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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A "Flat-Earth" Navy

In the sense of Thomas Friedman, as portayed by Robert Kaplan discussing the new Maritime Strategy at the Atlantic in The Navy’s New Flat-Earth Strategy.

This is very much a diplomatic document, meaning it is necessary to read between the lines. Without mentioning China and without going into specific numbers—or even asserting the need for more ships—the 16-page document makes the case for a Navy that must do, if not everything, then nearly everything. And it makes its case within an intellectual framework that should resonate with the public and a Democratic Congress: the dialectic of globalization. “Our Nation’s interests are best served by fostering a peaceful global system comprised of interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people and governance.”
Cases in point: Top photo caption:
French Super-Etendard from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier French Navy Ship Charles de Gaulle (R 91) performs a touch-and-go landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis, as part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, and Charles de Gaulle, the flagship of Commander, Task Force 473, are operating in the North Arabian Sea. Stennis and Charles de Gaulle are conducting bilateral exercises and supporting multi-national ground forces in Afghanistan. Official U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Adam Henderson

Lower photo:
The Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) receives fuel from the MSC combat stores ship USNS San Jose (T-AFS 7) as the MSC underway replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199), far left, and the High Speed Vessel Two (HSV-2) Swift, far right, operate alongside in the Indian Ocean. Mercy is serving as an enabling platform to assist humanitarian operations ashore in ways that host nations and international relief organization find useful. Mercy is currently off the waters of Indonesia in support of Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian relief effort to aid the victims of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Timothy Smith)
UPDATE: Another, but not totally dissimilar view, here:
Finally, no amount of cooperation can compensate for the corrosive consequences of a naval shipbuilding program that is dead in the water. You can't sustain global maritime supremacy by buying one submarine a year and one aircraft carrier every five years. And you can't fix a fouled-up shipbuilding sector by launching a political jihad against the handful of shipyards that have survived a generation of Navy mismanagement.

The Navy needs to settle now on what warships it wants for the future and start building them at a much faster rate; otherwise it will lack the tools to carry out all its high-minded strategic concepts.
UPDATE2: Something about all this "cooperation" reminds me of those cautionary words from Gunny Highway, "Just because we're holding hands doesn't mean we'll be taking warm showers together until the wee hours of the morning. "

Worst case scenarios of getting little help from "allies" when the chips are down still need to be considered, in my admittedly jaundiced view.

UPDATE3: And over at Steeljaw Scribe, the guy in charge of the prep of the new Strategy holds forth here. Note that in the comments, he refers to the Kaplan piece as bein on target...

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