Navy mass punishment: Unfair and ineffective

Once again, an off-base incident in Okinawa, caused by an off-duty intoxicated sailor, has led the admiral who commands all U.S. naval forces throughout the islands to go overboard and punish the entire force for the transgressions of one person.

Petty Officer Aimee Mejia caused a three-car wreck by driving the wrong way on a freeway while apparently alcohol-impaired.  For that offense by a single sailor, 18,600 of her shipmates have been restricted to their bases and forbidden from consuming alcohol, on or off base, for an indeterminate period.  Rear Admiral Matthew Carter, chief of naval forces, Japan, issued that draconian edict on Monday as a sop to both his politically correct superiors and the government of Japan.

Let's call this overkill punishment what it is: a hastily issued form of apology to mitigate any demonstrations that are sure to be mounted by the leftist, anti-U.S. Japanese political factions that never miss an excuse to demand that all U.S. forces be withdrawn from their country.  Rather than throw the book at the offending sailor in a very public court-martial while simultaneously generously compensating the Japanese parties involved in the incident for injuries and damages, no – we punish nearly 20,000 innocent American citizens who did nothing, just to demonstrate our sincerity and determination.

Yeah, right, Admiral Carter – as you and the rest of us all know full well, locking up thousands of sailors and denying them adult beverages for long enough to constitute what you consider a satisfactory penance is certain to prevent incidents like this in the future.  It's not as though it were a fact of life that navies are made up of young people and young people have a proclivity to drink to excess and sometimes operate motor vehicles when they shouldn't.  But you, instead of punishing the few who transgress, are going to make your entire command pay just so you can make the grand gesture.  That gesture, by the way, is most assuredly soon to be criticized by the Japanese themselves as this grounding of our troops plays holy hell with their local economies.

Then there's the matter of troop morale and retention, Admiral Carter.  How many first-time enlistees who have been subjected to your whimsical ability to make their lives suddenly miserable just to satisfy your own mea culpa are going think back on that experience when weighing the pros and cons of re-enlisting?  Mass punishment is effective only as long as it is in effect.  As soon as it's lifted, the irresponsible sailors in your force will go right back to being so, perhaps with even more zeal built up during their restraint.  Your responsible sailors will go on being so, just as they always do, but with less respect for your leadership, because, unlike you, they know that mass punishment is damned well unfair and employed only by unimaginative leaders who, not knowing what else to do, resort to meaningless gestures.

In the matter of apologies and mass punishment, a commenter at another site suggested that every time an illegal Mexican national gets picked up in a drunk driving accident in this country, we arrest a thousand other illegal Mexican nationals and imprison them for an indeterminate period, only releasing them back to their native country when the Mexican president publicly apologizes to the people of America for the one drunk's bad behavior.  At the rate Mexican illegals get arrested for drunk driving and causing accidents when driving impaired, it wouldn't be too long before millions of them were either in jail or back in Mexico.  California alone would probably be incarcerating a million per week, with Texas not far behind.  And unlike with sailors, if you locked up that many illegal Mexicans, the crime rates would drop dramatically.

See, Admiral Carter?  That idea makes about as much sense as your mass punishment does.  You know, if it's just a high-level apology you need, there's a guy in Washington who just loves....

I’m not saying that this Liberal grandstanding would not have happened if Trump was still in charge of the event, but it was certainly front and center under the new regime’s first run.

Thomas Lifson adds:

I am very familiar with the situation in Okinawa, which hosts half of the US forces stationed in Japan, and which is the poorest prefecture in Japan. There is a bubbling cauldron of resentment, much of it historically grounded, and every time local people suffer at the hands of misbehavior by US troops, there are strong calls to remove the bases.

I am certain that the commander is very worried about the continued viability of his forces’ location in Okinawa. From a public relations standpoint, this inexcusable incident requires some form of sacrifice on the part of the offending party – not simply the individual but the collective. In the Japanese tradition, an artful act of seppuku on the commander’s part might well be an effective symbol of responsibility taken. However, that is not consistent with our own traditions.

The analogy to Mexicans in the United States is completely flawed. Drunk drivers are not here as representatives of the Mexican government, enjoying special diplomatic status, and occupying bases on our soil.

Collective punishment is unpleasant and unfair to the innocent. But it also can create peer pressure to behave better. I am not familiar enough with the specifics of the situation to judge – was the sailor out drinking alone, or were there peers with her? But I am certain that the commander had the big picture in mind: the continued ability of US forces to use the bases. It is not merely the left that is upset over the bases, though the left are the first to capitalize on any incidents.

Once again, an off-base incident in Okinawa, caused by an off-duty intoxicated sailor, has led the admiral who commands all U.S. naval forces throughout the islands to go overboard and punish the entire force for the transgressions of one person.

Petty Officer Aimee Mejia caused a three-car wreck by driving the wrong way on a freeway while apparently alcohol-impaired.  For that offense by a single sailor, 18,600 of her shipmates have been restricted to their bases and forbidden from consuming alcohol, on or off base, for an indeterminate period.  Rear Admiral Matthew Carter, chief of naval forces, Japan, issued that draconian edict on Monday as a sop to both his politically correct superiors and the government of Japan.

Let's call this overkill punishment what it is: a hastily issued form of apology to mitigate any demonstrations that are sure to be mounted by the leftist, anti-U.S. Japanese political factions that never miss an excuse to demand that all U.S. forces be withdrawn from their country.  Rather than throw the book at the offending sailor in a very public court-martial while simultaneously generously compensating the Japanese parties involved in the incident for injuries and damages, no – we punish nearly 20,000 innocent American citizens who did nothing, just to demonstrate our sincerity and determination.

Yeah, right, Admiral Carter – as you and the rest of us all know full well, locking up thousands of sailors and denying them adult beverages for long enough to constitute what you consider a satisfactory penance is certain to prevent incidents like this in the future.  It's not as though it were a fact of life that navies are made up of young people and young people have a proclivity to drink to excess and sometimes operate motor vehicles when they shouldn't.  But you, instead of punishing the few who transgress, are going to make your entire command pay just so you can make the grand gesture.  That gesture, by the way, is most assuredly soon to be criticized by the Japanese themselves as this grounding of our troops plays holy hell with their local economies.

Then there's the matter of troop morale and retention, Admiral Carter.  How many first-time enlistees who have been subjected to your whimsical ability to make their lives suddenly miserable just to satisfy your own mea culpa are going think back on that experience when weighing the pros and cons of re-enlisting?  Mass punishment is effective only as long as it is in effect.  As soon as it's lifted, the irresponsible sailors in your force will go right back to being so, perhaps with even more zeal built up during their restraint.  Your responsible sailors will go on being so, just as they always do, but with less respect for your leadership, because, unlike you, they know that mass punishment is damned well unfair and employed only by unimaginative leaders who, not knowing what else to do, resort to meaningless gestures.

In the matter of apologies and mass punishment, a commenter at another site suggested that every time an illegal Mexican national gets picked up in a drunk driving accident in this country, we arrest a thousand other illegal Mexican nationals and imprison them for an indeterminate period, only releasing them back to their native country when the Mexican president publicly apologizes to the people of America for the one drunk's bad behavior.  At the rate Mexican illegals get arrested for drunk driving and causing accidents when driving impaired, it wouldn't be too long before millions of them were either in jail or back in Mexico.  California alone would probably be incarcerating a million per week, with Texas not far behind.  And unlike with sailors, if you locked up that many illegal Mexicans, the crime rates would drop dramatically.

See, Admiral Carter?  That idea makes about as much sense as your mass punishment does.  You know, if it's just a high-level apology you need, there's a guy in Washington who just loves....

I’m not saying that this Liberal grandstanding would not have happened if Trump was still in charge of the event, but it was certainly front and center under the new regime’s first run.

Thomas Lifson adds:

I am very familiar with the situation in Okinawa, which hosts half of the US forces stationed in Japan, and which is the poorest prefecture in Japan. There is a bubbling cauldron of resentment, much of it historically grounded, and every time local people suffer at the hands of misbehavior by US troops, there are strong calls to remove the bases.

I am certain that the commander is very worried about the continued viability of his forces’ location in Okinawa. From a public relations standpoint, this inexcusable incident requires some form of sacrifice on the part of the offending party – not simply the individual but the collective. In the Japanese tradition, an artful act of seppuku on the commander’s part might well be an effective symbol of responsibility taken. However, that is not consistent with our own traditions.

The analogy to Mexicans in the United States is completely flawed. Drunk drivers are not here as representatives of the Mexican government, enjoying special diplomatic status, and occupying bases on our soil.

Collective punishment is unpleasant and unfair to the innocent. But it also can create peer pressure to behave better. I am not familiar enough with the specifics of the situation to judge – was the sailor out drinking alone, or were there peers with her? But I am certain that the commander had the big picture in mind: the continued ability of US forces to use the bases. It is not merely the left that is upset over the bases, though the left are the first to capitalize on any incidents.