There’s “good order and discipline,” and then there’s “poor leadership and judgment.”
Unfortunately, I agree with Allen West that it’s more of the latter we’re seeing, with the news that the Navy is bringing charges against Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Timothy White, who returned fire against terrorist Muhammad Abdulazeez in Chattanooga on 16 July. (A second uniformed man present, an unnamed Marine, is also reported to have returned fire. It hasn’t been publicly reported whether either defender hit Abdulazeez in the exchange.)
Says West (emphasis original):
Ladies and gents, resulting from the text message I received yesterday, I can confirm that the United States Navy is bringing charges against Lt. Cmdr Timothy White for illegally discharging a firearm on federal property.
I’m all for good order and discipline myself, and LCDR White was apparently carrying a personal firearm on a federal compound, in violation of military regulations, at the time of the attack. He discharged it too, and that’s a separate violation.
You don’t just overlook the infractions here. But this is a much bigger issue than the violation of a peacetime regulation, and guys like the secretary of the Navy are paid to recognize that. It may be “by the book” to charge Timothy White and make an example of him, but as national defense policy, it sucks ostrich eggs. America’s sailors and Marines are due better, as are the citizens of the United States who commission them under arms.
The question is what the state of security now is for military compounds in the United States, and what our men and women in uniform should be empowered to do about it. That question is the only one that matters. The Chattanooga incident must first of all provoke a debate and decision about that.
Current policy cannot stand. To bring charges against White is to simply enforce current policy by rote, as if nothing about the threat environment has changed. Acting in that manner is a far greater breach of honor, courage, and commitment – the Navy’s core values – than bringing your own gun to work at a time when the military has been repeatedly warned about terror threats to its stateside facilities.
Jihad-inspired attackers have killed 13 people on military compounds and wounded 33 since 2009. And that doesn’t count the planned attacks that have been intercepted and thwarted beforehand. According to CNN, a third of the 119 Americans accused of plotting attacks inside the U.S. have intended to target military installations.
The threat level (or “threat condition”) at all U.S. military bases was raised in May 2015 due to credible threats made by Islamic State – which, as reported in April 2015, has a camp in Mexico, on the border of New Mexico, and is linked to terror facilitators who’ve actually been found inside the United States.
Since last fall, ISIS has also issued threats to military personnel directly, and to their families.
What matters here is that the military leadership – starting with the secretary of defense and the president – has not acted sufficiently to improve the security posture of the military as a whole.
Certainly, recruiting offices are especially vulnerable: usually located in strip malls and other buildings under private ownership, policed by the local law enforcement authorities. There are jurisdictional issues.
But what do you do about jurisdictional issues when the threat situation changes? You [expletive] WORK THEM OUT. Job one is ensuring that servicemen under threat – servicemen under your command – can defend themselves.
At least half the population of this country has a better understanding of the responsibilities of leadership than Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and President Obama. Allen West suggests you flood Mabus’s office with complaints. That’s a start. But this is bigger than one service secretary. Posture and policy need a fundamental change.
LCDR White’s case can wait. Attend to the urgent policy need first, empower the troops as they should be empowered, and it’ll turn out just fine for good order and discipline that White “anticipated” an overdue policy change.