John Derbyshire Asks A Politically Incorrect Question About Our Fender-Bender Navy.
Print Friendly and PDF
Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively at

The state of our military is a bit worrying. Those of us with family members serving have more to worry about than the average. I have no doubt our soldiers, sailors, and airmen will do their fighting best with any mission we assign them. But politicized leadership and stupid ideas about human nature may get in the way.

These dark thoughts came to mind when I read about the latest fender-bender involving a U.S. warship. This happened when the U.S.S. John S McCain collided with a civilian oil tanker near Singapore. Ten of our sailors are missing, presumed dead. Five more sailors were injured.[ Lost at sea: The ten sailors who are missing presumed dead after cargo ship hit a US Navy destroyer in the Pacific for the second time in three months, Daily Mail, August 24, 2017.]

And this is the fourth serious accident involving U.S. Navy ships this year:

Speaking as a credentialed navigator, I say there's something wrong here. Not having your ship run aground or collide with other ships, is basic seamanship, and made easier than it's ever been by modern navigation technology. Human beings have been sailing ships on the sea for several thousand years, remember. This is not a new art.

There's been some speculation that our Navy's high-tech navigation systems have been hacked into. There are a number of problems with that theory, one of them being that the Navy itself doesn't seem to believe it. Here for example is an extract from its report on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald incident—the one that killed seven sailors:

The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald Sailors, injured three more, and damaged both ships …

Several junior officers were relieved of their duties due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watch standers. Additional administrative actions were taken against members of both watch teams.

Seventh Fleet Announces USS Fitzgerald Accountability Determinations, by Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs, August 17, 2017

In fairness to the crew of Fitzgerald, I should note that the report also contains the following:
It was also evident from this review that the entire Fitzgerald crew demonstrated real toughness that night. Following the collision these sailors responded with urgency, determination and creativity to save their ship. Their rigorous damage control efforts and dauntless fighting in the immediate wake of the accident prevented further loss of life.
OK, but it really looks as though we have a problem here. To misquote Lady Bracknell, one collision may be regarded as a misfortune; four looks like carelessness.

And the Navy's own reports finger "poor seamanship," "flawed teamwork," and "inadequate leadership."

It really looks as though the Navy has sailed into a zone of pretty acute personnel problems. But why would that be?

Call me over-suspicious [You're over-suspicious!] but I can't help thinking the issues are somewhat related to this:

A record 16 out of 100 Navy women are reassigned from ships to shore duty due to pregnancy, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.

That number is up 2 percent from 2015, representing hundreds more who have to cut their deployments short, taxing both their unit's manpower, military budgets and combat readiness …

Overall, women unexpectedly leave their stations on Navy ships as much as 50 percent more frequently to return to land duty, according to documents obtained from the Navy.

EXCLUSIVE: Deployed US Navy Has A Pregnancy Problem, And It’s Getting Worse

By Richard Pollock, Daily Caller, May 1, 2017

Oh, and what's this? A report from the New York Times just this past Wednesday: Fort Benning Drill Sergeants Suspended Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations. [By Jacey Fortin, August 23, 2017]. Sample quote, after the stuff about sexual harassment allegations:
The Pew Research Center said in a report this year that the presence of women in the United States military is growing. Women made up 14 percent of active duty Army personnel in 2015, and 15 percent of the active duty armed forces overall.
Concerning those allegations, by the way, I'm willing to bet—and if I'm wrong, someone who knows the facts please tell me and I will eat crow on the website—I'm willing to bet that a large majority of those offending drill instructors are black, and a similarly large majority of the plaintiffs are white.

That was certainly the case (as I’ve noted before) in the Aberdeen Proving Ground NCO sex scandals of the ‘90s—about 80% of the victims were white and 80% of the accused were black. [2 more Aberdeen sergeants charged NAACP says cases against black soldiers involve prejudice, By Scott Wilson, Baltimore Sun, March 26, 1997] (The official press release [PDF] names no names.)

Now, I don't say that mixed-sex military units are the stupidest idea of the past hundred years. The competition for stupidest is just too stiff: public-sector labor unions, Affirmative Action, mass Third World immigration, body piercing 

I do say, though, that if I wanted to seriously degrade the military effectiveness of an enemy, I would do everything I could to get him integrating women into his combat units.

After thirty years of cultural rot, our generals and admirals didn't get to be generals and generals by winning wars but by promoting the correct numbers of blacks and Muslims and opening the military academies to girls and homosexuals

They don’t want to worry about steering ships. They want to focus the serious strategic questions facing the nation: installing transgender bathroom facilities in submarines, tanks and fighter planes.

Print Friendly and PDF