Monday, October 27, 2008

Peggy on loyalty - Part 1

This was one post – but I decided to break it into two because it was too long and two very different bits. I have two things to do; one to praise, and one to scold – and both towards someone, at a distance, I have great affection for; Peggy Noonan.

First, I want to praise. We are going to go back to MAR 07 to one of her best articles – something that I will explain tomorrow why it was brought back to mind recently, her Opinion Journal article, “The Trouble With Loyalty.”

Now, go to the link and read the whole thing because Peggy does such a good job outlining a problem/challenge – the good and bad of personal loyalty. Here you go;
I didn’t know Reagan when I went to work with him; I only knew his views and philosophy and supported them. I wanted him to succeed because I wanted what he stood for to succeed. In time I came to feel personal loyalty. But agreement came first. And if, in his Presidency, Reagan had turned into some surprising, weak, tax-raising, government-growing, soft-on-Soviets guy, I would have stopped backing him. I would have thought him very nice and a a bit of a dope, like Jerry Ford. I wouldn’t feel I had to hold high his memory and meaning.

Loyalty has nothing to do with it, not if you’re serious. Or rather personal loyalty has nothing to do with it.

Why is Personal Loyalty Blight a problem? One reason is the one Hannah Arendt pointed out, the obvious one. “Total loyalty is possible only when fidelity is emptied of all concrete content, from which changes of mind might naturally arise.”
Where in the Navy do we see the Personal Loyalty Blight? Here is a few ideas taken from first hand knowledge and slightly changed where needed to protect the guilty:
-- When a successor continues the program he personally knows is wrong because, “XXX is a good friend who I have been loyal to for years. I don’t want to destroy his legacy.”
-- When a CO changes a #1 EP to a #3 MP because, “I have worked for the Commodore for three times in my career. He has always been there for me. He told LCDR XXXX to take those DC orders, because that is what a front runner does for the Community that has taken care of and doesn’t want to been seen as taking-off-the-pack. The Commodore was embarrassed when he found out LCDR XXXX said no to the detailer and worked some Norfolk orders instead. Yea, LCDR XXXX is my #1, but I own the Commodore. I’m changing the FITREP and I don’t want to hear any more about it.”
-- “LT XXXX, you need to run that up through the Admiral’s Staff if you want to publish that. You need to make sure it folds in with the Admiral’s policy otherwise you publish at your own risk. Oh, and I want to see it before you send it to the Admiral as well – I don’t want you wasting his time.”
-- “Why didn’t the XO recommend to send YN2 XXXX to mast?” “Well, according to the CMDCM, the front officer found out that the Admiral’s JAG is tracking minority Mast cases based on a complaint filed earlier this year. The Captain has already fielded one call about his Mast numbers and doesn’t want to be the Command that gets the Admiral more calls – YN2 going to Mast will just make it worse. The CO was once the Admiral’s N3 and they have known each other since he was an Ensign. He isn’t going to make trouble for the boss. Keeping it at XOI should be fine anyway. We’ll give him another chance.”

Loyalty is a tough thing for a Navy guy though. I can look through the Salamander FITREPS and Loyalty is all over it. Over and over again in the Navy we hear about Loyalty. We want it and we try to give it – because that is what we are trained to do.

The question is, where should our loyalty lie? Is it put where it should be? The Constitution? The President? The CNO? The Navy? My CO? My CMDCM? My family? My conscience? My God? Do we have them in the right order?

Do we personally or as an institution use or abuse Loyalty? Do we misplace our Loyalty? Who/what do we have/should be loyal to? Who expects us to by loyal? Who do we expect to be loyal?

What price are we willing to pay to be loyal to someone who expects it from us?

More importantly, what are expecting others to sacrifice to be loyal to us – and for what reasons?

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