combat airpower to project American influence in the Persian Gulf,’
In announcing the nomination of Mullen, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr said that Mullen also ‘watches Iran closely.’
There has already been some speculation that Pace was replaced because he opposed escalating conflict in the Middle East and argued against confronting Iran militarily. Whether or not this is the case remains to be seen but Admirals Fallon and Mullen are both said to be hawkish.
In contrast to its ground forces, U.S. naval and air power remains relatively unscathed and with two hawks heading the U.S. military, both said to be watching ‘Iran closely’, the implications are ominous in the extreme.
As Sherman Skolnick would say… stay tuned.