No room for warriors

Viscount Slim, from Wikipedia

When Viscount Slim was placed in charge of British forces in Burma, he inherited a mess, and his Army was forced to retreat from the onslaught of Japanese forces. While mobilizing his forces in the city of Sagaing, a small entourage of Burmese civil servants drove up to his tent, unrolled a neatly typed document, and demanded that Viscount Slim remove all forces from one of the nearby hills. The typed document was a decree from the Burmese governor, who had been assured that there would be no fighting near his capital city. When Slim replied that he indeed did not want any fighting near the capital, but that he doubted the approaching Japanese commander would see things his way, the small throng of civil servants simply stared at him in disbelief. The only question that came up was “Will we receive 6 months of advanced pay then?”

As humorous as this story is (recounted in the book Defeat into Victory), the U.S. military is rapidly approaching this same level of absurdity. The shift in priorities from fighting and winning our nations wars to completing mandatory training on domestic terrorism and transgender policy is pretty much complete. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Navy. It’s incredible, and frightening, to watch the military spend millions of dollars seemingly overnight to roll out domestic terrorism training while our ships rust at the pier without proper maintenance. Even in the bloated 3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal, there was no money allocated for increasing our ship building or repair facilities, which would have been an easy, bi-partisan allocation to make.

This insidious march has resulted in the advent of the administrative commander. We now have a host of officers in leadership positions that are simply unable to make hard decisions. They will toe the line on the increasing demands made by Secretary of the Navy instructions. Even the mundane instructions related to equal opportunity, sexual harrassment and whistleblower policy have become so strict that it becomes impossible to balance these requirements with operations. Commanders are expected to drop everything, including their primary military mission, in response to any complaint from any Sailor. If a Sailor complains about a supervisor, that supervisor must be instantly isolated, even if the ship is in the middle of an operation. We’ll fly out lawyer after lawyer to make sure everything is done correctly, because we can’t trust a commander’s intuition.

Worse still, if a commander tries to make a decision, he or she will get second guessed by an Admiral sailing a desk with a yellow flag thousands of miles away. That’s a guaranteed way to take a trip to Admiral’s Mast, where the rules of evidence don’t apply, and a punitive letter can quickly derail a career. Did you make waves trying to fix endemic issues and upset someone’s rice bowl? Be prepared for a number of equal opportunity and Inspector General complaints. Don’t worry, there will be enough so that SOMETHING sticks, because the yellow flag officer can’t not find someone guilty of something.

These yellow flags will drive out the warriors. There isn’t room for people trying to balance operations with personnel. Yellow flags don’t want independent thought. They don’t want warriors in the ranks that might take actions against the enemy, push the envelope and actually fix problems. Those people are dangerous, because they might violate section 4 of paragraph A of chapter 3 in SECNAVINST 6969.120E. Or is it 120F? Better make sure we get the up to date rules onboard our rusting ship!

There is no room for warriors, and once the warriors have been driven off, our administrative commanders will look just like the Burmese civil servants, wanting their advanced pay from their cushy post-military jobs in the military industrial complex while a resurgent China pushes America from its ivory tower.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. I mean, duh, that should have been obvious from the material. If you want to support this author, try purchasing his book for yourself or a friend, since Christmas is coming soon!

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