A Pattern of Leadership

By David Glenn Cox

We’ll be right back with hour number two of Uncle Don’s not my fault telethon after these messages from our sponsors.  Coming up after the break, Vice President Pence uses hand puppets to explain medical research and Willie the White House window washer explains his plans as the new NASA Administrator.

It should be clear by now, telling the truth in the Trump administration will get you fired. The commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was relived of his post after advocating for his coronavirus infected sailors. The Navy said the commander went outside the Navy chain of command and suspect the commander leaked his letter demanding immediate attention for his crew. In the 1920s General Billy Mitchell advocated for more air power after demonstrating that a single airplane could sink a battleship. The Army tired of Mitchell’s shenanigans and had him court martialed for going outside the military command structure.

Getting fired doesn’t make you wrong, it makes you a symbol. After Pearl Harbor, Billy Mitchell was a hero. The B-25 was the B-25 Mitchell bomber. Mitchell had tried to warn us, but those dunderheads in Washington who left us unprepared had him court martialed! They say a court martial ruins two careers, the one charged and the one who brings the charges. The nail which sticks up will be hammered down. Take notice all around you and cover your ass. Don’t make waves, don’t make them notice you.

One week after Pearl Harbor the British lost two battleships in a single day with heavy loss of life. A year and some months into the war Churchill had little progress to show and losing two battleships in a single day was the limit. Parliament was in a foul mood suggesting opening an investigation into the behavior of military officers. Churchill spoke before Parliament and said if you want to blame someone blame me. If there weren’t enough tanks or airplanes that is my fault too. I’m the leader. I’m in charge here, if you want somebody to barbecue, I’m your man!

It was neither gallant nor noble on Churchill’s part. If the government investigated, the military the military was lost. No one would ever stick their neck out. No one would ever suggest a new way or a new idea. The war would be fought on the defensive, and the war would be lost. Officers worried any foul up might have them vilified and cashiered or brought up on charges.

Fortunately, in our Navy by the time you become the commander of an Aircraft Carrier. You’ve reached a rank and time in service to allow for a nice pension. Shop at the PX, sit on the beach and know that you did the right thing for your sailors. One man is fired, and all others are put on notice. How many other officers of retirement age wavering in their decision just had the decision made for them?

During the reign of Bush, the terrible, as opposed to Bush the Elder. They had this really, really, stupid idea. How about, we take the nuclear warheads out of an intercontinental ballistic missile and replace them with conventional warheads? Then we can attack any spot on the globe in sixty minutes! No muss, no fuss. No airlifting of troops, it’s like the Dominoes Pizza except with missiles!

The sane among the military pointed to the obvious. Our nuclear armed adversaries having no way to know or to verify they weren’t under nuclear attack might respond accordingly.  The administration persisted and an under the table petition of top officers from all services began who agreed to resign if the administration put their plan into motion. It was outside the chain of command and more a promise to each other than a threat to the Bush regime. Unwilling to let the baby play with the handgun, unwilling to do the wrong things for the right reasons and willing to bet their careers on it.

When John Kennedy made his speech about going to the moon, they had no idea how they were going to get to the moon. The leading plan was a giant rocket like the one’s from the 1950s sci fi movies. The Astronauts would take off from earth and land a sixty-five-foot-tall rocket on its tail on the lunar surface. Then climb down a fifty-five -foot ladder to the lunar surface. The rocket needed to do all this was half again as big as the Saturn V.

John Houbolt was a member of the Lunar Steering Committee. He had advocated for lunar orbit rendezvous, the way we eventually went to the moon since 1959. He had been voted down and was considered a bit of a pest.  When lunar orbit rendezvous was officially deleted from consideration Houbolt did the unthinkable. He wrote a nine-page letter directly to NASA Director Robert Seamans explaining the mistake that was about to be made. Houbolt was never popular with his peers, but he was right, and NASA took a second look and saw Houbolt was right. When man landed on the moon Warner Von Braun thanked Houbolt.

It was be easy to blame Orange one, but the military code of never go down and never complain is the nature of the beast. We report for duty even when dead sir! It’s a military necessity to launch F-18 Hornets over the Philippines in peacetime while deadly outbreak of an incredibly contagious disease breaks out among the crew. Living in quarters tighter than a Baptist Kissing booth risking their lives just to prove the Navy is tough!

No matter who is responsible it looks bad because it is bad. Not since the Captain of the Benjamin Franklin had sailors brought up on charges for leaving their post after a Japanese Kamikaze exploded blowing them overboard has there been such an example of poor leadership. An example of a pattern that defines the Trump Administration.

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