Monday, February 18, 2013

Quis Custodiet?

I kinda hate to keep hammering on this nonsense.

It probably bores the hell out of you like any other family feud and I admit that it really is a sort of military "inside baseball"; of interest only to the sort of people who keep stats and obsessively squirrel away bizarre trivia about obscure minor leagues.

But, like jock itch, this story gets to me in particularly tender places.

And, kidding aside, I think it says some things that concern me about my country and my armed forces. So I apologize, but I'm gonna vent a little here.

One is the irritating nature of the "Global War on Terror" as presented to, and accepted by, the U.S. public.

Ever since 2002 I've thought that the most ominous part of the various wars and quasi-wars and secret wars we've been fighting (largely in the unpaved portions of Asia and Africa) is the way they have been almost completely removed from and independent of public opinion and public purview. The U.S. public as a whole neither pays a price nor has an interest in what their soldiers are doing in the less paved parts of the world under the auspices of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force.

I could go over why this isn't a good idea, the multiple reasons that cabinet wars and imperial expeditions are not in the best interests of a democracy. The inevitable erosion of liberal governance and the expansion of executive power that occur in wartime. The moral and intellectual hazard of accustoming a people to continual, low-grade expeditionary wars (without immediate costs or consequences to the people bankrolling the wars). The bad habits that governments, troops, and citizens pick up whilst committing mayhem in places to other peoples without either seeing or feeling the effects of the mayhem themselves.

We've effectively turned these damn wars into a third-person shooter game, complete with it's own fucking music video and all, for God's sake. And - although largely unwilling to join the fight ourselves and uncaring about the real people who do - we've turned our pixellated images of them into cartoonish heroes, ridiculously inflated and lionized "warriors" for what should be a warrior-free zone: an industrial democratic republic.

So this "Shooter" has become, for me, a living version of the crayon-drawing of a modern American "warrior" that We the People seem to want; imputed with unlikely and improbable virtues, excused all critical assessment, feted and fetishized and blown up beyond the reality of what soldiers have always been. Your neighbor's idle brother, the smart kid behind the counter at the convenience store, the nice guy your sister dumped because "he was boring", the knucklehead who cut you off at the freeway on-ramp.

What especially got to me on this subject was the fawning reaction this Shooter got when he and his cronies stopped off on Capitol Hill (see the first link above), where the people who should have been his fellow citiens and notional governmental superiors treated him like a bunch of gushing fangirls and fell all over him to praise his work which is, at bottom, no more than any other infantryman has been asked to do in this endless farkling about in central Asia only with fancier kit and more secrecy.

This basically irks the shit out of me, this whole business about fellating the "warriors" and bumper-sticker patriotism and endless painless videogame wars. I don't think it's healthy for a republic and I don't think it's a smart thing for us as the notional sovereigns of the United States to be doing to ourselves.

And this "Shooter" has become the poster child for all of my irritation with my fellow citizens.

The other problem I have with this story is what I think it says about a troubling development within my Army and the U.S. ground troops in general, by the way one of the guys from one of the Navy's Special Operations outfits feels about the rest of the Navy and (by inference) the other military outfits he is forced to share the battlefield with.

The magilla with this Shooter has been his loud complaints about how tough it is to be him, how tough the Special Operations outfits have it, and how - because of that - he and they deserve special consideration; early retirement pension vestment and special benefits if they ETS before they earn their retirement.

By publicly agitating for special privileges for the Special Operations forces - and only the SOF - this Shooter is taking a fire axe to this weak join between the SOF and the line units. By publicly demonstrating his contempt for the guys in the Navy Choir, for the line squids on the carrier decks and in the Stores warehouse at Norfolk this Shooter is fueling the fire of resentment and irritation that these guys, many of them, probably feel for him and his high-speed brethern.

One of the reasons that the U.S. Army and the other U.S. services have been so competent and successful tactically is that they have always been good at working together as a team. Every element in the team; the combat, combat support, and combat service support units, and individuals, recognize their mutual dependence. The guy who kicks down the door depends on the helo driver overhead who depends on the avionics tech back at the FOB who depends on the guy loading the supply truck back at the Corps rear who depends on the PAC clerk working the computer back at Ft. Ben Harrison back in the States. Who, for God's sake, depends on the guy in the 82nd Chorus singing at some fucking high school in Cornhole, Iowa to get the kids all excited about volunteering for the Army.

And one reason all those people work together is the understanding that they're all in the same Army; they all - although some get a little more money and some get to wear some cooler uniforms - get the same basic deal.

They HAVE to work together to win, and the way the service treats their service recognizes that fact. The door-kicker doesn't succeed if the PAC clerk fucks up his pay, his allotment doesn't get to his family, their e-mails get him all fucked up and so that night he's thinking about his sick daughter's not getting TRICARE instead of the people who might be behind the door with a nasty surprise for him and his team.

But the Shooter doesn't care, or probably doesn't even know, about this. And because of that he's busy kicking in a door that I don't think, either as a soldier or a U.S. citizen, we want to open. It does and will do us no good to make our special operations units a sort of Special Republican Guard, and the example of the originals should tell us so.

There's always an entropy in military organizations that works around eliteness. The elites can easily start looking down on everyone else with contempt and everyone else starts envying and resenting the elites.

In Third World armies this can cripple the organization; the Iraqi Republican Guard was a classic of the genre.

The Guard was vastly expanded in the Eighties to ensure the loyalty of an Army fractured by the war with Iran. After the defeat in the Second Gulf War of '91 the Special Republican Guard was created to provide even more "eliteness" loyal to the regime. Each time it was the best guys, the most loyal, the smartest and most technically proficient who were pulled into the "elite".

By 2003 the bulk of the Iraqi Army was just fucking incapable of modern military operations and the U.S. Army went through it like a dose of salts. All that "eliteness"? As useless as a tampon in a typhoon.

The U.S. military is nowhere near as big a jugfuck as the Iraqis were and U.S. society is nothing like the trainwreck that Iraqi society was and is.

But this "Shooter" represents something I haven't seen before in the U.S. military; an elite-unit guy willing to just come out and flat-out say; I'm better than you, I work harder than you, this war (the way it's being fought and my role in it compared to yours) means that I deserve more and better stuff than you.

And those are exactly the sorts of things that led to the Special Republican Guard. We just don't have a Saddam here willing to use them to MAKE a Special Republican Guard.

But there's nothing in human nature or U.S. society that says we can't find one.

And between that and what this "Shooter" nonsense says about our country and our soldiers I can't help but worry at least a little.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sailor slighted

Came across this article in the on-line Esquire mag yesterday.

The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden...Is Screwed is written by someone named Phil Bronstein and advertises itself as
"...the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family."
It is, as advertised, largely about the raid on Abbottabad on 6 MAY 2011.

That part's just your basic war story, a story about what might be the most famous night raid in recent history, but, still...just another no-knock entry in the thousands the U.S. Army, Marine, and Navy infantry have been doing since 2002. Read it, if you will. It's your bread-and-butter light infantry operation that at least partially accomplished the mission (Just me, but it would have been nice to have hauled ol' Osama back for a Nuremberg-style tribunal, but, whatev'; First Rule of War - Shit Happens).

Hooah, raid team. AAMs for everyone!

Sorry. Army joke.

But, kidding aside, that wasn't really what I got out of it. I've done my share of MOUT, just not with the live rounds and the angry Arabs. Didn't really need the lyrics to know how that song goes.

I did have a strong reaction to the piece, but probably not what the author wanted. What he wanted is pretty clear; to get the reader angry about "...the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives" Between the raid story the article centers around a long litany of complaints that this guy and his fellow Seal team members are getting screwed.
"But when he officially separates from the Navy three months later, where do his sixteen years of training and preparedness go on his résumé? Who in the outside world understands the executive skills and keen psychological fortitude he and his First Tier colleagues have absorbed into their DNA? Who is even allowed to know? And where can he go to get any of these questions answered? There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it's largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone's coffee. There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of benefits for specific service-related claims — but it’s not comprehensive and it offers nothing for the Shooter's family.

"It's criminal to me that these guys walk out the door naked," says retired Marine major general Mike Myatt. "They're the greatest of their generation; they know how to get things done. If I were a Fortune 500 company, I'd try to get my hands on any one of them." General Myatt believes "the U.S. military is the best in the world at transitioning from civilian to military life and the worst in the world at transitioning back." The Special Operations men are special beyond their operations. "These guys are self-actualizers," says a retired rear admiral and former SEAL I spoke with. "Top of the pyramid. If they wanted to build companies, they could. They can do anything they put their minds to. That's how smart they are."

But what's available to these superskilled retiring public servants? "Pretty much nothing," says the admiral. "It's 'Thank you for your service, good luck.'"
I hate to be this way, but...guys? Lemme sing you a little song I know:

"In time of danger or in war
God and the soldier we adore.
Danger past and all things righted
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted."

Some British grunt wrote that song in fucking 1645.

Ain't no different three hundred and fifty years later. If nobody told you that in Reception Station?

They should have.

I mean, yeah; it sucks to be this guy. I get that. It sucks to be an imperial grunt in a country that is fiercely pretending NOT to be fighting colonial wars, so much so that it that is practically jamming its fists into its collective ears and shrieking "ICAN'THEARYOUlalalalalala!" rather than accept what it is doing to the legionaries it is sending out to do the dirty deeds it doesn't want to hear about or is pretending are the military equal of storming ashore on the Normandy beaches instead of the vile, ugly business of suppressing foreign rebellions in shitty parts of the world.

That's the reality. You can hate it. But you can't pretend you didn't know that going in, especially now after ten goddamn years of it.

A couple of other things;

1. The article is full of sad about how the poor dude is getting screwed over because he's getting out with jack shit; "Anyone who leaves early also gets no pension, so he is without income. Even if he had stayed in for the full twenty, his pension would have been half his base pay: $2,197 a month. The same as a member of the Navy choir."


I know they told you that shit in Repo. You don't do your twenty, I don't care if you're Audie Fucking Murphy; you get squat. Always have, always will. You sing in the choir for 20 years, you get the brass ring. 19.9 years of hard fighting? Bupkis. Them's the rules. You may not like that, but you can't complain you didn't know that.

The article keeps talking about the Shooter "retiring". Dude; this guy ain't "retiring". He's ETSing short of retirement. Get your military terminology straight, Phil. And if you ETS short of your 20-year letter, you get...? C'mon, say it with me now..."jack"...and what else?


Sorry, man. That's how it works. If the author didn't get that somebody he talked to should have squared him away. It makes the guys in ST6 sound like whiners, and I'm sure they wouldn't want that.

And this guy is described as all jacked up physically (which I believe; 16 years as a grunt would have crocked me up. Hell, they DID, in a way.). Why isn't he getting out on a medical? You CAN retire medically short of twenty. Why no discussion about that?


2. Here's the thing that completely baffled me; there's a ton of talk in this article about how special these special operators are, how any CEO and Wall Street firm and school district should be killing themselves to get them, how they're the best of the best of the best?

So where the hell was the Navy re-up guy?

The Shooter says he doesn't want to be a shooter any more. OK, fine. I'm not a squid but I'll bet there's tons of jobs in the USN that don't require a guy to bust a cap in Abu's ass. PAC clerk? Third shop? Stores? Chief of the Boat?

Plus, if these guys really were all self-actualizing and entrepreneurial as the article implies, wouldn't you think that the USN would be begging them to stay in and provide all this special leadership as senior NCOs.

Al just talked about the importance of those salty old Navy chiefs; why isn't this guy moving on from the hard-core hooah infantry fun to a cushy job the regular Navy? Beer and skittles aboard a carrier? Why isn't he heading up the path towards CPO? Why doesn't anyone in this article talk about these guys as future Master Chief Petty Officers of the Navy, as the future Kings of the Goat Locker?

Could it be...that for all the stuff in the article about how special these guys are, when you come down to it - with 16 years in the Navy this Shooter has about the same experience with troop leadership and organizational management as an infantry squad leader, an E-6 on his second or even the end of his first enlistment?

And that the sort of senior leadership you need to have to be a good Chief Petty Officer for a big organization - running a division or being Chief of the Boat - or even be a good teacher, or a stockbroker...requires more, and very different, skills than just "a fist to the helmet"?

And that these guys have, in essence, been frozen in place as infantry squaddies for more than a decade?

There's always been tension between the special operations organizations and the line dogs, but one of the reasons for that is this; these guys ARE good. They're among the best light infantrymen in the world. As a former grunt medic, I gotta respect that.


That's ALL they are.

The Regular Army's problem with senior SF NCOs has always been that - short of the supposed-wartime mission of creating indig armies - an E-7 in SF is a nothing more than a super squad leader. He doesn't even get the experience of leading a platoon of grunts, let alone the experience with combined arms and the logistic and operational business of troop-leading in a combined arms battle.

So could it be that the reason the Navy re-up NCO wasn't chasing this guy is that even with 16 years in he's not really considered all that terrific as a potential line Navy chief?

I don't know, but it makes me wonder; is the Navy and, by inference, the other services doing these guys any favors allowing them to, or making them, make a home in these special operations units? If they really don't have any civilian skills, shouldn't we be making it easy for them to do their thirty years in the Navy (or Army, or Marines) and retire full of years, honors, and a fat pension?

Makes me wonder, anyway.

And finally...

3. There's the obligatory hat-tip to the Crazy Mad National Defending Skilz that these wars are supposed to have been All About; "The Shooter himself, an essential part of the team helping keep us safe since 9/11, is now on his own."

Don't get me wrong. This guy and his teammates have been fighting hard. They've been doing everything they've been asked to do, and more.

But a lot of that fighting has had nothing to do with "keeping us safe."

Everything they did in Iraq?


A hell of a lot that went down in Afghanistan, that involved chasing angry tribesmen around and around the mountains?


And the other stuff? The secret wars in places like Yemen and Somalia?

Who the hell knows? But probably some yesses, some noes.

Look. I was a soldier for years. In a lot of ways I'm still stuck inside the Green Machine. I want my soldier brothers - and that includes this guy, who for all that he wore blue, has fought as a grunt for more than a decade - to get the best life they can out of the nation and the People who employ them.

But I think that a big part of that means that the People should get the whole story about our guys; good, bad, and indifferent. And told straight out, without the attempt to "sell" the guys to the Public. I think that the Public might, just might, for one thing, start wondering why these guys have been doing this for twelve years, and whether it is really "keeping us safe", and whether there might be better ways to do this both for us and for them.

And I don't think that a big part of this article really helps with that instead of just turning it into another war story.

So; question - what do you think? Am I reading too much into this? Is this sort of article part of the problem, part of the solution, both, or neither?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bosworth and Richard III

One of my biggest delights in High School was History. It still is a delight, especially since it is always mixed in with literature and language. All that is much of the cause behind my choice of my life's career in education, teaching Latin and Greek at the Secondary Level. I don't do that anymore, as those subjects and the Humanities give way to the Sciences and Sports when tight financial times "force" cuts in public education and social services.

This is a betrayal against the people of a Democratic State.

But I digress, slightly, for this is not about the piteous treatment public education is undergoing in these times. This piece is about a King and the Battle of the day, Richard III and Bosworth, a betrayal at the last, and the ignoble grave under what became a common English parking lot. I think I can relate to that.

I recall going through English history and literature, the War of the Roses and Shakespeare, though the experience is more than a bit fuzzy now because at that time I was rabid about the American Civil War and getting very interested in the stories from old Greece and Rome. Not that I didn't enjoy the same sort of stories from England and other places, I just did not relate to them as much. After all, what is it that's most important to a typical teenager in High School?

So a long lost King of England pops up onto the pages of world news for a bit of time, and half-remembered times and faces and names from my past pop up too, friends and teachers.

And betrayal.

One of the strongest impressions I have of any of the countless wars throughout history is that of betrayal or, to put a better face on it, divided loyalties. So here is a short half hour on the Battle of Bosworth, and underneath it an article about Richard with a facial reconstruction based upon the remains of his shattered body. Sometime soon, I'll pull out my copy of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart", a good sketch of Mediaeval Warfare and Betrayal.

Perilous Seas

This post is about old "news".

The sad fact is that I've had a post simmering on the hob over at GFT and just haven't had the heart to finish it.

Because it depresses me just to look at it, for what it says about my country.

The roux that started it is found here; the now-public Department of Justice "white paper" laying out the grounds for executive killing of U.S. citizens in league with "Al Qaeda or its associates."

Let me start off by saying this; this isn't "news" in the sense that it is nothing new and nothing startling. The bit about eliding the legal limits on extra-legal killing of citizens is, a bit, but as the position paper spells out there are precedents there for the recommended military actions. This is who we are, and where we've been, since 2001. All this memo does is recapitulate the current views of the executive agencies of the U.S. government regarding the "law of war" of the "War on Terror".

No, what I find so miserably bleak about this is not what it does but what it promises.

For a moment let's step away from the specific circumstances involved, the "non-international conflict" between the United States and whatever it may define as "Al Qaeda and its associates". Let's try and remove the self-fanned furnace of fear and suspicion that fuels the sorts of flights of conspiracy-theory and terror-fantasy and look at the specific acts that this paper justifies.

It posits that the U.S. government can, and should, deploy military force against an individual if
" “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.”
Most commentators have remarked, and worried, about the implications of the vague definition of such terms as "informed, high-level" and "activities". The primary concerns of the critics seem to be about both the very limited sorts of oversight on who gets be the Chooser of the Slain and what "evidence" they need to have to make that choice.

I want to suggest that our concerns, as citizens of a republic that is technically a "government of laws not of men", should be broader and deeper.

Because I want to argue that this memo is simply another link in the chain, the chain we have forged link by link since 2001, that is dragging us closer to a place we may not want to go, a place where the fundamental relationship between the nation-state, our nation-state, and individual people are sharply redefined.

First, I would posit that since the codification of the concept of the modern nation-state a system of law and the status of legal authority differentiates how states deal with each other and how they deal with individuals, persons subject to their own authority as well as foreign nationals.

Relationships between nations are dominated by the reality that there is no higher authority that can bind or loose those nations.

"Higher" levels of organization which do exist, such as the United Nations, have no legal authority, and in practice lack the power of force majeur, to impose conditions or judgements on contending nations.

Rulers of those nations, therefore, often have (or see themselves as having, which comes to the same thing) no practical recourse outside of armed force when dealing with disputes with other nations. There is no functional way to impose legal constraints on a sovereign state outside those imposed by the state itself. Ideally those nations find some way short of force to solve their issues, but failing that force of arms has and presumably will remain the ultimate argument of sovereigns. So we say that "in times of war the law falls silent".

But this rule has a corollary; nations do not make war on individuals, even during wartime. They may kill or maim those individuals as part of that conflict. But AS individuals, when taken as individuals - even as spies - they are dealt with under law, albeit often the laws of war.

A nation-state, at least in theory and typically in practice, that has a disagreement with one of its own citizens will prosecute that conflict through its legal system. Such a system might be corrupt, or misused, or ineffective, or biased...but the very basis of civil society, the place beyond Hobbes' "war of all against all" is that the individual can - must - feel secure that the nation must pursue him or her through the forest of the law.

And this even applies to persons citizens of or subject to foreign nations.

During wartime captured enemies may be tried for violations of the laws of war, or as spies. During the Cold War both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens were tried and convicted and even executed under the law for their actions.

Such citizens may be pursued through the laws of their home country, or may be extradited (or their extradition pursued) to face the rigors of the law of the pursuing nation.

But they remain, as individuals, within the boundaries of the law. Not before this time has the U.S. attempted to deal with individuals or groups of individuals as it has with other nations, arguing that no law exists, that such people should be attacked as a nation may be attacked because there is no alternative.

What I want to suggest that this memo should remind us, and warn us, of the deep, dark, dangerous waters we have ventured out upon with the passage of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force that give the President of the United States the authority " use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

Because, as the DOJ paper merely echoes, this is a revolutionary change in the way the United States defines war, nations, and individuals.

By making "organizations" and "persons" subject to military force this law gives the Executive the power to, in effect, define anyone as an enemy of the state, and as such unprotected by the traditional measures that have shielded individuals from the monstrous power of the modern industrial nation.

And - so long as this law remains in force - there is no legal recourse for any of us who are so defined.

Worse; given the veil of security around the entire process of collecting "evidence", of determining what are "future acts of terrorism", of what constitutes "aiding terrorists" it is entirely likely that an individual's first intimation that he or she was a terrorist would be the arrival of a missile through the living-room window.

We have all read of the recent fulminations of those Americans who are beyond incensed by what they see as the U.S. government's frightful plan to violate their rights under the Second Amendment. Groups, often angry groups, have rallied, protested, are even now speaking out in strident tones at the dreadful spectre of the loss of individual liberty inherent in the proposals now debated in various public fora.

But this...this vast and restless expanse of unlimited power, this immense, lethal sea-change in the relationship between the individual, whether foreign or citizen, and the U.S. government...remains there in public view largely not just unfought but unexamined. The broader implications - implications that frighten me when I consider the possibility that actions that I might take, say, to protest some act of my government or its allies might place me beyond all legal safety into that Hobbesean bourne from which few travelers may hope to return safely - are taken simply as an accomplished fact, the new reality of our world, the fixed bounds of the power of our nation and the settled relations between it and us.

I know this, and yet, like most of us I pass through the days without thinking about it, like a sailor who sails calm seas and gentle breezes, never considering what might happen if the winds began to rise and the sea turn rough. It is only when I am forced to contemplate the perils of the deep waters charted by such documents as this one that I am fearful of the storms we may be brewing for ourselves.
And, of course, these are the wastes to which these storms will drive you; from Charles Pierce's observations on the Brennan hearings today:
"It was most clear when Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a persistent critic of the administration's drone program, asked Brennan point-blank whether the president could order a drone strike on an American citizen inside the United States and Brennan didn't — or couldn't — give him an answer. What evidence, Wyden asked, does the president need to engage a drone strike? And could that power be used inside the United States?

"I have been a string proponent of being as open as possible," Brennan answered. "I believe we should optimize transparency and optimize secrecy and national security concerns. We can do both. The Office Of Legal Counsel advice established the boundaries, and we don't operate at those boundaries."

The man whom the administration has put up to head the CIA would not say whether or not the president of the United States has the power to order the extrajudicial killing of a United States citizen within the borders of the United States. (And a thousand heads on conspiracy websites explode.) And the hearing, remarkably, went on as though nothing untoward had happened.

He also couldn't answer straight out whether waterboarding is torture. He hid behind legalities as Carl Levin fumed. "I am not a lawyer," Brennan kept saying. People kept congratulating him for the blunt, straight answers he was giving. It was like watching an exotic tribe worship in its native tongue. This was not America as it would recognize itself. This was the worship of a different god."
And not, needless to add, a god of the bright shallows and clear skies, but a deity of an entirely different and stormy ocean.

God Bless Senior NCOs!

One of the few "up sides" to the economic woes here is that the Greek satellite TV service, NOVA, as well as our island movie houses, have begun showing a lot of "classic" and older hit movies.  Since the royalties are lower, they can show "more for less".  (We have one "commercial" movie house, and the municipality shows a weekly movie in two towns, with the proceeds going to philanthropic ends.)

So, what does this have to do with Senior NCOs?  Last night, NOVA broadcast "Crimson Tide", the story of a conflict between an "Old Navy" nuclear sub commander and his "New Navy" XO when faced with a "coin toss" decision as to whether or not a nuke salvo should be launched.The CO states that they will launch, as their last successfully received message said so, and the XO says there is reason to think that a garbled subsequent message could be a launch cancellation, and thus will not concur.  There ensues a verbal battle between CO and XO over the "right and wrong" of the launch, which is time sensitive in the plot, with the XO ultimately "relieving" the CO and taking command, cancelling the launch order and maneuvering the sub to try to get a another shot at receiving the garbled message.  Obviously, the officers and men of the boat are cast as "taking sides" in the conflict, debating wheter to launch or not. 

However, it is the Chief of the Boat who makes the most profound statement.  When the XO thanks him for supporting the XO's decision to "relieve" the Captain, the COB simply said, "I did not side with you sir.  I side with the Navy, and the Navy says there must be CO and XO agreement to launch.  By the book, that means no launch, no matter what I think."  And then the COB performed his duties under the XO turned CO in his already demonstrated, impeccable manner, while it was clear that other officers and men were supporting a "cause" or personality as the story plays out.

My bet is that, amongst all the moral and ethical debate of the consequences of either option, most people miss how significant this one statement by the COB really was.   The only "lawful order", by the book, was not to launch.  Any further ethical, tactical or strategic debate over potential outcomes, was irrelevant.  All so often a good Sr NCO is a most invaluable "right arm", the writers scripted this COB well, and made me mindful of the Sr NCOs that aided me so exquisitely over the years.   Roughly three sentences captured the essence of what it is all about, and why guidance such as that was so valuable to so many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. 

The Meaning of Imminent, Update

As was discussed six months ago here in the Pub, apparently the meaning of imminent is not nearly as imminent as some people thought it was.  Well, better late than never I suppose.
“The condition that an operational  leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.
 Not sure whether the fact that this sort of mental leap is enshrined in a legal document should be comforting or depressing.