Quote of the Day

Clearly the Navy has a public-relations problem, since the taxpayers have opted for “change,” including less military spending. Shaping public opinion to support the current force structure poses a daunting task, tacitly admitted in the Navy’s official PR vehicle, an annual presentation depicting the service’s activities. The 2008 version contains some 118 images, of which four involved firing live ordnance (none in combat) while 20 or more depicted humanitarian or relief missions.
Barrett Tillman

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10 Responses to Quote of the Day

  1. Hayball says:

    Well, we wouldn’t want anyone to think we were trying to hurt people.
    It’s not like there is a war on.

    Otherwise Tillman just “navalizes” the “Albright Error” (“What good is a first class military if we never get to use it?” – or words to that effect.)

    The republic uses its Navy every single day for an amazing range of tasks, most of which contribute to its long term defense. This has been the essence of Pax Oceana Americana since the Naval Battle off Okinawa in 1944.

    Admittedly, sometimes our sailors just do good, because they’re in the neighborhood, and they can.

    This seems dull to a professional historian who wants a murtherin great sea battle to historify about, so he blathers on about a post naval era.


    Command of the sea, naval dominance if you will, is a necessary precondition to victory to any war fought overseas. Be it Tunisia and the destruction of the Africa Corps redux, D-Day (pick any one), or long, slow, patient, incremental counter insurgency.

    Lose it (Pax Oceana etc.) due to neglect and stupidity, experience the fruits of defeat and humiliation; and pay the price in blood and treasure to regain it.

    Preventative maintenence is a damn sight cheaper than “stoop and built it up again with worn out tools.”

    But if the truth, once spoken is “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools” you just have to relive the old history with nice fresh new costs in the blood of 19 year olds.

    Take your pick.

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  2. Niall says:

    I think the problem for our Navy is that really since Vietnam we haven’t fought anybody who had a real Navy or a real coastline to defend, and so the “naval” aspects of the Navy have not played such a large role. The Navy has basically been used as a floating air force, not a Navy per se. Which is to say, “command of the sea” has been fairly irrelevant to our military engagements of the last 35 years or so. Rather, air dominance in theater has been the key.

  3. Hayball says:


    No question that command of the air over and adjoining the sea is a necessary but not always sufficient condition for command of the sea.

    Also no question that a NAVAL air force in the form of a Carrier Task Force is the most flexible and (usually) ubiquitously available way to demonstrate that aggressive behavior contrary to the vital interests of the Republic is OBVIOUSLY a suicidally bad foreign policy option. Deterrence works, if you have the operational invulnerability that command of the sea confers on either a CVBG or an Amphibious Ready Group/Expeditionary etc etc.

    Regretably deterrence doesn’t always work. Too often its a huge misreading of the USA’s resolve, or somebody goes for a quick fiat accompli which the NCA decides to block/reverse. Command of the Sea means you can fight at a decisive, often crushing, advantage. This keeps damage and casualties low.

    Result? Pax Oceana Americana maintained.

    Not sure what you mean by “a real Navy or a real coastline to defend”, but a lot of the Navy other than Airdales have fought plenty, or better yet, completed dangerous, difficult operations which maintained the status quo.

    “What status quo?” I’m glad you asked.
    But first the fighters.

    Seals. Nuff said.
    Battleships: 16 inch gun BB’s. Shore bombardment, first Gulf War.
    Harpoon shooters, surface ships and submarines.
    Individual Augmentees.

    Not major fleet actions? That’s the point.

    Dangerous, difficult, but not combat?
    Solution is left to the student as an exercise.
    (Hint: what makes up “the fleet”, ex post “peace dividend”?)

    What status quo?

    If it’s salt water and the coast isn’t Europe/Nato or Russia (and hence friendly, close enough),
    the USN dominates. Always. If it cares enough to send enough.

    Therefore, and this is the key point, all oceans, logistically speaking, are a secure highway.
    Since 95 per cent of every single ton an overseas army needs comes by sea (5 per cent by air)…always; this is the framework under the colossus called “USA, aka the last superpower”.

    Cut the Navy out from under the overseas armies for budgetary considerations without
    strategic understanding, and as surely as night follows day, you (eventually) lose the ability to deploy any decisive military power anywhere as the Pax crumbles.

    Logistics rules. Just the way it is.

    Result? Decline and fall, maybe on my preschool grandkids’ watch (assuming any of them are as crazy as ol Gramps was).

    The problem is…how do you explain this to essentially everybody outside the naval service
    (plus a few really smart Army guys O-6 and above, and a very few congress critters).

    Beats me.

  4. Niall says:

    I’m just pointing out that since the collapse of the USSR, the US Navy has not had to contest control of the sea with anyone. None of our subsequent military adventures has involved any serious battles for control of the sea. So “command of the sea” has not really been a key strategic contributor to the outcome of our military adventures. WHich is perhaps why navy people are so defensive.

    The aircraft carrier is a lumbering behemoth, requiring 80% of its weaponry to defend itself. HIghly vulnerable, it’s unclear whether they could really survive in a conflict against a well equipped naval enemy.

    Air craft carriers are, however, excellent at one thing and one thing only: Intervention in Third World countries who have no navy and no way to defend themselves. They are basically bully weapons. That’s fine. Sometimes you need to be a bully. But let’s not confuse that with actually being effective tools against other well-developed navies.

  5. Hayball says:


    I think we clearly have to agree to disagree.

    There are”other well-developed navies” that CVBG’s are not “effective tools against “?

    Well, if current trends continue it may well turn out that way, but…

    As of today – name one.

    Anyone else care to comment?

  6. Niall says:

    Well, can you name a single naval battle the US has had to fight against another sovereign navy in the course of any of its military adventures in the last 35 years? Can you name a single US military campaign of the last 35 years that forced the US to contest control of the seas with a foreign navy?

    The vulnerability of aircraft carriers in a real war against a real opposing navy is not a new idea of mine. It was heavily debated in the 70s, when the idea of a carrier-centric Navy was being debated.

    Carriers are even more vulnerable now with the manifold advances in missile (particularly hypersonic) and submarine technologies.

    It was pointed out in the late 1970s by James Fallows (In his article, “Muscle-Bound Super Power” in the Atlantic Monthly) that the real reason for a carrier-centric navy was to make intervention in Third World conflicts easier, not to be an effective deterrent against the USSR. Since our carriers have only been used for Third World intervention in the intervening 30 years, I can only believe he was correct.

    Which is not to say we don’t need a strong Navy. It’s just that “sea dominance” has become an antiquated concept since none of our enemies have real navies to fight.

  7. Hayball says:

    SSBN’s were the effective deterrent against the USSR, which the Russians long admitted and strived to emulate.

    Carriers were, and are, the flexible, available, world wide military option for conduct of foreign policy.

    Any increased vulnerability to submarines and missiles is due to deprioritization of ASW and BMD within the Navy, caused by strategically ill advised unilateral partial disarmament, to support endlessly increasing entitlement programs, enabled by the “history has ended” foolishness.

    “Can you name a single naval battle the US has had to fight against another sovereign navy in the course of any of its military adventures in the last 35 years?

    “Can you name a single US military campaign of the last 35 years that forced the US to contest control of the seas with a foreign navy?

    You are just dodging my question, but
    ok, I’ll play:

    Leaving aside the “military adventures” crack, the fact that it didn’t need to is the point. The USN has maintained command of the sea for three generations, so far. That fact was and remains the sine qua non of successful foreign policy for the USA.

    Maintaining this priceless advantage is essential for the safety and well being of the Republic.

    Carriers have a key role in so doing, as
    do SSBN’s, SSN’s, CG’s, DDG’s, FFG’s and Amphib’s, as well as the ever overlooked vessels of the fleet train, mine warfare ships, logistics and salvage ships of all types, as well as VP aircraft, the Marine Corps, and an adequate modern shore establishment and industrial base.

    A balanced fleet, in other words.
    One that will evolve as time goes on, and maintains command of the sea,
    to remain the shield of the Republic.

    Wrongheaded thirty year old articles in the Atlantic Monthly (?!) not withstanding.

    Orthodoxy. Neptune, Mahan, and the US Navy. Old fashioned. True.

  8. Niall says:

    Well, at this point you’re not really disagreeing with me, are you?

    I never denied that carriers are “flexible tools of foreign policy”. I just pointed out they seem to be most flexible when we want to intervene in the Third World.

    We agree they are, and always have been, extremely vulnerable to subs and missiles, and it’s unclear that they would have been a real asset in a naval war with the USSR. Most of them would have just been torpedoed in the early days of any conflict.

    Also, you’re not distinguishing having command of the sea by default, and having command of the sea by winning it from an adversary.

    The two most sophisticated navies in the world after the US Navy are the Royal Navy and the French Navy. We are never going to fight either of them. That leaves Russia, whose navy is in a state of collapse, and China, whose naval development is decades behind ours.

    Indeed, the last real naval conflict I can think of was the Falklands war, which showed just how vulnerable surface ships are to subs (the sinking of the cruiser Belgrano), and how vulnerable ships in general are to air attack (as the British discovered).

    That you can’t name a single real naval battle the US Navy has had to fight really since WWII shows that the value of the navy to US foreign policy is basically to provide floating platforms for air attack. That hardly makes “sea dominance” a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

  9. Hayball says:

    Which returns me to my original criticism…the longing for a murtherin great sea battle, totally symetric, as the only way to use a navy.

    And my original summary:


    As an aside, the RN carriers made recovery of the Falklands possible. The Argentines never laid a glove on them. Not so vulnerable at sea as in South Atlantic as in the pages of the Atlantic monthly, hmmm?

    Of course, the Brit commander was a professional and a tactician, who understood the importance of ASW, AAW, amphibious warfare and submarines , as well as logistics.

    This allowed him to play his cards with surpassing skill.

    Hardly fair at all (could that be the point?).

    And yes, in blue water, nuclear submarines will maul any force that doesn’t have their own.

    On that note I will take my leave.
    Nice chatting with you.

  10. Niall says:

    Well, as I said, we’re not really disagreeing anymore.

    The horrific toll in ships destroyed suffered by the Royal Navy in the Falklands war shows just how vulnerable they are to air power. And in this conflict the RN wasn’t even up against a fully modern navy.

    The aircraft carriers involved played a very minimal role in the conflict – the heaviest bombing raids on the Falklands were carried out by Vulcans flying from Ascension Island. The carriers also were useless at protecting British ships from destruction by Exocet missiles.

    All of which proves my point that in real naval conflict, carriers are of limited use. Their main use is to pummel land targets in parts of the world where there is no naval adversary to worry about, and where the opposing air force does not have the ability to threaten our ships.

    Which takes us back to the navy-as-floating-air-force image.

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