Coronavirus, Defense Policy, Foreign Policy

An Embarrassment to a Great Name

Acting secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has just submitted his resignation as a result of the mess surrounding the dismissal of the Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Brett Crozier. Modly’s departure is undoubtedly his most gracious and professional act during the whole affair. 

The DefenseOne website provides a helpful and well-documented timeline of this sorry episode in recent Navy history.  I agree that Capt. Crozier’s use of unclassified channels for the letter and its wide distribution strongly suggests an intent to publicize the COVID-19 crisis on the ship beyond the chain of command and potentially to the media. TR’s great-grandson Tweed penned an op-ed supporting Capt, Crozier.  However, he notes that, while a similar protest by his great-grandfather during the Spanish-American War accomplished  Roosevelt’s goal, it cost him a Medal of Honor in his lifetime.  Both were the kind of calculated risks that either earn you a commendation or a court-martial in the military.

Nevertheless, the timeline makes it clear that it was Modly, not Crozier, who first interfered with the chain of command by encouraging the Captain to contact him directly and thus by-passing his commanding admiral.  Modly then inflamed the situation further by flying unannounced to the ship and calling Capt. Crozier “stupid” and “naïve” to the crew of the Roosevelt and accusing him of undermining the chain of command.  In fact, those words are a more accurate description of his own actions, not those of the captain.  

TR probably almost came out of the grave in anger over this fiasco associated with his name and beloved navy.  The damage is done, but hopefully will be repaired soon by a leader with his honor, bravery and intelligence. 

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