Nearly twenty years ago, I first read the Qualifications of a Naval Officer, which was (at the time, apparently with a bit of inaccuracy) attributed to John Paul Jones.* As an 18-year-old, I found it interesting, cumbersome, romantic, and very hard to say quickly while “peas and carrots” was being shouted in my ear.

“It is by no means enough that an officer of the navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor. He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, and charity. No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval. Conversely, he should not be blind to a single fault in any subordinate, though, at the same time, he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetency, and well-meant shortcoming from heedless or stupid blunder. In one word, every commander should keep constantly before him the great truth, that to be well obeyed, he must be perfectly esteemed.”

(from USNA’s Reef Points)

Recently I find myself thinking about it again…specifically, the middle of that third sentence, the part about refined manners and punctilious courtesy.

Election season grinds away, and dialogue in the media—especially on political matters—has (as usual) taken on ever-increasingly sharp and divisive tones. Print and online debate on many topics has begun to echo that trend. The internet, with comment forums and chat rooms that feature the safety of anonymity and the allure of a virtual open mike, feeds the beast. The most polite, civil article can attract an array of mean-spirited comments, with personal attacks leading the charge regardless of topic. And anyone who has taken a glance at the comments following news articles can attest to how rampant this form of “discussion” has become, where personal attacks and scornful dismissals stand in for real arguments and are considered actual debate. An entire area of research on the internet and so-called internet “trolls” studies why people act and speak to others this way and what it all means.

So what does this have to do with the naval services and the qualifications of a Naval Officer? The dismissive, disrespectful tone has bled over into apolitical professional discussions within the military, and has become a largely acceptable way to argue a point on military topics both in internet forums and journal commentary.

Way back in July, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Robert J. Samuelson titled “Is the U.S. a land of liberty or equality?” tackling polarized discourse. While his writing largely addressed politics, his thoughts transfer well to professional and personal communication in general. One quote in particular stood out (I tried to take the liberal vs. conservative slant out to focus primarily on more general discourse):

“ Our national debates now transcend disputes over this or that spending program or tax and have become—in the minds of the combatants—a climactic struggle for the nature and soul of America…But in today’s politically poisoned climate, righteousness is at a premium and historical reality at a discount. Each side…behaves as if it has a monopoly on historical truth. The fear that the existence of their version of America is threatened sows discord and explains why love of country has become a double-edged sword, dividing us when it might unite.”

He’s got a good point. It’s easy to “win” an argument by painting others in broad, dismissive, and scornful strokes, and it’s more and more acceptable to try to do so in everyday discourse. But calling someone moronic, ignorant, or dangerous does not make them moronic, ignorant, or dangerous…and it has an alienating and cooling effect on true, meaningful debate. It has the added danger of the boy crying “wolf”: comparing someone to Hitler or using dramatic language reduces the power of those very words. And maybe one day we’ll need them.

It also does not make America—or the Navy and Marine Corps—better. People stop listening when they hear such a tone, so we win over no one and create echo chambers populated by those who think exactly like us. Instead of actually confronting problems and creating solutions, this further reinforces existing problems.

Nowhere is this truer than in the services, where we all start from a similar vantage point: many of us signed up because we feel a duty or calling to serve, we think it’s important, and we believe in this country with its faults and failures. Mutual respect, professional dialogue, and openness to true debate only strengthen the discussion. Not a single soul alive has a monopoly on intelligence and truth, so it’s a good thing that we all have different opinions and experiences, because the problems that we face as a nation and as a military will take all kinds of minds to confront and overcome.

It’s important to encourage debate and to discuss topics that cause concern, especially in today’s complex climate. But if the process of doing just that alienates everyone else, we’re defeated before we begin.

Back to John Paul Jones/Augustus C. Buell: he mentioned manners and courtesy right up there with honor. The services should not become as divided and polarized as the nation is, and given the tasks ahead of us for the foreseeable future, we cannot afford to be. We need voices out there…but we need them to be smart, honest, and respectful or they will get lost in the noise.

* The quotation actually comes from Augustus C. Buell (1900), who believed that this quote reflected was what John Paul Jones would have said, as later copies of Reef Points corrected.


Posted by Jeannette Haynie in Naval Institute

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  • Todd zeigler dcc(sw) ret

    which is why you need your chiefs even more

  • RickWilmes
  • Paul P

    One of the things that is disturbing about the current discourse is what the author pointed out above– painting the opposition in broad and scornful strokes and often portraying them as the “enemy.” John Stewart from the “Daily Show” on NPR earlier this year pointed out that enemy is not a synonym of opponent and we’ve lost the sense of the difference. As he pointed out, an enemy tries to kill you or your country while an opponent has a different point of view.

    I have no doubt that people to the far left and to the far right love our country otherwise they’d chose to live somewhere else. The constant polemic about how the other side seeks to “destroy” our way of life reduces what could be meaningful debate into something more appropriate for recess at an elementary school rather than in the public forum.

  • Roger L. Misso

    MAJ Hanie,

    This is a great reminder and a prescient post.

    After reading through some of your previous USNI blog posts–including the comments section of them–I am grateful for your example. The anonymity of social media commentary and the desensitization of rhetoric stemming from the fact that you no longer have to look your fellow conversant in the eye have served to polarize on many issues. What purpose does that really serve?

    Once again, thanks for your writing and your service. Looking forward to more of it.

  • Matt

    I do agree we need to have a respectful discussion. But if you think good people are going to remain calm as our country is bankrupted and wars are lost you simply are mistaken. Americans really have good reason to spew fire. This Libya Gate scandal just being the latest little gift from losers and apologists while never admiting gross failures but instead going way out of the way to hide the truth. How do Naval Officers treat rank failures on a ship? Do they put up with lies and cover ups? If a helmsman steered the ship into a reef I bet he would feel the heat from more than a few fire breathing officers who might feel some heat themselves from the Civilian bosses. Personally, I’m much more concerned with dishonesty leading to epic failures than some strong words from people a little bit fed up with losers. All due respect to losers’s feelings. Honesty saves lives.

  • Matt – there’s a difference between “honesty” and “hyperbole”, very clearly demonstrated in the John Stewart quote Roger Misso mentioned above.

    When someone “spew[s] fire” they are no longer just being honest. They have gone from providing an opinion and moved into the badgering, bullying, bellicose world that blogs and broadcasts have become.

    Using your example…for the Sailor imminently steering his ship onto a reef does one say:

    “Mind your helm”


    “Yo – moron – get yourself back on the course I told you to be on and do it now before I smack you in the head and show you how stupid you and yours are!”

    While both will get the “desired” outcome, one is professional accepted standard, the other is rude, reckless, and wrong.

    Major Haynie has written a good post, and she’s had some rough and tumble teachers in learning the point of view she espouses. It’s reminded me of the things I don’t like in “real” life and need to strive to address in my “virtual” life as well.

  • Matt

    My example was after the ship had already hit the reef. I agree you have to be level headed during crises. Generally the country is not in danger from hurt feelings we are in danger because we keep hitting reefs. What if 15 destroyers had hit reefs in 12 months? That’s basically the state of things with the economy and with our foreign policy.

    I would be interested to know just what kind of words you think have been spoken and why these words seem to have not prevented further “reef strikes”? Is it because people are being too mean or because people aren’t getting mean enough? I propose our culture has become to thin skinned and too many are more interested in being polite rather than being honest. This culture has undoubtedly seeped into the military.

    I can’t help but think of drill instructors in the military. I can’t imagine for one minute the civilian world spewing as much fire as the military does. I’m pretty sure it was designed like that for a reason. What has changed? Why is it a good thing to spew fire to train recruits but not to train the leaders? What would happen if drill sergeants didn’t spew fire? I propose the same principle applies. You may not like my fire but my fire won’t kill you. My fire just might help save you if you accept I might have a point. How much success would a recruit have if he got offended and blew off everything the recruiter said because he thought it was just downright MEAN?

    General Patton loved to spew fire. How’s he regarded? Name one famous General that didn’t know how to spew fire on occasion? Especially on occasions where they saw unacceptable losses and unacceptable perfomance.

    Just like in a family, I believe you need a father to spew fire on occasion and you need a mother to do the loving and caring. It makes the family healthy and strong. Too much in either direction can be very destructive. I submit we have gone too far into our mother’s arms. The evidence is legion. Listen to the level of respect from even the kids and tell me why that is? Are the teachers generally being too honest or too nice?

    By the way, I do love my Mother and my country. I really want them to live long and fruitful lives. The only way that can happen is if we stop ramming reefs with the nation’s resources.

  • Michael Junge

    Matt – it’s the “hitting reefs” analogy that is taking things over the top.

    General Patton is an awful example. He hit two of his soldiers. Are you advocating that in addition to “spewing fire” physical assault of subordinates should be accepted?

    As for the drill sergeants, you are right, there is a time and a place for “spewing fire”. Neither that time nor place should be on TV talk shows, blogs commentary, news articles, or even the campaign stump speech.

    FWIW, the argument “just get a thicker skin” is one that I am beginning to ascribe to bullies. It’s not that they are offensive, its that the others are too weak. Gross oversimplification, but if you have to say “get a thicker skin” but aren’t also taking a serious look at what bothered the other person then you are failing in communication.

    That’s the point I take from Major Haynie’s post. She is, of course, welcome to correct my interpretation.

  • Jeannette Haynie

    Sir, you’re interpreting it correctly.

    Matt, it’s not a matter of mean or not mean. Has nothing whatsoever to do with thin or thick skin, either. Apples and oranges–the real point is how we say what we say. If we paint others in broad, scornful strokes, we are making ourselves dumber.

    Given the range of experiences out there in this country alone, it’s conceivable that a similarly broad range of opinions exist both nationally and within the military. The last thing we should do is to assume that just because someone differs from us, they are stupid or worse. They may actually be right, but because of our specific experiences we don’t see it at first.

    Insinuating (through words like losers or anything like that) that there are clearly delineated sides in any argument, and that one side is completely right and the other is completely wrong, is not going to solve any problems. Rather (as we see often) it creates more.

    It’s one thing to disagree with ideas, thoughts, policies, specifics, and to try to have an open, honest discussion about them. That is exactly what we should all do if so prompted, and I mean on apolitical topics too, since my original premise was directed at professionalism within the military. Especially given the nature of the threats to the country and the state of our economy WRT DoD.

    Paul P said it better than I did in his comment above.

    The ignorant, moronic, or downright evil/scheming monster out to sabotage us as a nation is rare. Those with different opinions from our own are not. But considering one the same as the other does a great disservice to the military and the nation, and negliects the idea that it takes more than one mind to solve our problems. And it weakens the words we use so that when we really need them, they may be powerless.

    you lost me on the mother/father comparison…

    but interesting commentary throughout, glad to have the discussion.

  • Matt

    Neither of you really responded to: “General Patton loved to spew fire. How’s he regarded? Name one famous General that didn’t know how to spew fire on occasion? Especially on occasions where they saw unacceptable losses and unacceptable perfomance.”

    You might believe that Patton’s two mistakes might have been enough to void his Battle “Victories” which he “won” for the country, but I and many others definately do not. Any Generals or Admirals come to mind yet? Defaming a famous American General while insinuating that I might believe “violence” is analagous to “spewing fire” in words, is bullying itself, I believe. General Patton is remembered for his “victories” whether you believe it or not.

    “Insinuating (through words like losers or anything like that) that there are clearly delineated sides in any argument, and that one side is completely right and the other is completely wrong, is not going to solve any problems. Rather (as we see often) it creates more.”

    Major, your assertion is just factually incorrect. The sky is blue. Do you see anything wrong in my argument that the sky is indeed blue in the daytime with no clouds? There are such things as clearly dilineated arguments. Victors do clearly win. The USA did force the Japanese to sign an “unconditional surrender” which was very well delineated after a very well delineated Pacific Campaign.

    Mother/ father comparison lost you? That’s interesting.

    Well I respect both of your opinions. I have to say I’ve heard the responses before. It directly reflects the culture I mentioned. It does not reflect the culture which hated losing more than anything else. It has become a common belief all too often these days.

    Does Iran think there is such thing as losers? Do the Taliban? Al Qaeda? China? I’m pretty sure our biggest adversaries are more than certain.

    The level of loss in the Middle East qualifies as historic (like 15 ship strikes in 12 months OR more). Just past 9/11, our latest strategy of aiding the “Arab Spring” led to Al Qaeda raising flags at American embassies in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. Possibly even more such as Sudan. We did not exactly win the Iraq War with more interest in getting out than victory. Looks like the same with Afghanistan. That string of “losses” qualifies as more than a few ship strikes. The infamous Benghazi Consulate is still -3 wks later- unsecured with important documents still scattered about with important names and secrets. Not to mention the failure to aide the consulate which remained under attack for many hours. Sicily was not far away. Incidentally do you remember how we ended up in Sicily? Where is the accountability? You cannot think that simply denying losses means you didn’t actually lose do you?

    Not to mention the historic situation unfolding in Asia. Which of course has alot to do with our weakness resulting from losses in the ME, our economy, and our willingness to see “losing” as something else which could be viewed as -tolerable-.

    Regarding the time and place to spew fire. Where else can an average American speak his mind in an open, honest way other than in the media, comments, blogs to influntial people? How much fire did Ben Franklin spew in his writings? That is exactly the place to do it. Even if people don’t like what you say and call you a bully. As they say, the closer you are to the target the more flack you receive. People really are smart enough to understand what they read. If they don’t like it, they stop reading. That’s why the mainstream media has seen a historic slide into low ratings and low readership. People appreciate honesty even if it hurts feelings sometimes. Honesty is required in any healthy family.

    Interesting commentary indeed. I consider you both family, not the enemy. Lord knows I disagree with my own family sometimes. You might say we have even “spewed fire” at each other on occasion. But we remain united and at peace.

  • Matt

    I found a quote of General Eisenhower about Patton’s striking the GI from wikipedia…Contrary to popular impression, Eisenhower never seriously considered removing Patton from duty in the ETO: “If this thing ever gets out, they’ll be howling for Patton’s scalp, and that will be the end of Georgie’s service in this war. I simply cannot let that happen. Patton is indispensable to the war effort – one of the guarantors of our victory.”

    VICTORY did you read that?

  • Paul


    The example I give my students when they start to get verbal is to ask themselves– “If someone was to say to you what you’re saying to them ‘Gee, that person’s angry with me. I guess I had better listen to their point of view because clearly I was wrong…'” and they laugh because they know their first reaction is more along the lines of “@%@%^$ you and the horse you rode in on.” It’s a natural reaction to tune out invective. The problem today isn’t the actual speaking– it’s learning how to say things that actually are something that people are willing to listen to. Otherwise it’s just noise.

    Having a strong opinion is one thing, but using verbal invective tends to make people shut down and not listen. Yup, my DI’s were direct, abusive, but right after that they’d usually demonstrate what I screwed up to fix it. They were trying to teach me something, not impart their political views on me. They’d get my attention first with their directness, but the tone and the approach afterwards were that of a teacher to a student because they wanted me to succeed, to get it right and to learn the task/skill. They weren’t yelling for their entertainment– it had a purpose.

    We’re in a democracy, and the majority elected our current government from the President on down to the local dog catcher. I tell my students if they’re upset with the way things are that this is the gov’t and the people that the majority that voted chose to lead. If they don’t like it then when they’re of age it’s time to vote, or even better, run for office.

    It’s a complex world as you pointed out and I don’t think there are really simple, straightforward answers. The dynamics of the various groups, pressures and attitudes/opinions make things far more complex than what the media portrays them as especially with non-state players. Reagan was able to get the Sov’s to back down because they understood, as statesmen what he was saying. Your average terrorist doesn’t think that way, especially if they’re willing to die.

    As far as Patton goes– I am a fan, but he wasn’t infallible nor did he win the war all by himself. He was humble enough to know that. He also had his share of screw ups such as TF Baum, and other intemperate comments that caused a lot of problems. If Marshall had decided that Patton had to go, he would’ve been gone, period. The same with FDR. There was a strong reason why Bradley was put over him, and consider that if Ernie Harmon wasn’t as morally upstanding as he was, Harmon would’ve gotten command of II Corps and then things would’ve been much different.

  • Paul P

    BTW– I’m logged on to a different computer– Paul P and Paul are both me.

  • Jeannette Haynie

    The point is to base the argument on specifics about ideas, concepts, policies, etc., instead of on people, if engaging in professional debate or dialogue. Spewing and shouting is fine on certain forums (as we have discussed, there are multitudes of online sites for that). But in professional dialogue, and in situations where we actually want our voices to be heard and to hopefully help change minds, it’s absolutely key to address the argument…not the speaker.

    Matt, I’m honestly not sure how you got to Libya and some of your follow-on items from my post, so please reread my original writing. Toward the bottom, I say what I think is the biggest part: debate and discussion are important, if not straight-up pivotal, today with everything that’s going on in the world (by which I throw my arms out to encompass the Middle East, domestic problems, China, and everything in between). But if you make it about the person you’re arguing with instead of the actual subject, you render your point useless, and are shooting yourself in the foot.

    And no, I’m not talking about saying “the sky is blue,” (bit of a straw man there) but there are about a million actual points and topics that we could debate in the services today, and many are pivotal. Shouting invective or scornful insults at leaders–or those who try to start a discussion–merely sidelines the shouter.

    I’d love to quote Southpark here, but will refrain.

  • Name one general…..Omar Bradley?

  • Michael Junge


  • Matt

    Both Bradley and Ike believed in Patton to the point of risking their own careers to make sure Patton was at the tip of the spear. I’m not a history professor but Ike’s quote from above made clear his position about fire spewing Patton and the “mother” types that made their jobs more difficult. Ike and Bradley conciously enabled Patton’s fire. Reread Ike’s quote from my earlier comment. “indispensable to the war effort – one of the guarantors of our victory.”

    Keep trying.

  • Matt

    I’ve got one more…

    General “Black Jack” Pershing was another fire breathing American General whom lives in emphamy.

    From wiki…”He was regarded as a mentor by the generation of American generals who led the United States Army in Europe during World War II, including George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley, and George S. Patton.”

    Also from wiki…”In 1897, Pershing was appointed to the West Point tactical staff as an instructor, where he was assigned to Cadet Company A. Because of his strictness and rigidity, Pershing was unpopular with the cadets, who took to calling him “Nigger Jack” because of his service with the 10th Cavalry.[6][7][8] During the course of his tour at the Academy, this epithet softened to “Black Jack”, although, according to Vandiver, “the intent remained hostile.”[6] Still, this nickname would stick with Pershing for the rest of his life, and was known to the public as early as 1917.[9]”

    “stictness and rigidity”…hmmm sounds like Patton huh? With the same familiar rejection of such by so many. Interesting.

  • Paul P

    Hi Matt

    Bradley actually didn’t like Patton much at all– they clashed on basic ideas of how the war should be fought. D’Este in his history about Patton wrote extensively about their conflicts both before the invasion and during the course of the European Campaign. Ike struggled with Patton’s ego for most of the war, and while he did support him as per your quote, there were plenty of other times that he seriously considered relieving him of command. Patton certainly did use fire, but he also knew when not to follow that approach as it becomes counter productive when used too much.

    Check out I.D. White’s bio. He was a commander that understood that too much fire dulled folks to it and they tuned out. However, when someone who stays calm, and then goes off the handle in specific and important situations the effect is much stronger.

    That’s where this article is on target. Too much noise, too much shouting just causes people to tune out. Not everything requires that level or tone. We’ve lost, or worse, abandoned, the ability to have a conversation on the national stage that has give and take, and is respectful and aware. Just because someone has an opinion doesn’t give them the “right” to be disrespectful. Besides, just because someone has an opinion doesn’t promise that the person is actually right.

  • Matt

    Ready to wave the white flag??? You have no other option other than prolonging the defeat. There is so such thing as “motherly type” American Generals or Admirals whom live in emphamy.

    Not to pile on but Admiral Chester Nimitz is yet another that knew how to spew fire and lives in emphamy. The Nimitz Class stands alone to this day.

    As evidence of his fire spewing nature I offer another quote from wiki to prove my point…”For the post-war trial of German Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, Admiral Nimitz furnished an affidavit in support of the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, a practice that he himself had employed throughout the war in the Pacific. This evidence is widely credited as a reason why Dönitz was only sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.”

    I would say “unrestricted submarine warfare” is clear evidence of the fire breathing nature of this Fleet Admiral.

  • Matt

    Professor, I never said spewing fire was the only option every time. I did say one must know how to spew fire to live in emphamy and deliver our country to Victory. You must have fire in your belly and everyone around you must know it. They need to hear it, see it and feel it. Fire. Don’t you get fired up just thinking of their fire?

  • Sperrwaffe

    Just some short additions:
    Ike was a master of Realpolitik throughout his whole life. So that’s why he “endured” Patton’s Prima Donna’isms. No doubt Patton’s achievements as a General. Clearly not!

    Concerning Dönitz:
    I have one word for him, which I will not use here (too much bad language… ) 😉
    He sacrificed “his” crews. USN Submariners lost around 22% during the campaigns in the Pacific, right? German Submariners ended up at a ratio of 75%. Of 40000 submariners 30000 stayed at sea.

    Lothar Günther Buchheim (Author of DAS BOOT) made one interesting speech (I translate): “[…]I always rejected the use of the phrase, that Submariners died at sea for their Vaterland. They drowned, like surplus cats in a sack.”
    Nimitz was right to adapt the tactics for the Pacific. But he was never considered by “his” crews as Dönitz was for his famous paroles, the so called “Dönitz-Sch**sse”. Or was he “feared” for his use of direct language?

    But from my point of view, comparisons to the “warrior-breed” of that period must be made with some consideration. It is also a cultural difference of that time/era.

  • Paul P

    Hi Matt

    You’re making my point– this isn’t a win-lose situation, it’s a discussion, and an exchange of ideas. Surrender? Nope, that’s the wrong terminology for this type of format,just as the author pointed out in the original article. As for fire, no I don’t– that leads to the problems outlined. Taking everything personally doesn’t do anyone any good because then rather than working on the problem, it becomes about the feelings of the person– “You’ve offended me, so I will offend you with more invective!” and in the interim, the problem gets totally lost.

    Case in point– Iran– sure we can say we’re going to strike them because emotionally they’ve been asking for it for a long time, but then what? We’ve made a short term solution to a long term problem and created a whole new generation of potential suicide bombers. If we hit them hard will the Iranians suddenly say “Gee, they’re tough, guess we’d better play along?” or will they cry defiance, and then start waging assymetric warfare? What would you do?

    This gets back to a general point the author made. Painting the world in broad strokes doesn’t do the problems justice and doesn’t reflect the solution isn’t simple or even short. But we, as a society demand that now for whatever reason you care to fill in.

    As for the Grand Admiral– well, he’s also the guy who gave the OK to slaughter sailors in life boats with machine guns and benefited from slave labor to build his U-boat pens so I try to never use a Nazi as an example on how to fight a war.

  • Matt


    I was referring to my request for Generals and Admirals whom subscribed to a “motherly type” of leadership. You didn’t offer any. Not sure what you thought I was referring to. I wasn’t offended by the two examples. But I did prove my point on each and added two of my own to drive home my point.

    What would Ike and Patton do about Iran? Something similar to what’s been done in Syria maybe? Bomb the nuke program and initiate internal strife leading to their total collapse which would suffice for our needs and that of our allies I believe. Maybe extreme currency devaluation would produce the strife? Certainly a failed state with a terror problem is less threatening than a terror state armed with nukes and a clearly stated intent to “wipe Israel off the map”.

    You should view me as a messenger not THE Patton, Ike, Pershing, Nimitz or Bradley. You shouldn’t shoot a messenger.

    I didn’t use the “Grand Admiral” as an example of how to fight a war. I did use the Fleet Admiral who was Victorious. I don’t care for Nazis either. Nazis were losers besides being Jew hating genocical extremists. Incidentally, Al Qaeda and Iran qualify as some Jew hating genocidal extremists. AND they need to lose for the sake of our country. I believe if you were to ask them they would say we are already at war. Certainly their money is worth less, nuke experts are assassinated and things keep mysteriously exploding. Maybe we will roll over for them but the evidence doesn’t lead me to believe we will. Time will tell. Israel seems to believe there’s not much time left.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    I agree with Paul P above and would further argue that the militarization of language (WAR on drugs, WAR on poverty, WAR on …) is part of the problem. Good writing and thinking Major.

  • Matt

    Funny Benjamin says that because there are some people in our govt. that think the Al Qaeda problem is a law enforcement problem instead of a military problem. But another 9/11 just happened again. I sure wish you could convince Al Qaeda to act like criminals. Did refusing to use “War on Terror” actually accomplish anything yet? The “motherly” happy talk just leads to the kind of delusion that prevents you from guarding embassies properly and failing to intervene when the shooting started. In other words “defeat”.

  • Jeannette Haynie

    Benjamin, I agree completely about the overuse of the word “war,” and so much of the rhetoric we hear today makes me think of the story of the boy who called “wolf.”

    Matt, Paul P is correct. You’re making the argument for me. There’s a pretty big disconnect between what I wrote in my original post way up there and where you’ve taken it. And the “motherly” happy talk you mention several times–can you define that? If you’re talking about qualities that were traditionally seen as male or female, the best leaders have both kinds…whether you want to call them male/female qualities or not. But again, we’re in another time zone here from what I wrote this post about.

    I’m pretty sure that we’d be hard-pressed to have something like the Scopes Monkey Trial today in the environment we function in nationally. It would likely devolve into shouting matches and over-the-top rhetoric. And that means we have lost something pretty significant as a country.

  • Benjamin Walthrop


    Stop stuffing words in my mouth. You are indeed proving the Major’s point.

  • Capt. HW “Woody” Sanford,MC,USNR(ret.)

    Matt used a ? word “emphany” 3or4 times. At first, I thought it was a typo, but I came to assume he meant Infamy, as in the book, “Day of Infamy,” about the Pearl Harbor Attack.

    I submit another WWII General that I don’t believe “spewed fire.” That is Mark Wayne Clark. His command in the Italian Sector of European Operations was made difficult by weather, mountains and lack of landing craft among other things, yet he was ultimately successful. After the War, he was named High Commissioner in Austria. His efforts there were largely responsible for keeping the Communists out of that country.

    Later Gen. Clark was President of The Citadel during my 4 years as a Cadet there. He was the ultimate Professional soldier, uniform impeccable, manners perfect, always in “command and control.” Many times we knew he was mad, even furious, about things that happened, but he never showed it to the corps. Anything negative that brought discredit to the school, he was decisive, but handled it privately.

    Matt, don’t bother to tell me about the Texas Ranger Battalion. I have known about that for 55 years. It doesn’t change my opinion of the General.

    Jeannette, your excellent writing continues. The CNO could not have said it better. Incidentally, ADM Greenert is one of our good Submariners. It’s good to have him in that job. No need to spew any fire, but keep firing away like you have been. We all need you leading this discussion.


  • Paul P


    I apologize if it seems like I’m shooting the messenger– my readings of the biographies and autobiographies paint a different picture of the men you are using as examples.

    What General Eisenhower and General Patton would do about Iran is what they did when confronted with the beginning of the USSR. They’d shut up, salute and carry out their orders issued by civilian authority. When General Patton decided to start to dip his toes in the political side of the coin, he lost his command. It also put a big strain on his relationship with General Eisenhower.

    The same with MacArthur. He went off the reservation, disobeyed orders and was recalled.

    As far as a failed state with a terror problem being less threatening? Sorry, I disagree. If they do have nukes and the state fails then any rational control goes out the window and the chances of one being used will increase dramatically. A world leader, even leaders of Iran, are concerned about their legacy. NK has threatened war against SK for decades but despite Kim’s, <> unusual life choices, he never sent his tanks across the border. Despite the irrationality of the situation, there was some rationality in his choices. With a failed state that rationality goes out the window and that’s when it gets scary. There’s no control.

    Not that I advocate Iran getting a nuke at all. I wonder often what efforts are being made to find out where they got the stuff for this capability. Somewhere someone made a lot of $$$ selling centrifuges that’s probably a trading partner of the US. Go figure.

    Thanks as well, Jeannette for a great article! We need writers like you on the national stage, not just in professional journals.

  • Matt

    Thank You Captain Woody for the example of General Mark Wayne Clark whom I hadn’t heard of before. I was beginning to think no one was going to offer a single example other than the ones I already knew of (despite the mention of the need for historical perspective in the post). Not sure he’s too well known or “infamous” but something is better than nothing. Sounds like the Texas Rangers have heard of him though.

    I did misspell infamy, so sorry.

    Major, there’s a problem with your boy who cried wolf analogy. In that story no one in the town actually saw the wolf, only the boy. In this case the whole world is well aware of the “ship strikes” I mentioned. I was influenced by these ship strikes I witnessed on the news and in print. Most people aren’t denying them but I fully admit many do not want to admit them for various reasons. Like I told the Professor, I’m just a messenger. You can make this discussion about me but you won’t be able to hide the fact that our country has some big problems. I didn’t make those problems but I’m trying to do something to get them fixed. Admiting the truth is the first step. It’s been 11 yrs. since 9/11/01. I will pray in another 11 yrs. I can remember back on what I wrote here and say “wow I was really wrong”. I really wish you were right. I have zero to gain from making up things.

    Thanks for allowing me the oppurtunity to try and help our country. I will always be able to say I tried to do something, if in 11 yrs we look up and our country is beached. I would not be able to forgive myself if I literally did nothing. This gave me some peace even if I didn’t succeed in persuading every reader.

    Professor, you glossed over the Syria example. If they have no nukes it would be wise to keep it that way. I hope we could agree Al Qaeda would actually not be deterred. I believe Iran fits into that same category. I don’t recall the USSR ever having such a love of suicide missions in the conviction of rewards after life. I’m pretty sure I remember Obama saying very recently he rejected the idea of containment of Iran for good reason. Time will tell what happens and which side we come out on whether victory or defeat. I pray we still have the courage to chart our own course out of the valley of this shadow of Global Islamic Jihad.

  • vtbikerider

    Paul P here– what happened to our discussion notes and the like? Matt, Jeanette, et al; what happened?

    • Hi all, I work in the Web Department at USNI. We’ve migrated the commenting platform for USNI Blog and Naval History Blog to Disqus, to enhance the commenting experience. All of the comments that were left previously have been migrated over, but comments left within the past couple of days may take a few hours to appear while they’re processed. Any comments left on the new system from here on out, and any older comments, will appear instantly.

  • Jeannette Haynie

    Jeannette here–I’m not sure. I asked USNI admin earlier, and I think they upgraded the comment forum, so the comments should reappear at some point…but not sure when!

  • Matt

    Interesting timing. No explanation from USNI admin? Dead silence. Is that what someone wants? How bizarre.

  • mripley

    Matt, Admin here – this a part of a long-planned upgrade. we are restoring the last remaining comments. Nothing going away here.

    • mripley

      Update: Disqus is taking longer than expected to load in this last interim number of comments, but we are monitoring it.

  • Matt

    Still waiting for my last comment…is Ms. Lamb at the State Dept. in charge of this?

  • Matt

    This converstation was cut off and never fully restored.

    Just want to add two fire spewing Patriots who apparently defied orders to save Americans. General Carter Ham head of AFRICOM and SEAL Ty Woods who gave his life so that others were saved. May God have mercy on the cowards who failed them.