It has been a rough few months in the public relations department for the Marine Corps.
In separate incidents, the Corps has taken hits in the last few months for the hazing-related death of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, the revelation that Marines in Afghanistan urinated on the corpses of dead Taliban last year and the scout sniper community’s use of the stylized “lighting bolt” SS logo popularized by the notorious Nazi SS organization.
Time Magazine’s military blog, Battleland, ties those themes together in a blog post today provocatively titled, “What’s wrong with the Marines?” Some readers will be quick to point out the mainstream media’s alleged hatred for the military, but it’s worth considering where Battleland got its fodder: an active-duty officer.
Capt. Brett Friedman argues on the Marine Corps Gazette’s blog that while it’s possible rank-and-file sniper in the recent logo controversy didn’t know the symbol’s significance, it’s not possible that all staff noncommissioned officers and officers in charge of scout sniper units across the Corps didn’t.
“No way,” he writes. “They just refused to do anything about it.”
Friedman then broadens his argument to make a broader point: “We don’t know how to supervise anymore.” A segment of his piece:
Our culture has brought us to the point where we all bear responsibility for these events. Every one of us. Every NCO who is more concerned with knocking out a checklist than mentoring his young Marines. Every SNCO who spends time searching out uniform regulation infractions. Every officer more concerned with paperwork and formats than setting an example. Every Marine, of any rank, who has told a subordinate to “shut up and color” when he or she pointed out that something was wrong. Our acquiescence to a culture of corrosive leadership has created this problem. We allowed leadership to be conflated with the creation and rote memorization of irrelevant regulations. We stopped mentoring and started poor parenting. We allowed bureaucratization to drown professionalism. We fostered a belief that we are special snowflakes who need rules, but not morality. We hazed Lance Corporal Lew. We desecrated human bodies. We posed in front of Nazi symbology. It’s our fault that the Commandant has had to publicly apologize for a problem that our poor leadership caused.
Friedman isn’t pulling punches, and he isn’t some outsider looking in. One wonders: What kind of attention will his writing receive?