The US Navy has been in the news lately for crashes and corruption. Is this the reasonable follow-up to 8 years of Obama’s approach to the military?
A few days ago, word came down that the Navy relieved of duty the U.S.S. Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor. They suffered this fate because, on June 17, on their watch, a Philippine merchant ship crashed into the Fitzgerald, killing seven American sailors.
Also a few days ago, ten sailors were reported missing and presumed dead after the USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker near Singapore. The media, of course, has tried to make this about Trump, because he responded to a question about the crash before being briefed about the resulting deaths. His response, therefore, appeared cavalier when it was not.
This is not about Trump, however. Losing seventeen American lives in two separate peace-time incidents hints that there is something rotten going on in America’s Navy. If our ships can’t even survive commercial traffic, what the fugue can we expect of them should they have to answer a true call to arms?
Superficially, it appears that the Navy is having a competence problem. It’s equally likely, though, that we’re seeing a reflection of a very serious morale problem. Eight years of Obama attacks on the military may be taking their toll. Here are two things to keep in mind as you think about that theory. First, during the Obama years, the Pentagon engaged in a massive purge of officer ranks across the services. A list compiled in 2014, while the purges were still ongoing, gives an idea of the purge’s scope.
It’s entirely possible that these officers got the boot because they were calcified, ineffective holdovers from a previous era who were damaging military effectiveness. It’s also entirely possible that these officers got the boot because they believe that the military exists to defend America against her enemies, rather than to serve as a social justice experiment for people with gender body dysmorphia or to be a leader in the fight against “climate change.”
People like that would not have been welcome in Obama’s military. When these officers left, they took with them knowledge and experience, leaving in their wake a blow to morale.
And second, there’s the corruption problem, especially in the Navy. I don’t know how many of you followed the story when it broke, but it turned out that military officers were absolute whores when it came to accepting bribes from a macher in Malaysia:
Officers in a burgeoning Navy bribery scandal called themselves the Lion King’s Harem, the Wolfpack, the Cool Kids and the Brotherhood. They scouted for others who might also accept sex, trips and other lavish perks from a Malaysian defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard” in exchange for classified information.
Allegations outlined in an indictment unsealed in San Diego on Tuesday give more details in the 3-year-old scandal that had appeared to be fading before re-emerging even bigger and more sordid than before.
Nine current and former military officers were charged in the latest indictment, including a recently retired rear admiral who collected foreign intelligence for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
It gives an extensive list of bribes to the officers from 2006 to 2012 from Leonard Francis in exchange for classified shipping schedules and other information to help his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia. In one example, a party with prostitutes at the Manila Hotel’s MacArthur Suite during a 2007 port call to the Philippines included sex acts using historic MacArthur memorabilia.
One meal during a 2006 port visit to Hong Kong cost $20,435. A dinner during a port call to Singapore that year featured foie gras, oxtail soup, cognac that cost about $2,000 a bottle and cigars at $2,000 a box.
Prosecutors say Francis, who is nicknamed “Fat Leonard” for his wide girth, bilked the Navy out of nearly $35 million, largely by overcharging for his company’s services supplying Navy ships in the Pacific with food, water, fuel and other necessities.
Navy officers provided classified information to Francis that helped him beat competitors and, in some instances, commanders steered ships to ports in the Pacific where his company could charge fake tariffs and fees, prosecutors said.
I am not saying or even implying that these officers were acting on orders from the Pentagon or the White House. I’m also neither saying nor implying that the White House pulled levers to put Fat Leonard in their paths to tempt them. Instead, I’m suggesting that this might be a case of a fish rotting from the head.
Obama made it plain during his campaign that he intensely dislikes the military, which he believes indiscriminately kills civilians:
For Obama, every day in the American military is the My Lai Massacre version of Groundhog Day.
Once president and Commander-in-Chief, Obama went through the motions, with his floppy salutes and cold, clinical distributions of Medals of Honor. He also made it plain that he believed the military’s best and highest purpose is to serve as a petri dish for social justice and climate change experimentation. There was one other thing he did that had to have been a real morale buster — he kicked religion out of the military. For men and women who must daily contemplate the possibility that they will be plunged into dangerous situations in the service of their country, that was cruel and unnecessary.
In addition to reconfiguring the military He also threw away the military’s victory in Iraq, which pretty much amounted to spitting on the graves of those who died to make the victory possible and spitting in the eyes of those who, though terribly wounded, survived. In Afghanistan, he announced a pre-determined defeat date, even while keeping troops on the ground to fight an enemy emboldened by its pending victory.
I think we can say with some confidence that, during the eight years of Obama’s service as Commander-in-Chief, military morale cannot have been high. When morale is high, people dedicate themselves to the fight and the team. When morale is low, people dedicate themselves . . . to themselves. You then get carelessness, because no one cares, and you get corruption, because no one’s paying attention.
For many years now, I have been a proud member of the Navy League, a non-partisan organization that Teddy Roosevelt founded to support America’s maritime defenses, from the Coast Guard, to the Marines, to the Navy itself. Thanks to this membership, I have been privileged to meet more officers and enlisted people than I can count.
Without exception, those I’ve met have been committed to the Navy and to their specific responsibilities, and they have been proud to serve their country. Nevertheless, despite my “N” of perhaps 50 or 60, I can’t help but suspect that there’s a canker lurking in the Navy’s heart and that President Trump, acting through General Mattis, needs to root it out.
(Hat tip to Sadie for giving me the idea for this post.)