Monday, May 10, 2010

Gates to Navy: "Drop Anchor!"

Investor's Business Daily fired a round over the bow of the Defense Secretary for his comments at the Navy League last week.  Secretary Gates publicly questioned whether we need 11 carrier battle groups, although in the same speech he stated that we were committed to such a force structure through 2040.  IBD rightly points out the path of greatness that countries with great navies steer and highlighted the growing presence of the Chinese Navy, which is emerging as a blue water force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Pacific.

As an old Navy man, it pains me to think that we are now down below 320 ships; I was part of the Reagan build up to the 600 ship fleet.  But the reality is that the wars we are fighting now do not require a 600 ship fleet -- I am not sure what the right number is, but it is certainly a lot higher than  320.  The simple reality, as told by Alfred Thayer Mahan over a century ago, is that the United States is a maritime nation.  To survive, we need trade and raw materials (especially oil from the Middle East - the name coined by Mahan)  - and to ensure that flow is uninterrupted we need a powerful navy.  Nothing gets the attention of the bad guys more than the ability to inject an air force into any air space in the world...a carrier battle group does just that.

My guess is that what we are hearing out of Gates is something of the truth: we can't afford it anymore.  We can't afford massive social welfare programs, massive debts, a lumbering leviathan of a Federal government, two wars, and ever expanding entitlement programs while still maintaining a lethal navy.  Take one look at Greece if you want to see how this is going to turn out.  When those that are suckling on the teat of government largesse are told that we have to choose between their taxpayer subsidized mortgage or keeping the country safe with a robust naval presence, you know they will vote for the Navy to drop anchor.

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