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Monday, October 15, 2007

Confused Seas

Saturday, October 13, 2007 08:27
USS Cole - 33°16N 48°45W

It would have been fun, when I went on the bridge this morning, to watch the launch of one of the RIBs to investigate a smoke flare--fired, I presume, from the frigate John L. Hall standing off to our port at the time--except that the launch was more-than-usually slow. When the first “Warrior” proved to have a malfunctioning solenoid the number two was swung into action, slowly, and eventually sped off toward the target.

The decks were drenched and the seas confused after running through a squall earlier this morning. The sun had happily broken through, though, and it felt good on my face. I’ve decided just to excerpt my journals for the final blog entries, so that’s what you’ve been reading for this week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I've read a whole page of your posts and I have come to hold the opinion that you are a miserable, sour, unpatriotic, old man who thinks he has all the answers and looks down on all others. I have no problem with you questioning the current use of America's Navy but as a guest on board one of her ships it seems poor play to insult her officers and belittle her sailors. To top it all off, you give exact locations of the ship's movements. I KNOW you're old enough to have heard the phrase "Loose lips sink ships" so why don't you remember that before again endangering the lives of our brave men and women?! You may write your comments about how you have no regard for the memorial service of the USS Cole, and the lives lost but I find it appaling that you would intentionally endager more lives through your careless or blatant words. Shame on you! A man with your education, I would think, would have a little more sense. Maybe get your head out of your books by Nietzsche and other pagan authors, and learn to live with your fellow Americans and give of yourself as they do.

3:18 PM  
Blogger DR JOHN BAILIFF said...


Of course I remember "Loose lips sink ships." I used to look at those posters on the walls of the boatyard where my father was helping build minesweepers during WWII. I revealed nothing not published in the local and national news; there were reporters for the BBC, etc., on board during the exercise. "Neptune Warrior" is conducted semi-annually by the RN, always in the same waters off NW Scotland, for multiple NATO navies.
So there. The rest of your remarks are ludicrous or ignorant. Nietzsche, like me, was a skeptic and a critic of misguided militarism and authoritarianism, and therefore was patriotic in the proper sense of the term. I'm glad you've read the blog and so learned a little. Your cowardice, however, is evident...jb

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, your thoughts and feelings are appreciated, although tainted with unwarranted cynicism in my opinion. Give your opinion on whatever you like, but I really think it is childish for a man of your experience to take such an opportunity to make personal stabs at people 40 years your junior under the guise of patriotic duty. You didn't criticize the management or use of the military as you seem to believe, you took direct shots at young men and women who are doing vastly more than you to keep this country safe and free. You reduced significant military career milestones to nothing more than some stitches in a uniform. It is because of those "childish" people that you even have the opportunity to write as you do. If nothing else, I would hope that you could appreciate that fact. If you have such problems with the way things happen in the military, then how about doing your part as an American to help bring about change, or enlighten the ones that you feel are lacking. That is one of your responsibilities as an American and a human being whether you freely accept it or choose ignore it. Instead, you wear a smile as your are there observing these people and then take cheap shots behind their backs in your blog. Don't worry though, my young, childish shipmates and I will be glad to go in harms way, so you and anyone else that has an opinion may voice it in any format or forum chosen. What really concerns me is the fact that you have no appreciation for what our young men and women in military service go through on a day-to-day basis, even after you have observed it. I agree with you that skepticism and criticism are essential to the betterment of any process or organization, but they alone do not improve anything, especially when misdirected and biased. If you recognize a problem, provide a solution. If you recognize a fault, provide some insight. If you just want to produce what you feel are witty, intellectual insults, then don't be surprised when people are a little offended. I also think it important to note, that most self acclaimed critics have only observed from an outside position their subjects and have never really based any of their opinions on true experience. Until you have spent those countless hours engaged in the daily processes on a ship, or said goodbye to a colleague that made the sacrifice, don't attempt to justify your comments and opinions as experience.

12:32 PM  
Blogger DR JOHN BAILIFF said...

American Sailor:

Your attack is rather better written than the first one, but even more questionable. If living aboard a warship for a couple of months isn't "true experience," then nothing is. It's certainly not "observing from the outside." Of course, if being "inside" means JOINING the Navy, then no critical insight is possible. I was teaching dozens of the crew and some officers aboardship, as I have aboard other ships. I directed them to my blog and solicited their comments. Many took me up on this, and none objected to my characterizations or comments, though some disagreed. Proposing "solutions" cannot effect change. Teaching critical judgment and philosophical questioning can. That's what I do. Your smug appeal to the military keeping us "safe and free" is self-serving. I support the program the Navy sponsors for earning undergraduate credits aboard ship; instead of taking refuge behind slogans--or generic pen-names--I talk with my students and publish my reflections. This the meaning of being "safe and free."

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree. Pointing out the flaws in a system is not the answer. It isn't even a hard thing to do and you seem quite adept. Proposing solutions and acting on them is what is needed to make change. If Marx had merely written a book about the flaws in society and not given solutions, we would not have seen social upheaval and revolutions as we did in many countries around the world. Many people had always seen the problems in their countries' societies, but they persisted for generations until men banded together and acted upon ideas and a solution. The fact that the changes wrought in this instance were not necessarily for the better is beside the point.
You accuse the people who have posted on this blog as hiding behind pat phrases about what it takes to take keep this country safe and free. The idea that it takes only a "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing" of facts, a questioning of conventions, is as wrong as it is outdated. It takes that, to be sure, but it takes more than that as well. Personal and political freedom is jeopardized every day in many ways and just as a society without the capacity for self-reflection and modification soon grows obsolete and restricting, a country without physical security has no way to protect itself from those totalitarians who will accept no moral relativism and will seek to crush those who question. It has been a long time since America has faced destruction or invasion from without, but there are those who hate and threaten us for allowing all citizens of this country the freedoms you extol. Additionally, it is with the support of our military and our democratic brethren in other countries that we are able to give nations struggling to find their separate peace and democratic nationhood the opportunity to do so in hostile regions of the world and in the face oppression.
As a last note, I do not think that you truly understand what it is to do what we do. There was much you didn't see behind locked doors where you couldn't go. There was much hardship borne and revealed only to those who are our brothers here on COLE. You seemed surprised that many of us don't stay in the military for a career. Did you work 18-hour days, 7 days a week? You did not. I seem to recall you remarking that working four hours a day for six days a week was a tiresome burden and that you would be glad when it was over. Did you leave a newborn child or a loving spouse behind? You did not. You did leave behind an ailing mother, so you should understand the desire to leave the navy when one has three children and has seen none of them born, or when one’s been away for the deaths of one’s mother and one’s father. And though the drudgery of the day-to-day routine may hide what the ship and its crew are capable of, it is only because of that very routine that we are capable of accomplishing our missions. Perhaps it was not as exciting as what you've seen on a movie set, but vacuuming the dust off a computer’s ventilation screen can be just as important to insuring a missile is launched as pushing the button.
I conclude with this: turn your cynicism inward for a change.

12:54 PM  
Blogger DR JOHN BAILIFF said...

Friends: Looks like "anonymous" may be a crew member of Cole, or is posing as one. Makes anonymity an even more questionable choice. However, if it weren't for "anonymous's" dedication to reading me, I wouldn't be writing as much here. I select one phrase from this attack: "...a society without the capacity for self-reflection and modification soon grows obsolete and restricting...". True, sort of. A "society" can't reflect; only people can. But when people discourage reflection--especially questioning--their society does indeed become sclerotic. If we read "institution" for "society" here, the observation is even more cogent, because the military--not just the navy--is an institutionalized enterprise, too. The contradictory appeals in the last part of the comment are revealing: partly to duty (the importance of the job of "protecting"), partly to pity (absence from home and family), partly to superiority (teachers don't do as much "work"). I can speak to the last one. I described TEACHING 6 hours a day as difficult. Many do suppose speaking before a class of students to be all there is to it, ignorant as they are of the fact that if you didn't prepare, you'd have nothing to say, or to teach. In general it takes around 3 hours of preparation for every hour of teaching; then there are the hours of reading students' work, commenting upon it, meeting with students individually, associated institutional paperwork, and so on. You have to love it, as I do. Can anyone spot, in "anonymous'" comments, any testimony to loving the work? As Marx pointed out, work that is not done for its own sake is alienated...jb

3:13 PM  

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