Dec 27 2012
I normally do not post about contentious issues during the holiday break, preferring instead to have innocuous fun with Beer and Babes, or comics, or life in the promised land of Japan. However I came across and article that is simply so egregiously wrong-that fisking it just cannot wait until after the beginning of the New Year.
Several months ago, Navy CAPT Mark Light-formerly a C-2 pilot and now a faculty member at the Army War College, published an article that purports to be a scholarly analysis of the Navy’s recent rise CO firings compared to its historic averages of some 20 years ago. Notice I used the word “purports” because, quite simply, this article is not an effective analysis at all, scholarly or otherwise. Rather it is just another venue by which the Navy’s leadership is seeking to absolve itself of any responsibility for creating an environment that placed CO’s increasingly in the hands of temptation. It provides the patently absurd and convenient explanation that somehow the “problem” with the Navy’s CO’s comes down to flaws in “character”. And by absolving the civilian and flag leadership of any responsibility whatsoever, he comes down with the tired old trope of a solution that obviously the screening process is at fault for not finding these so called “character flaws” and avoiding promoting these supposedly “amoral” officers to positions of increased responsibility and authority. It was a bullshit conclusion when I first wrote about it here, here, and here.
Since the argument has been had before-and your time at Christmas is precious I will give you my responses up front. I’ll then take some time to look at the conclusions that CAPT Light came up with-and then moved his analysis around to support.
1) The Military is NOT a moral profession. It may be honorable and needed-but it not by any stretch of the imagination “moral”. An organization whose fundamental purpose is the mass murder of one’s fellow human beings, no matter how necessary in the pursuit of the national defense, is not “moral”. And in recent years, the military particularly jumped off the moral high ground when it became perfectly comfortable with pictures like this one, or this one too.
Oh, and before any goes overboard and says that I am simply exposing myself as a “homophobic bigot”, trust me I am not. I simply am setting the precondition that: once having accepted a postulate that what one does sexually doesn’t matter; then it is quite hypocritical to all of a sudden decide that punishing some sexual behavior is OK-while letting others go. Phrased another way: “How many adultery convictions or UCMJ cases will you see for any gay service personnel when gay marriage becomes legal in the majority of the states?” It’s a trick question-the answer is zero.
But you sure see a lot of dismissals of heterosexuals now don’t we?
Which leads to conclusion number 2:
2) Conclusion one is not-“in any way shape or form-saying that there should not be rules and regulations. There have to be rules and regulations. I've been clear that there are redlines that cannot be crossed. But let’s define those lines in a more clear and practical way, shall we? Especially when you have the "diverse" institution you have now. How about , in a Navy where "morality"-at least as defined by the UCMJ-is now a relative term anyway- ( or am I just imagining that a homosexual Sailor, by definition of the word "homosexual" is violating the Sodomy statute ( as well as great number of male v female Sailors.)-why not go back to the old tried and true method to gauge Naval regulations. Namely, "what type of behavior really gets in the way of readiness.". And I am talking about real readiness here-not someone’s fantasy of readiness.
I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it again: “There is no moral or “character” crisis in the Navy. The average naval officer or Sailor is getting up each morning and going to work on time, pays his bills, takes care of his family, serve his country-and maybe just maybe-desires to have a good time once in a while, while doing so. It’s not an unreasonable expectation on his or her part.”
Which brings me to my final conclusion, again an oldie but goodie:
3)Want to stop firing so many CO's? Instead of mucking up a screening process that is not generally broken, why not stop being so obsessed with who and what they do off duty? There are civilian laws to deal with what happens outside the gate, the Navy doesn't need to add to them.
CAPT Light appears to disagree with this sentiment. He makes a series of statements that, to put it mildly, are not supported by the data he analyzed. Let’s take a quick glance at some of the most glaring, shall we?
The problem is not mixed-gender crews. Of the forty-two personal CO DFCs in this study, twenty (48 percent) involved sexual misconduct. Fewer than half involved COs of shipboard commands. Of those, one involved a relationship
between a submarine CO and an officer in the Army—clearly not a product of integrated crews. The propensity for sexual misconduct is obviously widespread, but not because men and women deploy together. Whether on a ship with a
mixed crew or ashore, commanding officers must keep their relationships in line with the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Manual for Courts-Martial prohibiting adultery and fraternization.31 Failure to do so (like
any other misconduct) is a violation not only of the law but of the character that each commanding officer is entrusted with maintaining.
Oh really? Then how exactly do you explain some of the more spectacular cases in recent years? His example of the submarine CO is particularly flawed since it does not take into account the fact that submarines are just now going co-ed and only a certain class of submarine is doing so. He also fails to note that in a least three cases that I can think of –the CO was not relieved for sex he had, but for sex his subordinates were having. Or, as in the case of CDR Jackson, literal “sexual assassination” by a disgruntled female subordinate over the mere implication of sexual misconduct. If he had been in an all male wardroom he would have finished his command tour covered in glory. Same with CAPT Honors and “XO Movie Night”. His only crime was trying to motivate his mixed gender crew. ( That case in particular highlights what is wrong with CAPT Light’s argument).
Clearly, Mark Light is writing form the idea that mixed gender crews are just hunky dory as a starting point. Then, shaping the facts to meet his preconception. Did he come that conclusion on his own? Or is he just parroting Navy diversity propaganda? I’ll also repeat my question, “Now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is gone, will we see adultery as a means of sacking homosexual officers?”. I’m not holding my breath waiting for the answer-we already know its “no”. Since its “no’-can’t a case be made for dumping the adultery clause from the UCMJ? I think there is.
And then there is this:
Our system needs improvement. Many of the CO’s fired for personal misconduct should never have been selected for command. Nine of the dismissals for cause cited in this study were due to alcohol-related incidents, and it is likely that previous supervisors of these officers were aware of their propensity to drink. At least sixteen DFCs were for inappropriate relationships, and while some of them may have been difficult to foresee, in many cases signs were likely present that should have been addressed.
That’s rich. And who exactly will be the determiner of who drinks too much? The Navy’s AA obsessed treatment mafia? Bible Thumping, tee-totalers? The Navy’s own version of temperance leaguers. What CAPT Light probably considers drinking too much-I consider a mere appetizer before the main course. Besides its probably true that if a guy gets to the stage where he has a “screen worthy” record and is a drinker-he probably also has a sizeable record of showing up on time and getting something done as well.
How much a man drinks is his own business. Period, end of statement. So long as he shows up on time-it should remain so. Yes there are drunks and playboys who get through "the process"-I'm proud to call some of them friends of mine. What you probably don't remember very well-is that they also flew airplanes, drove ships, and guided submarines through destroyer screens from time to time. Many of them did it quite well, as a matter of fact. More than a few of them were somehow still able to inspire loyalty among their squadron mates. Furthermore-for the most part, and the record pretty well shows this, generally most of them cared for their units and cared for them very deeply. What they didn't care for-in the slightest-was someone else’s twisted and sick view that they had to toe the line- in the way of an idea of what is "moral" and what is not.
There are people who get through the screening process that have no business doing so. Here is a news flash Mark-they will continue to do so. Oral Boards and written tests won't solve that.-you will just get people who test well. The selection board is a human process-a compromise-that like it or not sometimes makes mistakes. In fact I submit to you that "new" processes will actually get you more bullies, especially if they are female. That is why you have other tools-including firing people. You guys claim you wanted this world, well welcome to it.
Which comes to a final point CAPT Light makes:
Few familiar with the Navy over the past twenty years are likely to dispute the point that actions once overlooked are today grounds for DFC. Is it right that the standards have changed? Yes, because the mission of today’s Navy demands tighter standards. Captain Eyer notes that he drew his examples from the years of the Cold War;the mission of the Navy then was to be prepared to defeat the Soviets at sea and maintain freedom of navigation around the world. Today, the Navy’s missions go far beyond those objectives in complexity, including engagement, partnership, security, and unprecedented levels of deterrence. Modern technology, instant communications, and a twenty-four-hour news day are among the tools the Navy uses to leverage its global presence in support of those missions. But that same technology vastly increases the potential strategic impact of lapses in integrity by our ship captains and squadron commanders.
Go back and read that statement again. And then, if you want to call yourself a “warfighter”, bend over and gag on it. Its crap-and it’s the same kind of nonsense that gives us slogans like “Global Force for Good”. Mark, you are wrong-100% so. The mission of the Navy has not changed and it has not changed since the beginning of the century. The mission the United States Navy is to project power-ashore and afloat- and to be prepared to defeat any Navy at sea. In peacetime, it is to project the visible appearance of that power in lands far away from the United States.
Sadly, there is no going back to the better days of yesteryear. CAPT Eyer was correct when he notes that in throwing out sensible distinctions we created the grounds of our own problems.
Casual observers—those who have never served in a fully integrated ship’s company—seem convinced that men and women can serve together in ships with utter disregard for one another’s sex. That sounds ridiculous, because it is. It only sounds sensible to people so determined to make something work that they are able to discount fundamental human nature. Simply put, you cannot put men and women in a small box, send them away for extended periods of isolated time, and expect them not to interact with one another. They’re like magnets being put into a box and shaken—they stick. It is what has kept our species going for 250,000 years.
As I said, there is no going back-and society is changing in what it values. Younger folks in the Navy today are not as upset about the social changes that have occurred as are “old timers” such as myself. That trend will continue into the future. Fine. The brave new world is here, the one our witless flags in the 1990’s said they wanted. Everything that the skeptics said would happen, has happened. You can’t change that now.
What the Navy can do, and should do now-is adapt its so called “ethics” views to the reality that is today’s society. That offends a lot of people I know-but don’t kid yourself, the Navy is not, in anyway, shape, or form a “moral profession”. It is however an unfortunately necessary one. So take that practicality on board and make rules based on common sense and reality. Bring back the “wall” between one’s professional and one’s private life. And so long as the private life does not intrude on the professional one-leave the personal one alone. The Navy's focus should be on avoiding problems for the Navy-while encouraging Sailors to avoid problems for themselves. As I pointed out in this earlier post-there are practical ways to that. They just are not Mark Light’s ways.