Chain Of Command Part 2: The Procedure.


The background of this thought experiment can be read here.

This thought experiment is designed to examine problems involving “chain of command” sovereignty, responsibility, and the distinction between Form V Reality regarding problems of Neo-Royalism, or Neocameralism.

I defined Form V Reality in the following terms:

“  Form is defined here as formal, legal, bureaucratic procedures governing and regulating human behaviour, specifically sovereign behaviour. 

Reality is defined here, expansively, as actual human psychology. Specifically, human emotions such as fear, pride and anger. Furthermore, the reality of human coalition building, factionalism, lust for power, and the fact that humans bend, twist, subvert, abandon and work around rules and procedures for their own benefit.”

For example, formally you are supposed to do X – such as having no conflict of interest while serving in government; however, in reality, you have a “sweet heart deal” with a large corporation after you “retire”. In return for beneficial regulation, you get a nice little job in the private sector arranged by the corporation.

Another example is with, say, employee misconduct. Formally, you are supposed to follow the rules and punish them, with procedures, records etc. However, you have a “quiet” word with the employee.

Again, the object here is to:

 present a hyper-formal picture of a “case” involving a corporate or organisation problem. The reader, however, is invited to offer a Real picture. That is, when I say XYZ formally, the reader is invited to offer up possibility ABC in Reality.

Using the “ship of state” metaphor, we are examining the problem of a bad, or irresponsible or incompetent ruler. The set-up is that the Captain of the ship is suffering from a progressive “mental instability” that will, according to the ship’s Doctor, impair his judgement to such an extent that it will put the lives of the crew in danger. The Captain, however, refuses treatment because it would mean that he would have to relinquish his command. The problem for SS Fredrick is that it is stranded in space (it could just as well be the ocean). Thus, there is no “higher authority” to appeal to. The problem must be dealt with internally.

Informal background.

Before presenting the formal procedure, let’s consider how the background might play out informally.

First, the doctor may have a “quiet” word with the Captain, perhaps over drinks, a card game or something. The Doctor might simply drop some “hints.” If that didn’t work, suppose that the doctor confronted the captain in a mock, semi-serious, angry way. He might say, with an exaggerated imperious voice: “you better relax and get some treatment, or I will have you relieved of your command.”

This approach is a signal to the Captain that provides him with serious, potentially humiliating information, but does so in a way that allows him to save face.

Suppose this does not work, however?

The next step would be for the doctor to have a “quiet” “heart-to-heart.” The doctor appeals perhaps to the Captain’s sense of duty and responsibility: the possibility that he is putting the life of the crew in danger. In short, the Doctor is using “tact” and informal persuasion.

Suppose this does not work?

Perhaps, the next thing the Doctor will do is to go to the Councillor, and try to get (her?) to have a quiet, friendly chat.

Lastly, perhaps the last thing that could be tried is an “intervention” with the senior officers present – where they plead for the Captain to “get help.”

Finally, after these informal ways have failed what next?

Formally, there is the “procedure.”

Informally, of course, there is a “coup” or mutiny.

Let’s now turn to the formal procedure, however.

The Procedure.

1: Doctor.

The Doctor prepares a dossier detailing the symptoms, giving the diagnosis, outlining the prognosis and providing his conclusion in writing that the Captain is no longer fit for duty. However, he details that the Captain has failed to respond to any informal advice numerous times, including an intervention from the Councillor, and a meeting of the senior officers.

Branch: Would/should the Doctor get a second opinion? On a ship, a second opinion from another doctor may not be possible because there is no other doctor. Maybe, the nearest thing would be a “nurse” or a surgeon. The point here is that the Doctor’s judgement is backed by another medical specialist.

Another possibility is that the ship may have an AI that could also assist in the diagnosis; furthermore, the Councillor may also be trained in basic medicine, and could also offer a second opinion.

One problem, however, is contamination of opinion. Ideally, the Doctor would want to have the “second” provide a judgement on the case that is not tainted by awareness that the subject is the ship’s Captain. An AI poses no problem here, but maybe the Doctor would need to engage in some subterfuge if he was getting a human opinion – pretend that the dossier is not on the Captain, for instance.

Finally, the Doctor presents his dossier to the Provost Marshal (PM).

(If this is all not clear to you, the analogy here is like a Supreme Court Justice preparing a case that the Executive has “violated the constitution.”

See this also: )


2: Provost Marshal.

The PM is the chief legal officer on the ship. He is basically a judge who will adjudicate court-martials. On the ship there are rules or laws. And the PM is the person whose job is to understand those rules, and to exercise judgement regarding those rules. See:

Branch: Does the PM reach verdicts himself or does he simply administer “points of law” and let a jury decide? I am going to go with points of law and jury.

Branch: Is there only one judge or could there be more? For example, you may have a permanent, professional judge but who is also assisted in a court-martial with the XO or Captain.

Let’s go with just one judge.

So, the Doctor hands the dossier to the PM.

The task for the PM is to read the dossier and come to a judgement that the evidence presented in the dossier is or is not sufficient to trigger a hearing on the Captain’s competency. Note, the PM is not deciding that the Captain is competent or not, or that the doctor is correct in his judgement, but that the evidence is sufficient to trigger the need for a hearing.

Suppose the PM reaches the conclusion that a hearing is necessary, what next?

Formally speaking, his next duty is to communicate with the XO (Second in Command) and the Security Chief (SC).

3: XO and Security Chief.

The Provost Marshal must inform the XO and SC.


Firstly, because the Captain will need to be temporally relieved of command, which means that the XO will have to take command. Secondly, the SC must be informed because he will have to order his men to escort the Captain to the hearing, and ensure the “smooth transition” of power.

The XO and the SC will then need to decide when and where to begin the procedure.

Let’s suppose that they decide that the next day, at 6AM, when the Captain is awakened by his aide, the SC will inform the Captain of the summons. At the same time, the XO will move to the bridge, where he will formally take command and control.

4: Escort.

At 6AM the next day, the Captain is informed by the SC, assisted by a sergeant at arms, that the Provost Marshall has summoned the Captain to a hearing. At the same time, the XO is on the Bridge and takes command and control of the ship.

The Captain is promptly escorted to the PM.

5: Preliminary Hearing.

The Captain is escorted to the PM.

The PM, the Captain, escorted by a sergeant at arms, now begins the preliminaries.

The PM informs the Captain of the nature of the summons. He informs the Captain that the Doctor has submitted a dossier that claims that, according to the Doctor’s judgement, the Captain, due to a medical condition, is no longer fit to serve without treatment.

The PM informs the Captain that the summons does not mean that the Captain is actually unfit, only that a sufficient body of evidence warrants, in the judgement of the PM, to hold a hearing.

The PM hands over a copy of the dossier to the Captain. The PM then begins a negotiation over when the Captain wishes to have the hearing, as he will need time to prepare his case, if he wishes to contest the Doctor’s judgement. The Captain, indeed, wishes to contest it, right here and now.

The PM, however, stipulates, much to the disagreement of the Captain, that two days, with the possibility of an extension, will be provided for the Captain to prepare his defence.

The Captain is then escorted to his quarters, where he is confined; however, if anyone wishes to visit him, they must first get permission of the PM. The Captain can, of course, request people to visit him.

6: Hearing.

The hearing’s purpose is to reach a determination whether or not the Captain is fit for duty.

The PM presides over the case, and adjudicates over points of law – procedure. It is the task of the jury, however, to reach a verdict as to whether or not the Captain should be relieved of duty.

The question now is of the makeup of the jury.

7: The Jury.

Firstly, the Doctor must be excluded.


Because he is, in a way, the one who is making the claim and the supposition here is that he would not be impartial. The point of the jury is to be “impartial”. Evidently, this raises something of a problem because the person who is most capable of making the judgement of the Captain’s fitness is the Doctor. Yet, the Doctor is excluded.

Ideally, a different doctor or another medical professional should serve. However, what if they provided the second opinion? Should they be excluded?

Secondly, we exclude the XO. Why? One reason is the possibility, in a case such as this, that the XO is working to have the Captain removed from command. If the XO is not a member of the jury, then this limits the possibility of a conflict of interest.

Thirdly, should the Councillor be exempted from the jury?  They tried to persuade the Captain to relieve himself, so they might be biased. A more general reason, however, to exclude the Councillor is that having them serve on the jury would compromise their position as a kind of neutral “sounding board”. However, the Councillor may be one of the best crew members to actually participate in the jury because of the presumed skills in human interaction that they have. Perhaps, a deputy or junior Councillor could perform, provided there was one. Finally, the Councillor is, in fact, a witness, so one would have to exclude them because of that.

The Jury thus consists of:

The Security Chief.

The Chief Engineer.

The Chaplain.

The Commissar General.

This, however, only has four jury-members. Suppose we want to have an odd number. In order to reach an odd number, let’s suppose a junior officer, or a senior NCO is drafted.

Branch: Is the make-up of the jury a good one? Would a different make-up be better? Would a random selection be better? Each of the officers selected are tasked with key responsibilities; accordingly, the presumption is that they are the most capable of forming a judgement as to the nature of the evidence, and also the possibility that if the Captain goes untreated, there is unacceptable risk to the crew.

8: The Procedure of the Hearing.

A: The PM opens the hearing. He begins by asking if the Captain needs more time to prepare, and if he has reason to complain of unfair treatment, or actions that have hurt his ability to have a fair hearing.

B: Next, the PM explains the nature of the hearing to the jury.

C: The Doctor delivers his presentation to the jury.

D: The Captain, who has chosen to represent himself, cross-examines the Doctor.

E: The PM calls witnesses whose testimony was part of the Doctor’s case.

F: The Doctor examines the witnesses.

G: The Captain cross-examines the witnesses.

H: The Captain then delivers his opening speech to the jury.

I: The Captain then provides witnesses, if he chooses to bring forth any.

J: The Doctor delivers his concluding statement, as does the Captain.

K: The PM delivers instructions to the jury.

L: The jury retires to deliberate.

Branch: Should the Doctor be conducting the hearing in this way? He is the one, however, who is best to deliver the presentation, and question the witnesses. Clearly, there are different ways to conduct a hearing such as this. Is the above the best one, however?


The jury concludes their deliberation.

The jury delivers their verdict.

Branch: The question is should the verdict be unanimous? Majority vote? Is there a right answer here? Let’s stipulate that that the verdict must be majority based.

The verdict of the jury is that the Doctor’s judgement – that the Captain is no longer fit for duty – is valid.

Branch: Does this verdict mean that the PM must and will relieve the Captain of command at once? Will the PM post-pone this to a later date? Is there an appeal procedure?

Let’s stipulate that the PM determines that he will execute the verdict of the jury at once, and that the Captain will be removed from command and placed under the care of the Doctor.

10: Conclusion.

The formal procedure is concluded and the Captain is relieved of his command.

As we have noted at various branch points, there are many possible ways that the outcome could have been reached. I do not present this as the best procedure, only that it is plausible one. The reader is invited to offer comments and criticisms and suggest alternatives.

Now, this is what is SUPPOSED to happen IF everyone follows FORMAL PROCEDURE.

The task now, is to consider how such formal procedures could break down, how they could be gamed, exploited or just ignored.

To take one simple example, suppose at step 3, the XO refuses to accept the judgement of the PM and orders the Security Chief to ignore all orders from the PM. The XO does this because he is (irrationally?) loyal to the Captain.

What then?

Does the PM order the SC to arrest the XO for failing to carry out a legitimate order? What if the SC simply tells the PM to “fuck off”?

What if the XO and the SC bicker, with the XO refusing to cooperate with the PM, but that the SC is willing to follow orders?

There are many ways formal procedure can break down, or not be followed.

So, my invitation to readers is to consider these possibilities, and what, if anything, can be done.

Again, the point of this exercise is to consider how the problem of an incompetent, dangerous or irresponsible Sovereign can be dealt with that is  smooth, stable, effective and as non-violent as possible.

Here is what I wrote in Part 1:

Let’s name this Problem 1: the doctor judges that the Captain should be relieved, and that the doctor intends to have this judgment enforced.

Problem 2 is that the Captain refuses the doctor’s request to relieve himself voluntarily.

Our problem, the problem we want to consider as “political engineers” is: What Should Happen? What rules, or procedures, should be in place to handle this conflict of 1 and 2?

Call that Problem 3: What Should Happen Formally.

However, we have Problem 4.

Problem 4 is the problem of thinking, designing and deciding the answer to Problem 3, from the standpoint as political engineers who are considering the Real, as opposed to the Form of Problem 3.

In the next part, I will consider some Real scenarios.





One thought on “Chain Of Command Part 2: The Procedure.

  1. Pingback: STEEL-cameralism v Absolutism. – IMPERIAL ENERGY

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