Category Archive 'US Navy'
24 Sep 2017

Why the US Navy Keeps Running into Merchant Ships

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Homeland Security interviews an anonymous captain.

Captain F:
[N]ow we had a situation where you had decommissioned a large portion of the fleet. We are down close to 255 ships or so the last I looked, and we are still heading downward. On top of that, you were asking those ships we had to do jobs previously done by larger, better-armed and better-manned vessels.

It did not take me long after I took command of Fleet Training Center Norfolk in ‘98 to realize that I was supposedly training the chiefs and first-class petty officers of the new ships and that I would soon be expected to train the lower rank 2nd class petty officers and below. In other words, we should have been taking into account the fact that each of those men was going to have to have the knowledge, skills and abilities of about six people in order to do their jobs. The DDX was originally meant to be manned by 75 people versus the 250 to 350 men found on either the DDG51s, Spruance cans or Tico cruisers.

The LCS was even worse. They were expected to come into the fleet with a minimally manned ship of under 50.

IM: There was a large drawdown in the ‘90s. Many military bases closed. This continued until 2000?

Captain F: After all that was going on in the ‘90s, we also had a mandate to transform the Navy; build a better tooth-to-tail ratio and cut the personnel budgets. Think about it: if you can’t cut capital infrastructure such as ships, then the only place to look is manning.

From my perspective in the training world, that meant we had to figure out how to cut the costs of training by doing it smarter and with technology. Up until then, all Navy schools delivered training the same way – blue smock, pointer and blackboards.

The personnel command was meant to transform the way we assigned people to ships, considering the skills they had, to ensure that the right folks were assigned. That is how and why Task Force Excel came into being in 2000. Donald Rumsfeld came in as Secretary of Defense and instituted large transformation efforts.

From the Navy perspective, the CNO was Vern Clark and he fully supported the transformation efforts. We did a lot of good work and instituted a lot of change.

But as in all organizations, resistance to change can be powerful. In my opinion, to successfully get anything established, you should have at least seven years. We had that barely before the CNO retired, and a new one took his place and the resistance built back up.

IM: So it’s a leadership issue?

Captain F: What gave out was leadership. The admirals did not put their careers on the line and object about anything. They rolled over to save themselves. That is the big picture. From a more localized perspective, the direct in-line people, COs, XOs and MCPOs, also rolled over.

There is no way on my ships that would have happened. We always had direct leadership. Leadership that was there, present and capable. I am willing to bet that those ships involved in incidents with merchants had all their sexual orientation, transgender training, and environmental training all completed at the expense of the safety and operational training.

If you put the emphasis on social issues, you get a social force. If you put it on operational issues, you get an operational force.

The mistakes I see in the latest incidents – I have read the actual reports on the Fitzgerald – were so simple and basic it takes your breath away. Technology can never replace humans in totality, especially when the law of gross tonnage applies.

As CO, I would have been on the bridge in both those incidents. We would have had highly qualified officers and petty officers on watch.

So if you can follow my logic here is what I conclude. There was a confluence of leadership failures:

First, there was a failure by the nation and particularly the executive branch of the government to recognize that by using the armed forces as a social change agent, as well as denying them the tools (forces) to do the job, will always cause the forces to break. We are at the breaking point and it shows.

Second, there was a failure in naval leadership writ large from the time we tried to transform the forces to meet the threat to today. Not enough senior leadership was stepping forward, ready to sacrifice themselves, so our sailors would not be.

In addition, it has been obvious to me that SECNAV Mabus was able to transform naval leadership in a way to conform to his world view; [that he] fired or relieved those who did not conform to his views and promoted those that did. I think the top leadership is pretty rotten, although I am sure there is “good wood” in there somewhere.

Third, the direct chain of command must have been weak – 7th Fleet down through the commodores of the squadrons – or these ships would not be having these problems. Either the standards are too low or they are worrying about other things. I suspect they are worrying about other things, such as the social experimentation going on and how they get through so they can continue to survive themselves.

Fourth, the ship climate and command structures were obviously out of whack. COs don’t get to sleep in in heavy shipping waters, [that’s] just a fact.

Fifth, while it might be convenient or popular to string some kind of conspiracy theory, the mistakes made were all simple things: basic ship handling, navigation and seamanship stuff. Destroyers do not get run down by merchants; they are faster and much more maneuverable. No, they were not hacked; they were not run down on purpose. They just were asleep at the wheel.

Sixth, I am surprised and will continue to be surprised if some of these folks in leadership positions are not court-martialed. There is a good case for manslaughter in my mind.

And lastly, we need to truly transform the services, not from a social viewpoint but rather from a warfighting viewpoint. Capabilities are available for us to reduce crew manning and use distributed systems, but like anything [else], we have to be serious about doing it. Perhaps that will be the one good thing coming out of all of this.

The last thing I will say is that the Navy has a very difficult issue transforming. Since it is capital-heavy, it needs to do more to bring down shipbuilding costs, while at the same time work assiduously to transform our personnel into distributed nodes with authority, that is transforming the personnel force. That is a tall order and it takes people not only with leadership skills but also imagination and vision, which is a commodity in short supply.

RTWT

31 Aug 2017

Navy Destroyer Collides with Downtown Houston Building

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Duffleblog:

HOUSTON — As if the city of Houston hasn’t seen enough tragedy due to catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey, things took a turn for the worse today after a U.S. Navy ship collided with a building in the downtown area.

The ship was identified as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer belonging to the Navy’s 7th Fleet.

It was unclear why the destroyer was not able to see the building and take evasive action, or why it was over 20 miles inland and trying to navigate through a major metropolitan area.

RTWT

08 Oct 2016

US Navy Action Report

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Hat tip to Vanderleun.

15 Jan 2016

Iran & US State Department Are Lying

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US-Sailors

Matthew Bracken comments on a Rick Moran American Thinker post:

I rarely pull out my dusty old trident, but in this case, here goes. I was a Navy SEAL officer in the 1980s, and this kind of operation (transiting small boats in foreign waters) was our bread and butter. Today, these boats both not only had radar, but multiple GPS devices, including chart plotters that place your boat’s icon right on the chart. The claim by Iran that the USN boats “strayed into Iranian waters” is complete bull$#it.

For an open-water transit between nations, the course is studied and planned in advance by the leaders of the Riverine Squadron, with specific attention given to staying wide and clear of any hostile nation’s claimed territorial waters. The boats are given a complete mechanical check before departure, and they have sufficient fuel to accomplish their mission plus extra. If, for some unexplainable and rare circumstance one boat broke down, the other would tow it, that’s why two boats go on these trips and not one! It’s called “self-rescue” and it’s SOP.

This entire situation is in my area of expertise. I can state with complete confidence that both Iran and our own State Department are lying. The boats did not enter Iranian waters. They were overtaken in international waters by Iranian patrol boats that were so superior in both speed and firepower that it became a “hands up!” situation, with automatic cannons in the 40mm to 76mm range pointed at them point-blank. Surrender, hands up, or be blown out of the water. I assume that the Iranians had an English speaker on a loudspeaker to make the demand. This takedown was no accident or coincidence, it was a planned slap across America’s face.

Just watch. The released sailors will be ordered not to say a word about the incident, and the Iranians will have taken every GPS device, chart-plotter etc off the boats, so that we will not be able to prove where our boats were taken.

The “strayed into Iranian waters” story being put out by Iran and our groveling and appeasing State Dept. is utter and complete BS from one end to the other.

15 Jan 2016

Why Was the US Navy Humiliated by Iran?

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Navy video illustrates lots of weaponry and boasts that Riverine Command Boats “pack a punch.”

What exactly is a Riverine Command Boat?

Old Salt Blog has the answer:

The Riverine Command Boat (RCB) is a design based on the Swedish Combat Boat 90. It is a highly maneuverable water-jet powered shallow-draft vessel that can operate at speeds of up to 40 knots. The design has been adopted by navies around the world. The Swedish Navy has 150 of the boats in service while Mexico has 48, Norway 20 and Malaysia 12, the US 6 and the UK 4.

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How are they armed?

The Washington Post noted:

In a number of pictures released by the U.S. Navy, the boats are outfitted with a number of light, medium and heavy weapons including .50 caliber heavy machine guns and GAU-19 miniguns.

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Nate Hale asks the obvious questions.

[T]here are a few serious questions surrounding the incident that remain unanswered. The two patrol boats (actually, Swedish-built CB-90s) were transiting from Kuwait to Bahrain when one (or both) of the vessels suffered a mechanical breakdown. Eventually, the boats drifted into Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island, where they were detained by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The most direct route from Kuwait to Bahrain is along the western side of the Persian Gulf; Farsi Island is more centrally located. If the boats were following a direct route, they must have drifted for some time before reaching the Iranian-controlled island. If only one vessel was affected by the engineering casualty, why didn’t the second boat take it under tow? Why weren’t additional assets–including airpower–dispatched by 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain? The presence of Navy helicopters and F/A-18s overhead might have caused the Iranians to think twice.

And what about distress calls from the CB-90s to Navy command elements? Early reports suggested the Navy “lost track” of its assets. Perhaps someone can explain why the vast surveillance assets of the United States Navy couldn’t maintain radio and/or radar contact with a pair of patrol boats–or provide warning of Iranian activity. Major surface combatants (along with airborne assets) give the Navy an impressive SIGINT capability on the high seas; assuming we were tracking Iranian activities, it would be nice to know what information commanders had as the episode unfolded and how it impacted their decision-making.

There are also issues involving the commander of the boat element, believed to be the junior officer who issued the on-camera apology. Why did he offer no resistance when the Iranians began boarding his craft. Article II of the U.S. Military Code of Conduct states “I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they have the means to resist.” A CB-90 is heavily armed, with .50-caliber machine guns, GAU-19 mini guns and individual weapons for the crew. Obviously, no officer wants to see his command slaughtered; on the other hand, would it have been possible for the crew to resist, particularly with air support?

It’s also worth asking about the level of involvement by senior officials in Washington. Press accounts suggest that Secretary of State John Kerry was involved in the earliest contacts with Iran and spoke with his counterpart in Tehran no long after the sailors were detained. That quick response suggests the White House and State received early notification of the incident (reflecting the desired level of coordination). But it also begs another essential question: were senior officials micro-managing the episode from Washington, and decided early on to avoid a confrontation with Tehran at all costs.

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Investors Business Daily calls for a congressional probe of the incident.

How can an advanced, ultra-agile U.S. combat boat suffer a “navigation error” that leads to a terrorist state capturing its sailors? Tehran just revealed military ineptitude warranting a congressional probe.

The Swedish-designed Combat Boat 90 can make the sharpest of turns at high speed, stop nearly on a dime, maneuver like magic and, with its Rolls-Royce jet-propulsion system, can speed along at over 45 miles an hour in rivers and shallow coastlines while transporting 18 amphibious troops.

But what good is any of that if it falls into enemy hands?

There is something fishy about how such a high-tech U.S. craft can “stray accidentally into Iranian waters due to a navigation error,” as Defense Secretary Ash Carter described it on Thursday to Univision. The Pentagon had previously claimed engine trouble for an incident that’s humiliated the U.S., as Iranian video showed to the world 10 American sailors on their knees at gunpoint.

A retired operations commander for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, Christopher Harmer, told CNN the capture constituted “a severe failure,” charging that “either the naval leadership put these sailors in an impossible situation, or the sailors are professionally incompetent.” Harmer has researched the increased lethality of Iran’s submarine fleet for the Institute for the Study of War.

That one of the sailors would appear in an Iranian video apologizing may have actually violated the military’s Code of Conduct, which requires that a detainee give name, rank, serial number and age, but “evade answering further questions” and “make no oral or written statements disloyal” to his country “and its allies or harmful to their cause.”

Harmer told the Washington Times, “the U.S. Navy looks extraordinarily incompetent. … In its ability to transit boats without violating Iranian waters, they look incompetent to know how to deal with a mechanical malfunction, and now that they’ve been taken into custody, they’re apologizing.”

Harmer told CNN there was “no reason for a small vessel to be out that far and especially without escorting ships around it,” and “the Navy has to explain why you have small ships transiting 300 miles of open ocean.”

14 Jan 2016

Mystery of the Sea

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IranBoat

19 Nov 2015

When You Land on the Wrong Carrier

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WrongCarrier

06 Oct 2015

Last Navy Ship That Sank an Enemy

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Ironsides
USS Constitution

The Washington Post recently took note of the curious fact, that with the decommissioning of one particular guided missile frigate, the US Navy retains on active service only one ship that ever sunk an enemy, and that ship is the USS Constitution which sunk the HMS Guerriere in 1812!

As the Navy closes in on its 240th birthday, it has reached a milestone: Only one ship remaining in its fleet has ever sunk an enemy vessel—and it’s the USS Constitution, which earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” for withstanding British bombardment during the War of 1812.

The USS Constitution’s crew noted the detail on its Facebook page Tuesday, underscoring how uncommon major encounters are between navies in the 21st century. The only other remaining Navy ship to sink an enemy vessel was the USS Simpson, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate that was decommissioned Tuesday.

The Simpson is best known for combining with the USS Wainwright, a cruiser, and the USS Bagley, a frigate, to destroy an oil rig used as a Iranian surveillance post and the Iranian patrol boat Joshan in Operation Praying Mantis. It was carried out April 18, 1988, during the Iran-Iraq War after the USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf. …

The Constitution, a three-mast wooden frigate, was retired from active service in 1881, but has remained a part of the Navy and was designated as a floating museum in 1907. It fought in the Mediterranean Sea during the First Barbary War in the early 1800s, but is best known for its altercation with the HMS Guerriere on Aug. 19, 1812.

About 400 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, the two ships tangled shortly after the War of 1812 had broken out. The Constitution badly damaged the Guerriere, which was eventually boarded by U.S. sailors and set ablaze.

14 Jun 2015

USS Gabrielle Giffords

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GabrielleGiffords

Duffleblog (military equivalent of The Onion) has a real gem today:

MOBILE, Ala. — Seeking to honor a retired congresswoman and 2011 shooting victim in the most considerate and respectful way possible, the Navy today christened the future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), a first-of-its-kind, gun-free warship.

Designed to hold a core crew of 40 sailors, the Independence-class littoral combat ship has been stripped bare of its Mk 110 57-millimeter gun, all four of its Mk2 .50-cal machine guns, its Evolved SeaRAM 11 cell missile launcher, and its entire cache of small arms, which are typically issued to boarding teams and watch standers.

“Having this mighty warship be 100% gun-free not only helps to honor its heroic namesake, Gabby Giffords, but it also helps the Navy to steer clear of promoting a culture of violence,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who reportedly lobbied hard to get Congress and the Secretary of Defense on board with leaving the Navy’s newest addition to the fleet completely defenseless.

“Once commissioned and put into service,” Mabus continued, “this vessel will truly embody the Navy’s new motto of Semper Modestis— always considerate.”

The Navy Secretary went on to say that he hopes Giffords sets a new trend Navy-wide, and that it’s merely the first ship of many to go weapons-free.

“We have this whole new generation of millennials joining the Navy and becoming sailors on a daily basis, and most of them don’t even like guns,” he said. “So it’s important we listen to their concerns and do what we can to adapt to them.”

Read the whole thing.

03 Dec 2013

Navy Guys Treasure Grotty Coffee Cups

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Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, receives a presentation Tennessee coffee cup from a Third Class Quartermaster on the bridge of USS Picking (DD-685), circa 1955-1961.

Anybody who has had dealings with rust pickers and paint chippers knows that, absent serious intervention, they tend to sit around on their butts all day, bitching and moaning, and drinking endless quantities of battery-acid-strong coffee. I never realized, though, that they never washed their cups.

Naval Historical Foundation explains that they have a tradition concerning crusty coffee cups.

[It] was my first experience with “Navy coffee.” It was hot and strong. Very strong. The thickness of it closely resembled crude oil. It tasted both wonderful and terrible at the same time. Your mind can trick you into believing anything. When a supreme pot of joe is brewed, many of the volunteers would call it “Signal Bridge Coffee,” recalling the nostalgia of long nights and many cups consumed.

After that first morning of coffee, I went to the break room to wash my cup and let it dry for the next day’s angry fix. As I washed out my cup, I felt the sting of glaring eyes from behind my back. I’m sure whoever it was, they could sense my hesitation. I turned around to see GMC Dana Martin, the museum’s active duty OIC. He had a puzzled, concerned look on his face. Chief Martin was grizzled and salty. He was by far one of the saltiest sailors I have ever met. He grabbled my arm washing the cup. My hesitation grew to fear. He leaned in close and told me to “never wash it again,” staring back down at my cup and back to me. I looked at him, puzzled with fascination and disbelief. Although I drink my coffee black, my mind struggled to find reason in the practice.

“I don’t understand,” I told him. ”I need to clean my cup.” I was merely doing what I was taught. Bills should be paid on time. Five minutes early is five minutes late. Coffee mugs should be washed out after use. Simple, right? Wrong. I held my breath and found out just how wrong I really was.

He leaned in again, this time more relaxed (and less confrontational). “I know you are just starting out here, but I want to let you in on a little secret.” He was almost whispering. ”If you intend to stay here at the museum, you can impress the Navy guys with your mug.” He went on to explain to me the significance of an unwashed or “seasoned” coffee mug, particularly in the Navy Chief community. ”And keep it as tarry black as possible,” he added. ”Sometimes it’s the only way you can drink this swill. But you will grow to love it and depend on the taste.” I would never think I would believe him. Boy, was I wrong.

Old coffee in a cup signifies seniority and stature in the military, particularly on deployment. As one blogger noted, “You may not be able to embrace your loved ones while you are gone, but at least you can still taste the same coffee you drank the day you left.”

04 Oct 2013

College Laundry Incidents at Yale

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Certain Yale residential colleges whose names begin with S have started the term this year experiencing a wave of laundry room terrorism.

Ivygate posted a letter from the Master of Saybrook and reported a rumor that the perpetrator (allegedly a female sophomore) had been apprehended and dealt with.

Dear Saybrugians,

Someone has been doing weird, creepy, and (frankly) disgusting things in the Laundry Room. This must stop immediately. If you have observed something of this nature, or know who the perpetrator might be, please let me know. I can’t imagine why someone would do these things, but it has got to stop, and we will take measures to be sure it does.

Thanks,
Master Hudak

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Oldest College Daily story

and

Gawker

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All this reminds me of a series of background incidents in Stephen Coontz’s 1986 Vietnam War novel Flight of the Intruder.

The USS Shiloh carrier from which Jake Grafton and his fellow naval aviators’ A-6 attack aircraft are being launched against North Vietnamese targets experiences on board an outbreak of a form of traditional naval hijinks going back to the WWII era, a Phantom Sh*tter, who leaves personal mementos in all sorts of untoward locations, like the Executive Officer’s ashtray.

Is it possible, I wonder, that what is going on in certain colleges at Yale may have some kind of connection to the US Navy?

24 Oct 2012

Bayonets, Horses, Subs, and Carriers

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Derisive image from HorsesandBayonetstumblr

Obama:

“You mention the Navy, for example… That we have fewer ships than in 1916. … We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. So the question is not a game of Battleship where we are counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities?”

Donald Sensing points out that he’s completely wrong about the bayonets.

As 1916 opened, the US Army’s total size was about 110,000 troops. The Marine Corps was minuscule since the Marines were still seen then as a raiding or expeditionary force rather than a major land combatant force.

In 1916, the Congress passed the National Defense Act that doubled the Army to 220,000 (rounded slightly). The USMC was marginally affected.

    So a compromise was passed in May 1916, as the war raged on and Berlin was debating whether America was so weak it could be ignored. The army was to double in size to 11,300 officers and 208,000 men, with no reserves, and a National Guard that would be enlarged in five years to 440,000 men.

The US Army today has more than 560,000 troops and the USMC more than 200,000. Obama is wrong. we have hundreds of thousands more bayonets now than in 1916.

Sarcasm and condescension only work if the speaker’s presumption of lofty superior knowledge is borne out by his command of actual facts. You can’t successfully accuse your opponent of being an ignoramus when you don’t know what you’re talking about yourself.

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The President was right on the basic fact that the US military, decades ago, replaced horse cavalry with mechanized infantry, armour, and helicopters, but his statement is inevitably undermined by the generally well-known fact that when US military forces were obliged to operate in Afghanistan, it was found that horse-mounted soldiers were essential.

US Special Operations Forces have consequently resumed training in horse-back riding at Fort Bragg.

So, though the US military hasn’t today got as many horses as it had in 1916, it actually has more horses than it had in 1986.


Special forces troops entered Afghanistan on horseback during the 2001 invasion.

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The President’s choice of submarines and aircraft carriers as a conceptual alternative to Mr. Romney’s larger number of ships than in 1916 (245) is particularly ironic when viewed in the light of the Obama Administration’s drastic plans to reduce both.

The Obama Administration, for example, plans to allow US attack submarines (the contemporary equivalent of the kind of submarines we had in 1916*) to bottom out at 40. In 1916, we had 44. By the end of WWI, we had 80 submarines.

*as opposed to ballistic submarines, used as launch platforms for ballistic missiles.

With respect to aircraft carriers, the Obama Administration’s plans to reduce the current 11 US aircraft carriers down to 9. (Comparisons of carriers with 1916 are not possible, as aircraft carriers did not yet exist.)

It is typical of Barack Obama’s rhetorical opportunism to try to exploit as examples of military strength, capability, and advanced thinking, some of the same portions of the Naval Fleet that he has actually dramatically cut.

28 Apr 2012

Forgetting Mahan

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Alfred Thayer Mahan

The Obama Administration is pursuing the characteristic democrat preference for dramatic reductions in defense expenditures which would seriously impact US Naval strength. Seth Cropsey and Arthur Milikh remind us of the intimate connection between American prosperity, commercial success, and world leadership and the philosophy of naval preeminence advocated in Alfred Thayer Mahan’s 1890 strategic study “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783.”

The world’s waterways are of themselves neutral and without a preference for the state that governs them. Different states bring their own order of governing the seas, and the US brings with it liberal economics. It is difficult to imagine serious discussions of international maritime law, or treaties that establish a law of the seas, had the Soviet Union emerged victorious in the Cold War.

America’s allies in the Pacific are currently being pressed more immediately by the Chinese than we are. They see, as Americans tend not to, that the US is in a long-term competition with China, and recognize, as we don’t, that the Chinese desire slowly to push US sea power out of the international waters close to them. The only force standing in the way of such a transition, which would destroy a complex web of alliances for the US in the Pacific, is our current sea power.

Alfred Thayer Mahan offers the intellectual arguments that address what the US stands to lose economically and militarily—and all that China will gain—if there is a profound shift of power in the Western Pacific. Commerce, he believes, plays to the natural advantage of an enterprising people who are largely free to act upon their judgment and enterprising spirit. But commercial advantage and our enterprising spirit relies equally on the ability to keep open the oceanic arteries through which commerce must be able to flow. This equation is set on its head when prosperity becomes an important instrument to justify single-party rule—as in China, where freedoms of commerce are restricted by the state’s pressing requirement, for example, to employ millions; by an understanding of commercial freedom that is wholly separate from political freedom; and by a parallel view of sea power that sees the interruption of commerce as a personal threat to those who rule the state.

Mahan saw correctly that American greatness depends on dominant sea power. He understood the close connection between domestic prosperity and maritime preeminence. The acceptance of his ideas at the beginning of the twentieth century helped immeasurably in encouraging both, the condition of which is the only one in the memory of Americans alive today.

14 Jun 2011

Alaska Sign

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