Monday, October 22, 2007

Conceding the Littorals in the Maritime Strategy

Here are some major quotes which stood out to me in the Navy's new Maritime Strategy, titled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”.

  • Preventing wars is as important as winning wars.
  • To do so will require an unprecedented level of integration among our maritime forces and enhanced cooperation with the other instruments of national power, as well as the capabilities of our international partners.
  • U.S. maritime forces will be characterized by regionally concentrated, forward-deployed task forces with the combat power to limit regional conflict, deter major power war, and should deterrence fail, win our Nation’s wars as part of a joint or combined campaign.

It becomes clear that America's sea services intends to leave fighting terrorists in shallow seas to our allies. Meanwhile, we will continue to fund and build a more traditional and vastly expensive Blue Water fleet. In this, the Navy becomes much like our pre-Surge Army, when it was on the defensive in Iraq, enduring unacceptable casualties, while waiting for the Iraqi's to step up to tame their rogue countrymen and drive the Al Qaeda invaders from their homeland. It soon became obvious, however, for any real change to occur, the American ground forces must lead the way. A new insurgent-savvy commander plus a more aggressive strategy changed the scope of the battle in just a few months. Today civilian and military casualties have drastically fallen, and Al Qaeda is nearly finished as a fighting force within the country.

This is not to belittle the sacrifices of our sailors and Coast Guardsmen who have been constantly on the frontlines, guarding our ports and supporting the troops since 9/11, as well as encouraging our allies to pull their full weight. They have also, rather belatedly deployed Riverine squadrons to the warzone, and plan to build new littoral ships. But as the navy looks toward the future, it seems to have missed the struggle we are already in. As Patrick Henry once declared to those straddling the fence in our Revolution:
"Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! ... Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?"

I am reminded also, of 100 years ago and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902, where for the first time the mighty Royal Navy became dependent on a foreign power to defend part of its empire. This is understandable considering the threat posed by a rising German Navy to the British Isles, but America faces no such dire threat today. There is a future and perhaps impending rivalry which China poses to its neighbors, but this is a nation in most respects with an antiquated military, with no aircraft carriers and only a handful of modern submarines and destroyers. They are hardly up to Cold War standards in many ways, let alone a competitor in the Digital Age.

It is obvious from the Navy's new strategy, with its insistence on avoiding conflicts and dependence on allied fleets for small frigates, patrols ships, and other littoral vessels , that it has failed to take seriously the asymmetric warfare which the Army has learned through grueling trial and error. As I have written elsewhere, the Navy continues to wait for its own Petraeus.

CDR Salamander has an extensive review.