Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Boozin' it up in Bahrain

Over the weekend, the Navy Times published (h/t Politico's Morning Defense) an expose on Naval Captain David Geisler, who was fired in late 2011 from his post commanding the 5th Fleets logistical operations in Bahrain.  His crime?  Partying too hard.
The article describes the frat-house culture among U.S. officers in Bahrain, a culture championed by Commodore Geisler, who at one event in Bahrain's Floating City (a man-made island development with canals in full view of apartments and sidewalks) "spent the afternoon drinking and floating in an inner tube on the canal, removed his bathing suit and swam nude."  This was not out of the ordinary.  Going by the nickname "Hoss,"  Geisler used his government issued email and blackberry to set up weekend get-togethers and club nights, including toga parties and lingerie parties (one participant remembers Hoss wearing black silk shorts to the latter).

While there is a humorous, Sergeant Bilko-esque quality to all of this, there is also a serious side.  As the Navy Times article recounts:
Officers began to feel that an “in-crowd” had formed around Geisler and grew suspicious he was choosing his buddies for trips with him, bestowing them with awards and bailing them out when they got in trouble.
Sailors saw a double standard — they heard tales of their commodore at wild parties and rumors that he and his “crew” had been out past curfew, transgressions for which they’d be punished.
“I clearly get the feeling that our enlisted folks are beginning to resent the officer[s] because there is a perception that officers can do whatever they want,” one officer said in a sworn statement, adding that this is why they had avoided the parties. “It is clearly creating an environment of favoritism.”
The late, great sociologist Chalmers Johnson has also written about the negative effects this type of military base behavior has on host countries, often turning populations against the bases when the exploits go from rowdy to dangerous, such as sexual assaults committed by American soldiers in South Korea.  In Middle Eastern countries, where the populations are sometimes deeply Islamic and thus not in favor of alcohol or sexual proclivity, the potential for antagonism grows even larger.  The article quotes a Navy spokesman as saying they are "unaware of any host-nation impact" spawning from the Geisler's party crew, however coupled with the popular uprisings against the U.S. allied al-Khalifa regime, the situation seems like a tinderbox just waiting to be set alight.

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