The Proceedings Flap

September 06, 1995

It is not difficult to see why a lot of people are offended by an article written by an aide for U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm for Proceedings, a magazine for career Navy personnel.

The fictional tale is a satire of Navy life in the not-too-distant future in which the author mocks the concepts of women and ethnic diversity in the military and foreshadows a warm-and-fuzzy Navy more concerned with rain forest preservation than defense.

The story features war ships equipped with day-care nurseries and a sailor who wins a lawsuit claiming his commander (who serves aboard the U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder) was insensitive to his "IndoUgric" heritage. The piece clearly is a wistful plea for less complicated days of yore, when the Navy was for men and no one worried about whether minorities were adequately represented or treated fairly.

Those of us who have seen women triumph over the rigors of Naval Academy training and who believe diversity strengthens any organization are bound to disagree with this article's message -- namely, that diversifying the Navy will destroy it.

Nonetheless, there's no reason why Proceedings should not have carried the piece. The magazine is not the voice of the U.S. Navy; it is published by the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, a private organization. And though top Navy leaders sit on its Board of Control, the views of contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Navy any more than the views of the various columnists on The Sun's Opinion-Commentary page reflect those of the newspaper.

Whether women belong on combat vessels and to what extent the Navy should seek out minority recruits remain controversial issues for people affiliated with the Navy. Those who feel the sentiments expressed in the article are antiquated and bigoted would prefer that Proceedings not dignify the opposing view by publishing it.

But many Navy personnel sincerely fear that abandoning the old ways means a less effective fighting force. These people are part of Proceedings' audience. It makes sense that the magazine would continue to debate and explore a variety of perspectives on these sensitive matters.

Yes, the satire reflects a "reactionary, fear-of-the-future attitude," as an aide for Congresswoman Schroeder put it. But the author has a right to his opinion, and he chose an appropriate vehicle for expressing it.

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