Big Intent, Little Clarity

Global force for puppies? Puppies are good!

“Good” is too generic; it covers everything from dogs to the bacon they eat.

In August of 2012, RDML Foggo asked if it was time to change the “Global Force for Good” motto of the US Navy. His particular focus was the malleability of a brand, how well a phrase communicates our capability and intent. “Global Force for Good,” is a grand sentiment indeed that strikes deep for the optimist, but perhaps that sentiment out-runs its clarity. It doesn’t answer the “what” or “how” sufficiently; “good” is a tremendously generic objective and “being” is not a particularly precise action. We need something more direct, and I would suggest, “Freedom, from the seas.”

Freedom, From the Seas

From, “Accelerate your life,” to, “100% on Watch,” we have had a number of catch-phrases that don’t really explain to the American people why their navy exists. Even the impressive, “Non sibi sed patriae” (not self, but country) misses the actual content of why a navy exists. “Freedom, from the seas,” hits the mark; a play on both “forward from the sea” and “freedom of the seas.”

“Freedom, from the seas,” refers to the ability to defend and secure freedom ashore via a superior position at sea. The United States has always been a Maritime nation, and one that has sought and secured freedom for itself and others in and via the seas. The French Navy helped secure freedom for our fledgling republic, particularly by routing the British Navy at the Battle of the Capes and preventing a British withdrawal from Yorktown. From the US Navy’s blockade of the South during the Civil War to D-Day to Inchon to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Libya, we have sought to drive home the cause of freedom from a superior position on the sea. The US has always found its navy ready to harness the oceanic commons in support of freedom, and in defense of peace all around the world.

France! I don't even know you anymore.

France! I don’t even know you anymore.

“Freedom, from the seas,” also refers to the freedoms that flow from the sea, namely trade, communication, and travel. No nation is truly free that finds itself under blackmail of another. Since the Quasi War and Barbary Wars, the US Navy has ensured that sea-borne trade is both free and secure, continuing to the battle against the U-boats, to the Tanker Wars, to even operations against pirates in Somalia. The navy has carried that spirit from the early days of the XYZ affair, “Millions in defense but not one cent in tribute”, that the United States would not suffer depredations undermining the independent and freedom of US politics and commerce.

Finally, it is important that, “Freedom, from the seas,” has that key word, “freedom.” Isn’t that why we’re all here on these ships in the first place? That primary cause, “Freedom,” illustrates the core oath of every sailor, which is to the Constitution, wherein the Navy was mandated in particular. As we enter such perilous times of sequestration, government shut downs, and ever-increasing debt, it is important to properly communicate what we do and why. “Good,” is far too nebulous a cause to pin down. We were always intended as that first line of freedom’s defense abroad, and is it not right to have a motto that embodies that sentiment.

The Latin version, “De Mari Libero,” is pretty cool too, if you’re concerned more about how it sounds and not also the even more awesome connection to Hugo Grotius. While a work by Hugo Grotius is another great link for this motto to lawful conduct and the origins of the international system, that’s more for self-admitted nerds like me.

Posted by LT Matthew Hipple in Navy

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  • John

    I like it. But my favorite was “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of all who threaten it.” Why didn’t that stick?

    • Matthew Hipple

      No idea! Maybe, like “initial success or total failure,” someone thought it was too aggressive? I’m a fan myself, but I think, and obviously because I’m more partial to my own idea, that this has a tone including more of the where and how.

  • Todd Zeigler

    freedom of the seas has always been the purpose and always will. you throw from in there it sounds as if the navy is finally free of the seas which does not make sense

    • Matthew Hipple

      We’re on the same page… that’s why I threw the comma in between “Freedom” and “from.”

      • okitree

        Think you nailed it, comma and all!

  • Matthew Hipple

    *Note: LT Paris just suggested I add a verb:
    Perhaps, “Delivering” Freedom, From the Seas?

  • Matthew Hipple

    LT Paris suggested I add a verb, perhaps “Bringing” or “Ensuring” at the beginning?

  • The Navy’s Grade 36 Bureaucrat

    Hate to be a buzz kill, but our input into the Navy’s latest “motto” doesn’t matter. The reality is that “Global Force for Good” is designed to appeal to the idealistic 18-year old that recruiters are trying to get in the door. We, the active duty and reserve sailors, are already in, we’ve already been sold on the Navy’s message, which is why we like the phrases that we grew up with (they were obviously effective).

    Remember “An Army of One?” We all know how stupid that sounds, since it’s not like the Army just sends one soldier to do anything. But it was designed to get soldiers in the door. Once they’re in, boot camp will beat the teamwork mentality into them.

    We’re better off questioning and changing our Sailor’s Creed. Are we really defending freedom and democracy around the world? Last I checked, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia had a bad record of that whole “democracy” thing. What about defending freedom on the high seas? I can much better subscribe to that.

    • Matthew Hipple

      My main point is… DOES it actually connect with the idealistic 18-year-old. Am I wrong in thinking that perhaps that teen might ask, “what does that even mean?” It’s a great motto for the Red Cross or USAID. I even like it myself, but that’s because I’m an IR nerd. I’d say it needs something more of what we do, or at least an action of direction. GFFG is just… a state of being.

      And that all said, I know the leviathan doesn’t turn on our dimes, but hey… it’s worth thinking about. SOMEONE had to come up with GFFG. You never know.

  • LT Paris

    I think this is simply fantastic! Senior leaders read this blog, right? Right?! Senior Leaders: Get rid of GFFG immediately. NOW, NOW, NOW. It is HORRIBLE. It resonates with NO ONE. LT Hipple has come up with a great idea for a new tag line that actually illustrates what we do. Well done, good sir.

  • crabtrem8

    The only slogan I ever remember was, “GO NAVY”. The slogan, “Pride and Professionalism” was our motto. That’s it. That’s all we need. GO NAVY.

  • VADM Bill Moran

    Excellent commentary! Thank you. Not ready to ditch “Global force for Good” as a recruiting slogan…but agree that we want to expand our messaging to include a brand/slogan that speaks better to both internal and external audiences. We currently have an effort underway, led by CHINFO and Recruiting Command, to look at many of the issues that you raise in your Blog. Look forward to sharing the findings with you and others in the Institute when complete.

    • Matthew Hipple

      Looking forward to it! Might I also suggest, “Freedom Born of the Seas.” A little fancier, and no comma.
      LT Hipple