White House and Congress would be wise to heed Cotton’s Navy report

Senator Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonFormer NFL player challenging Boozman in Arkansas GOP primary Chinese military prepares for war as US military ‘wakes up’ GOP’s top health policy adviser turns up for California comptroller MORE (R-Ark.) Published a report on the culture of the US Navy surface combatant fleet. The think tank and analytical community, and the foreign policy establishment more broadly, tend to shy away from this kind of cultural inquiry, preferring to conduct systems analyzes that rely on empirical numbers and systems data. weapons. Thus, evaluations such as those undertaken by Senator Cotton with Representatives Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Dan CrenshawDaniel Crenshaw White House backs Gwen Berry’s right to protest amid backlash from GOP Meghan McCain suggests Olympian turning away from flag gives Putin NIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court rules pipeline may seize of New Jersey land | Study: EPA Underestimated Methane Emissions From Oil and Gas Development | Kevin McCarthy sets up working groups on climate, other issues MORE (R-Texas) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John Gallagher Wisconsin Representative Gallagher Raises Near 5K Amid Senate Speculation Behind China’s Big Front Hides Deep Insecurity House Lawmakers Propose Major Budget Increase For Key To Cyber ​​Agency MORE (R-Wis.) Are therefore essential to understanding the state of the Navy today.

In addition, the focus on the surface fleet draws attention to a structural problem within the maritime services. Even after the rise of the Carrier Air Wing during World War II, followed by the nuclear submarine revolution, the Navy’s surface fighters retained a vital offensive role throughout the Cold War. The surface fleet was to lead the fight against the enemy, hunt down Soviet submarines in the central Atlantic, defend the American and Allied merchant navy, and put pressure on Soviet surface ships and submarines defending the strongholds. USSR naval forces in the Barents Sea and the Okhotsk Sea.

Since the Cold War, however, budget constraints and shifting missions have forced the Navy to redefine its strategic focus. Rather than controlling the sea against a high powered navy and using it to attack an adversary’s vulnerable sea flanks, he was tasked with supporting ground operations against targets with little or no naval force. This has resulted in the prioritization of the Navy’s nuclear submarines, especially its ballistic missile boats which still provide a second US strike and ground attack aviation. And this was done to the detriment of the surface fleet.

Nominally, the Navy’s surface combatants were still responsible for defending carrier strike groups against air, surface and underground threats. But surface fighters have a limited missile arsenal that leans heavily towards ground attack, much like the shrinking Carrier Air Wing. Indeed, the five-inch deck gun is one of the Arleigh Burke-The main anti-ship weapons of class destroyers.

The Cotton report discusses the results of this compression. He argues that apparently isolated incidents – the Bonhomme Richard the fire and subsequent scrapping last summer, the Fitzgerald and Mccain collisions and Iran’s 2016 capture of two rapid attack craft and 10 US sailors – increasingly reflects a wider trend of cultural neglect. Multiple issues are at stake. The modern navy has been called upon to take on responsibilities similar to those of its Cold War predecessor, despite the commissioning of around half the number of ships and without a corresponding budget increase. The repeated disasters of the late 1980s and 1990s, including the IowaThe turret explosion, the Tailhook scandal, and the suicide of Chief of Naval Operations Mike Boorda, did not help the service’s credibility.

These have nurtured a culture of risk aversion which, paradoxically, dovetails with modern media emphasis on moral and ideological purity. This reinforces the inherent conservatism of the surface navy: the fleet generally does not tolerate major errors, despite obvious errors in judgment and what would today be considered problematic for many five-star admirals of WWII. These pressures lead to bizarre results – for example, where Commander Frank Azzarello is relieved that he attempted to boost the morale of his sailors with the display of a captured enemy rifle, and the gray hulls sport layers of rust, and all the while the Navy persists in “diversity and inclusion” as demanded by the current administration.

The blame should not be blamed on the Navy, however. Budgetary choices are largely out of its hands: Congress and successive administrations have failed to recognize the essential role the Navy plays in national defense, and the service is trying to shoulder its responsibilities when it is sorely lacking. workforce. In these circumstances, compromises are inevitable. In addition, the lasting negative consequences of legislative reform enacted 35 years ago diminish the Navy’s ability to strategize as it did before World War II and during the Cold War.

Indeed, the question is not limited to cultural or budgetary problems. It’s strategic.

The role of the maritime services in modern American strategy rests on a preliminary, broader question, that of American strategy itself. The United States is a maritime nation in interest, not in culture. Since the founding of the Republic, the American economy has relied on international trade, first as an exporter of cotton, timber, steel and coal, and then as an importer of raw materials. and producer of refined products; even the modern, financialized economy of the United States requires steady economic circulation. America has a vested interest in global economic stability and, by extension, global trade access.

Securing this goal, in turn, requires denying any hegemonic or coalition domination of the Eurasian landmass, on which most humans live, within which most of the world’s raw materials are found, and around which the majority of critical maritime choke points are located. Naval power is essential to achieve this goal. It is only through naval power that the choke points that dominate maritime commerce can be monitored. And it is only through naval might that the United States can project the rest of its force to other shores.

The Sino-American antagonism is part of this same pattern. China’s goal is to dominate the Indo-Pacific and use that hegemony to manipulate international trade. Achieving that dominance will require maritime supremacy – hence the expansion of China’s navy and national merchant fleet. A Sino-American conflict will therefore probably be a naval conflict, a maritime war close to those of the 18the century between England and the Netherlands, or the bulk of the Pacific War against Japan.

Senator Cotton and his congressional colleagues discovered that the Navy was not sufficiently prepared to fight and win a high power conflict with China; it would be foolish to ignore and disregard these conclusions. But the deeper question of strategy remains. Unless the maritime services, and the US political establishment more broadly, can articulate a coherent vision linking military capabilities to political effects, military resolve will not be relevant. That is, he will lead thousands of young men and women to death at the hands of the Chinese.

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has no confusion of purpose, nor any misunderstanding of the price power demands.

Seth Cropsey is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington and director of the Hudson’s Center for American Seapower. He served as an officer in the United States Navy and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Harry Halem, Hudson Fellow and London School of Economics graduate student, contributed to this editorial.

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