A victory for Petraeus

The sudden exit of Adm. William Fallon from his post as the top U.S. military chief in the Middle East and Central Asia constituted a major victory in Pentagon politics for Army Gen. David Petraeus, who had bucked Fallon’s desire to begin a steady withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

But Petraeus, the White House’s golden knight for engineering a so-far-successful anti-insurgent strategy in Iraq, has bigger battles ahead, given that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen generally share Fallon’s approach. In contrast, Petraeus believes the troop-heavy “surge” requires more time.

Look for Fallon to go public with his arguments for an immediate drawdown, maybe even as a consultant to a Democratic presidential candidate. Look, too, for heavy flak for Petraeus’ coming report on the progress of the surge and recommendations for the future.

If GOP candidate John McCain wins the White House, would his sons face a problem like that of England’s Prince Harry, who served in secret on the front lines in Afghanistan until the press found out and he was yanked home?

Both young McCains have followed their father’s footsteps into the military, with one now enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the other a Marine just back from a tour in Iraq.

If their dad wins in November, and the United States remains at war, would they be allowed to serve in combat? Or would their presence, if publicized, amount to an invitation for the enemy, seeking a propaganda coup, to specially target their units?

In the District of Columbia, where residents pay federal income taxes but have no vote in Congress, no slogan is dearer than “No Taxation Without Representation.” A variation is on city license plates and, leaders had hoped, would soon appear on the new D.C. “state” quarter to be issued by the U.S. Mint’s popular state coins program. No way, the Mint said, citing a “no politics” policy for the coins.

Now, Mayor Adrian Fenty has a new suggestion for the coin’s inscription, “Justice for All,” which, he mused to The Washington Post, “means the same thing.”

The Soviet Sputnik got all the hype for the dawn of the Space Age, but the venerable Vanguard 1, America’s first satellite in orbit, celebrates its 50th anniversary circling the Earth on March 17.

So far, its long, strange trip has featured more than 197,000 revolutions over a distance equal to a trip from Earth to Pluto and halfway back. It was the first solar-powered spacecraft, and while no longer operational, it is still tracked by ground-based radars for scientific purposes.

Experts say the craft — not quite the size of a bowling ball — won’t tumble from space for another 2,000 years.

The two newest congressmen heading for Capitol Hill — who won recent special elections to fill empty House seats — will both bring small measures of distinction with them.

Elected March 8, new Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., will become the first Harvard-trained particle physicist to serve under the dome. No fewer than 19 Nobel Prize winners backed his campaign.

Next is Andre Carson, who will be only the second Muslim to serve in Congress. On March 11, the Indiana Democrat was elected to fill the seat left open by the death of his grandmother, Rep. Julia Carson. He was raised a Baptist and educated in Catholic schools. For a time, he even considered the Catholic priesthood.

Dog fighting is officially a felony everywhere in the United States now that Wyoming has signed on to tougher penalties against the offense. Apparently, it took outrage triggered by the Michael Vick dog-fighting case to finally nudge Wyoming into the fold March 4. A week earlier, Idaho did the same. Both states had been holdouts for years.

(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com. SHNS correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column.)