Let me get this straight: Captain Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt has been relieved of his command for “poor judgment,” “unprofessional conduct,” and damage to his “national security mission” because he wrote a letter asking the U.S. Navy for resources to help his crew of nearly 5,000 sailors deal with a coronavirus outbreak on his ship.
Meanwhile, his and our Commander-in-Chief got elected at least in part through the help and intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man for whom our president often expresses affection and admiration. Our Commander-in-Chief has gone through Secretaries of Defense and National Security Advisors as if they were itinerant peddlers, at least one of whom is now a convicted felon. He has handed over one of the most sensitive areas of diplomacy, the Middle East, to a 30-something relative with absolutely no diplomatic experience. He has murdered in cold blood the second most powerful man in the Iranian government.
Our Commander-in-Chief believes that a few years at a military school is pretty much the same thing as being in the armed forces. He has expressed the thought that he ought to award himself a Purple Heart Medal (perhaps for bone spurs miraculously discovered by podiatrist Larry Braunstein, who rented an office in a building owned by the father of our Commander-in-Chief). He ridiculed former prisoner of war John McCain, saying,“I like people who weren’t captured.”
Our Commander-in-Chief has alternately threatened and cuddled up to that pudgy pompadoured man in North Korea. He threatened to withhold vital military aid to an ally at war with Russia unless the president of Ukraine took action to enhance the domestic political career of our Commander-in-Chief. He continues without skipping a beat his support for the Saudi ruler responsible for the murder of a U.S. resident whose children are American citizens. He has alienated our NATO allies repeatedly, those countries that most support and reflect our most admirable American aspirations of freedom, tolerance, and democracy.
Our Commander-in-Chief has made a mockery of American diplomatic integrity, withdrawing from, pulling out of, or outright abrogating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Paris Agreement on Global Warming, the Transpacific Partnership, and the Iran Nuclear Arms Pact. What sovereign nation will ever again in our lifetimes trust the signatures of U.S. leaders on any diplomatic document or treaty?
Indeed, our Commander-in-Chief utterly dismisses global warming as “fake news,” ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, and even dismissing his own military leadership’s concerns about the national security implications of global warming. He has placed in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency a succession of advocates for the fossil fuel industries, and repeatedly rescinded federal restrictions on the exploitation of our environment.
Our Commander-in-Chief dispensed with the National Security Council’s pandemic unit several years ago, and when the coronavirus outbreak began, he insisted first that it wasn’t a threat, then that it was no worse than the common flu, then that he knew it was a pandemic all along, then that we should stop social isolating and all go back to work to save the economy, meanwhile offering federal assistance only to those states whose governors, in his words, “Treat me well.” At the same time, he now considers himself a “wartime president,” and insists on calling coronavirus “China virus” (perhaps because it’s less exciting to be at war with a corona—whatever that is—than to be at war with the Chinese).
Our Commander-in-Chief has left dozens of countries without a U.S. ambassador, and even embassies with ambassadors are frequently badly understaffed. There has been a massive exodus of career civil servants from the State Department since January 2017. He has publicly and repeatedly undermined and questioned the integrity of both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.
I won’t even go near the Commander-in-Chief’s taunting of the physically disabled, his flagrant disparagement of women, his serial lying, his grotesque boasting about how intelligent he is and how extensive his vocabulary is and how successful he is in business since these things may not bear directly on issues of national security (though even these things certainly fall under the categories of poor judgment and unprofessional conduct).
And certainly just about everything else I’ve discussed here very much touches on the security of the United States of America in addition to issues of judgment and conduct. Yet Captain Brett Crozier has been relieved of his command for acting in the best interests of the men and women for whom he is responsible.
Would that our Commander-in-Chief would show such concern for the men and women to whom he is responsible. He could start by awarding Capt. Crozier the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, the highest decoration available for heroism not involving armed combat.
W. D. Ehrhart holds a doctorate from the University of Wales at Swansea and an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps. He recently retired from the Haverford School for Boys as a Master Teacher of History & English, and is the author of Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems (McFarland, 2019).