Opinion: Carrier Captain’s Relief Not Simply About One Vessel...Or Even One Naval Officer

FILE – This Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, file photo shows a general top view of the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. A series of political spats that erupted in Baghdad over the past week surrounding foreign forces on Iraqi soil have exposed the increasing weakness of Iraq’s central government and a growing disconnect between Washington and Baghdad in the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic, File)

Yesterday, I published a short piece explaining why the Navy relieved the Captain of the U.S.S. Roosevelt, one of only ten large deck aircraft carriers in the fleet. In that article I explained why the Navy had to fire him.

Read: Opinion: Navy Captain PROPERLY Relieved

Today, I’d like to expand on that relief and its place in the National Security Strategy of these United States. I got nudged in this direction by one of my commenters (hat tip markvol) who said,

He [Capt. Brett Crozier] essentially told the enemy(China) that their disease succeeded in incapacitating a Naval asset.

His comment was followed quickly by an article I noticed in Asia Times, that makes this situation all the more ominous.

Read: China seizes Covid-19 advantage in South China Sea

The lede: China ramps up military drills and energy exploitation in contested waterway while US military bogged down in virus crisis at home

From the article, emphasis mine

MANILA – With the Covid-19 pandemic mostly contained in China and now wreaking havoc on the United States, security analysts are closely watching Beijing’s military moves in the hotly contested South China Sea.

In recent days, China has conducted military drills and deployed large-scale military assets to the maritime area while at the same time officially celebrating strides made in exploiting disputed energy resources in the fossil fuel-rich sea.

While some see China’s nationalistic messaging as a bid to rally its people during difficult Covid-19 times, others view the increasingly aggressive naval maneuvers as a bid to exploit America’s weakened condition to secure new advantage in the hot spot theater.

This article isn’t new news. The World has taken note of Chinese aggression for some time now. The Chinese government has been building artificial island airfields to help gain and maintain hegemony over the South China Sea. As far back as 2016, national security specialists were concerned. This article from War On The Rocks goes into a lot of detail as to the military capabilities the Chinese are putting into this area, possibly threatening our allies and impeding our freedom of navigation.

Read: CHINA’S ARTIFICIAL ISLANDS ARE BIGGER (AND A BIGGER DEAL) THAN YOU THINK

From the article, again, emphasis mine

A Fool’s Errand? Island airbases in the Age of Precision Strike
Could the Chinese be seriously expecting these island bases to survive for long in the face of a U.S. intervention?  Consider three things:
1. China is making a serious commitment in the form of the “big three.”
2. China has been keeping notes on the U.S. military for the last few decades. Its forces and leaders are familiar with U.S. capabilities.
4. Those who lead the Peoples’ Liberation Army are not fools. They will take measures to ensure their bases have a chance of surviving in combat long enough to matter.

Putting all of this together, it’s fairly easy to see that relieving Captain Crozier was not only the right thing to do for good order and discipline, but also a strategic imperative. The Chinese are looking at us through a microscope, trying to find any weakness in materiel…or in men, that they can take advantage of. Captain Crozier has provided them both. In an era where the Middle Kingdom is getting more and more aggressive, the last thing we need is senior officers in our military flagrantly telling the whole World, especially our adversaries, that major strategic platforms are far less than fully mission capable, and/or our military leaders are morally weak.

Mike Ford
Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters. 
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