Friday, January 19, 2018

It is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others

Image via Le Wik
Admiral John Byng was a Royal Navy officer in the 18th century.  Britain and France were at war off and on for most of the century, and in 1756 commanded a fleet sent to relieve the siege of Minorca.  He lost to the French fleet, one of the Royal Navy's few defeats in that age.

And so they court marshaled him and shot him.

Europe was shocked at this.  Voltaire wrote a line into his satirical novel Candide that is the title of this post:  Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres ("In this country it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others").  The contempt towards those responsible fairly drips from his pen.  The consensus today is that Voltaire was right and the Royal Navy was wrong.

Fast forward 250 years and we see the same nautical ass covering from our own Pentagon:
Five officers involved in two Navy ship collisions last year that killed a total of 17 sailors are being charged with negligent homicide, the Navy said Tuesday.

A Navy spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks, said the charges, which also include dereliction of duty and endangering a ship, will be presented to what the military calls an Article 32 hearing to determine whether the accused are taken to trial in a court-martial.
I'm throwing the "Bullshit Flag" on this.
It seems that there is no mistake that the Pentagon desk jockeys will take responsibility for, especially including the under manning and lack of training time that has been enshrined in Navy policy.
It is hard to train people. It's hard to persuade our skinflint do-nothing Congress to pay for it. It's hard to get funding for enough people to do the jobs, so the fraking in-house MBAs at Ft. Fumble came up with the idea of cross-decking-- "let's train gunners' mates to stand helm watches" and more stupid shit.
As a tip o' the chapeau to M. Voltaire, let me offer up a modern saying that perhaps approaches his in terms of cynicism: enough layers of bureaucracy ensures that disaster is not left to chance.


Glen Filthie said...

I admit a complete lack of knowledge about the USN ... but I have heard certain politically incorrect statements about these accidents. That some involved protected victim groups falling into the 'transgendered otherkin' spectrum of the rainbow.

I dunno how true it is, but I will go on record as saying that affirmative action probably isn't helping the navy any.

Tom Murin said...

I'm a former naval officer in the same specialty as these officers (surface warfare). The officers involved were directly responsible for the collisions. They didn't do their duty and the failures are shocking - and the consequences were dire. The admirals are far removed from the events.