April 6, 2020

Captain Crozier

“The captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus on his ship was fired by Navy leaders who said he created a panic by sending his memo pleading for help to too many people. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the ship’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, ‘demonstrated extremely poor judgment’ in the middle of a crisis. He said the captain copied too many people on the memo, which was leaked to a California newspaper.” AP News

Many on both sides criticize the firing:

Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO, writes, “It is easy to see why so many Americans, particularly politicians and public-health officials, are looking to the military for help in dealing with the coronavirus. And I heartily applaud the deployment of hospital ships, National Guard units and Air Force transport planes for medical supplies, to cite but a few examples. But we need to realize that our armed forces — like our doctors, nurses, police, firemen and first responders — will have to guard their own health first before they can come help and defend the rest of us… I cannot imagine how wrenching the feeling of signing that letter must have been for the captain. But he made the right choice.”
James Stavridis, Bloomberg

“As a fledgling officer long, long ago, I was taught to abide by the hierarchy of Mission first, then Men, and then Self. Simple enough in theory, that code is not easy to live by… Faced with a perplexing leadership challenge, Crozier made a very tough call:  This was one instance, he concluded, where Men should come before Mission, while he unhesitatingly placed his own career interests last. His superiors, up to and including Acting Secretary Modly, ought to have applauded his actions. That they did not calls into question their own good judgment…

“As he left his ship for the last time, in a moving display of support for their former skipper, [the crew] gathered spontaneously to give him a rousing sendoff. Crozier left with their cheers ringing in their ears. The men and women assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt know professionalism when they see it.”
Andrew J. Bacevich, American Conservative

“Civilian control of the military is part of the American bedrock. Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly used that prerogative unwisely Thursday when he short-circuited a preliminary military investigation and fired an aircraft carrier captain who had pleaded for help against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping his crew…

“One retired four-star officer said he was worried about ‘undue command influence’ by Modly. The acting secretary had the authority to sack Crozier but in doing so undermined the uniformed officers who normally oversee such personnel decisions. ‘This is much bigger than the CO of the Theodore Roosevelt,’ he said. ‘We’ve been working for years to make our commanding officers feel free to speak out about problems.’ That openness might now be quashed.”
David Ignatius, Washington Post

“I’m keen to know how many requests for help Crozier made privately about the deteriorating situation on the Theodore Roosevelt before his letter ended up in the San Francisco Chronicle. Watch Modly… and you’ll have the impression that the Navy was all over this, fully in agreement with Crozier from the start that the sailors aboard needed to be quarantined on shore and working earnestly to provide facilities. To believe that, you need to believe that Crozier deliberately risked having the letter leak by circulating it among 20-30 people for… no reason whatsoever. He just sent it around, knowing how it might embarrass his superiors, not because the situation was desperate but because that’s just the kind of guy he is…

“The most tone-deaf thing about dropping the hammer on Crozier is that it comes just a few months after Trump went on that clemency spree for the likes of Eddie Gallagher and Clint Lorance. If you’re an accused or even a convicted war criminal, you can expect the commander-in-chief to go to bat for you. If you’re an officer who’s desperate because his crew is being swallowed by a deadly virus and you cc too many people on your report about it, you’re publicly disgraced by being immediately relieved of command.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“The Navy is in the midst of one of the more serious peacetime crises in its history, after already enduring turmoil in its top ranks. Modly, formerly the No. 2 civilian in the department, only took over in November after the Navy’s last civilian leader, Richard Spencer, was ousted for insubordination in a convoluted chain of events surrounding President Donald Trump’s intervention in the case of disgraced Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Crozier had racked up several major awards for outstanding service since graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1992 and seemed to clearly hold the support of his crew…

“Crozier’s advice to remove sailors quickly from the ship was ultimately heeded. On Wednesday, the Navy announced a plan to remove more than half of the sailors off the ship… [Modley’s] explanation [for his firing] makes it seem like the Navy’s primary problem was not with Crozier’s choice of words, but his method of delivery. Instead of contacting his superiors discreetly, he wrote a memo that—intentionally or not—could have been leaked… Given the tenuous time and Crozier’s obvious track record, shouldn’t there be a stronger argument for firing him beyond the fact that his letter reached too many people?”
Dan Spinelli, Mother Jones

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“In 1898, [Theodore Roosevelt] found himself in almost the exact same position. Before his rise to national politics, Roosevelt commanded the Rough Riders, a volunteer cavalry regiment, in the invasion of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. The Battle of San Juan Hill had been fought and won, and the war was basically over. However, the soldiers, still deployed in Cuba, faced a far worse enemy: yellow fever and malaria… The battlefield commanders, including Roosevelt, wanted to bring the soldiers home. But the leadership in Washington — in particular Russell Alger, the secretary of war — refused, fearing a political backlash. A standoff ensued…

“With the tacit approval of his fellow commanders, he wrote a fiery open letter and released it to the press.The letter, known as the ‘round robin,’ was printed in virtually every newspaper in the country, creating an uproar demanding that the soldiers be brought home immediately. Alger relented, and the troops were sent to quarantine… Theodore Roosevelt, in his time, chose the honorable course. Captain Crozier has done the same.”
Tweed Roosevelt, New York Times

“Absent a more complete understanding of the circumstances around Crozier's conduct in this matter, we are left to conclude that the captain may have been fired because of the embarrassment his email caused the Trump administration rather than for any real transgression or failing of leadership. When he disembarked the carrier on Thursday, Crozier's crew gave him a rousing and emotional send-off. Video of that send-off is going viral on social media, with its loud applause, cheers and chants of Crozier's name. Those sailors aren't just sending a message to their captain; they are sending a message to Modly. And if I were him, I'd be much more embarrassed about that.”
John Kirby, CNN

Some posit that “The U.S. national security complex, the most advanced military and intelligence-gathering force in human history, is in many respects even more vulnerable to the ravages of Covid-19 than the civilian world… The naval surface and submarine force, already stretched dangerously thin across the globe, will need to figure out how to keep rotational crews safe as it continues to police world waters. The Navy also says it can’t meet its aviation demands without keeping flight-training schools open…

“Much of the national security community’s sensitive info is on secure computer networks—SIPRNet for lower classifications, and JWICS for top-secret data—that must be accessed at dedicated terminals. Certain conversations have to be held, face to face, in SCIFs (sensitive compartmented information facilities). Outside of a few high-ranking principals with special at-home setups, you can’t telecommute to a sensitive national security job… These challenges would be near-insurmountable even with the best leadership; but as Esper so bluntly demonstrated in his first public response to the USS Roosevelt’s ordeal, the defense establishment has few such leaders right now.”
Adam Weinstein, New Republic

From the Right

Red tape is how the government operates… We can’t approve a drug for something new that hasn’t been extensively tested for something it was never used for. We can’t subject the crew of a hospital ship to a dangerous virus, and we can’t offload 4,000 sailors from a nuclear carrier to protect them from the same virus…

“A very slim electoral vote majority elected Donald Trump precisely because he hates red tape, and promised to slay the Red Tape monster. This is one instance when Trump needs to strike a blow against the government he leads… I say bring Capt. Crozier to the White House and put him on the Coronavirus Task Force. Call him a hero for his bravery and give the middle finger to the admirals who shut him down… we’re on a battlefield, and soldiers must fight, not hide behind the Red Tape monster.”
Steve Berman, The Resurgent

Some argue that “When a capital ship of the United States Navy is about to become non mission capable, that is a huge event. The problem, is how Crozier decided to go about communicating this critical information… he provided [sensitive information] to our global competitors. He let them know that one of our major strategic assets was about to be non mission capable… Even more egregious, as pointed out by one of my military comrades, he exposed the lack of readiness of an entire Carrier Battle Group, not just his own vessel…

“As acknowledged by the Secretary of the Navy, this Captain of a United States Navy Capital Ship, had all the tools necessary to transmit an Operational Immediate message through secure channels to convey his concerns. He chose a different path. The fact that he did [so] through non secure channels and to many persons not cleared for the information, does indeed cast question on his ability to command. The SECNAV was entirely correct to relieve this officer.”
Mike Ford, RedState

Others warn that “The Navy has much bigger problems than Crozier… China now retains an ability to target aircraft carriers at range and from variable platforms… Equally impressive is China's Renhai-class air-defense destroyer. Armed with the advanced YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile, these warships will pose a potent threat if they can sneak within range of U.S. carriers — which, it should be noted, they have already been able to do… Then there's Beijing's heavy investment in hypersonic glide vehicles, which threaten to make moot the carrier's strike group's air defenses…

“Navy leaders continue to insist that the carrier strike groups must remain the linchpin of the fleet. They say that Chinese threats are exaggerated and that new U.S. defenses against those threats are underestimated. The admirals are fixated on the prestige that carriers offer the Navy and the nation. This is willful delusion… The Navy was very quick to sink Capt. Brett Crozier's career for an apparent command performance failure. Unfortunately, it won't apply that same standard to those shaping the Navy's strategy to deal with China.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.