Passive Aggression
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Passive Aggression

The problem with being a submariner is the need, at almost all times, to be passive. A submarine lives and dies with its ability to remain hidden. A submariner never, ever considers doing something overt, something obtrusive, something that might give away the submariner's ultimate advantage, the secret of his location.

In practicing the tactics of fighting other ships, a submariner's fundamental precept is that of locating, and shooting, the opponent through the exclusive use of analysis and logic. Such active methods as radar are never considered. To use the radar is to give away one's location. The winning secret is to listen. Not to put large amounts of radio frequency into the ether, as in radar. Not to put large amounts of acoustic energy into the water, as in active sonar. But to listen. To detect. To analyze. To study. To track. To follow. To stalk. And to kill.

Listening is a skill not normally prized in military exercises. The average military killer wants to come screaming in at the target, intimidating the quarry, confusing it, trying to cause it to freeze in indecision or fear or surrender. A submariner, on the other hand, must always sneak up on the target, quiet, cautious, careful, analytical, cold, ruthless, lethal. Ideally, the first hint that a target receives of a submariner's existence is the moment at which the torpedo explodes, wreaking havoc and destruction from which the victim never has a chance to recover and to respond.

The submariner's passive attack is a demanding and draining one. Much interpretation of data is required. The submarine skipper must put himself inside his opponent's head, studying his actions, predicting his behavior, carefully crafting a plot line that will entice a target into the submarine's web. And the tactical data that is available is incomplete. When you can't echo-range off your enemy you can't know exactly how far away he is. Sometimes you can't even know vaguely how far away he is. You might as well be fighting a phantom.

When the firing solution is finally assured, and is locked into the Torpedo Data Computer, the submarine skipper finally says, in a quiet, confident command, "Fire One. Fire Two. Fire Three."

There is no need to raise his voice at such a time.

The submariner does not yell in triumph. The submariner does not indulge in extreme maneuvers of exultation. The submariner does not display insulting hand gestures in the direction of his opponent. After he fires his weapons, the submariner sits silently and waits. He looks at his feet. He looks into the eyes of his second-in-command. He waits.

Eventually, someone in the conning tower says, "One minute."

The submariner looks at the passive sonar display. He looks at the solution displayed on the face of the Torpedo Data Computer. He looks at the Weapons Officer. They stare at each other silently.

The voice says, "Two minutes."

The Operations Officer silently shows the skipper the recommended evasive maneuvers that might become necessary if the torpedoes miss their marks. The submariner nods, assimilating the information, but not commenting. The torpedo continues toward its target.

The Weapons Officer reports, "Converging bearings," meaning that the torpedo, in its deadly haste, is closing in on the target.

The submariner positions himself at the periscope. He cannot see anything, since the periscope is hidden in its lowered position. But there is no better place to stand. The skipper waits.

There is sudden awareness that the torpedo has struck its target. If this had been a real, wartime attack, other good seamen would be dying. It is too late for the target to respond. The sonar receiver would be relaying the noises of the other ship sinking, crushing, dying. The submariner thinks of the sailors that he has just pretended to kill. He wonders about their families. He wonders if he will see his own family again. He contemplates the whim of fate that decided that he would survive this incident and that his opponent hypothetically would not.

The submariner returns to his stateroom to be alone with his thoughts. The military training of the crew enables it to return to a normal routine. The torpedo rooms are returned to ship-shape condition. The paperwork, minimal in relation to its import, is put in order. The cooks prepare the meal, and the stewards serve it.

The submariner attempts to carry out the customary routines of his boat and of his civilization. When the evening meal is served, he sits at the table and makes small talk with the other officers. There are more lulls in the conversation than usual. Eventually the meal is over. The submariner looks for something that he can do to pretend to be celebrating his victory. He loudly asks for a second slice of pie. He rolls the dice with the Navigator to decide who will buy cigars for the two of them. He talks about his plans for putting his older child through college.

He retires to the solitude of his stateroom, and he pretends to read. Eventually, he pretends to sleep.

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