Sea Change for American Power

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Over the last 65 years, the United States has been able to maintain a liberal international order. This era has seen the spread of political and economic freedom across much of the globe. As it did for Great Britain, naval superiority has been central for the success of this system. It has allowed for freedom of the seas (and thus international trade to flourish), and has allowed the United States to project power to counter threats and maintain stability on a worldwide scale.

Today, however, this situation is changing. As with Britain–which was threatened by German naval expansion before World War I and by Japan’s before World War II–external threats have emerged to challenge America’s control of the seas. China is increasingly asserting its naval reach in the Western Pacific. In April 2010, and again in June 2011, large-scale exercises were held. The 2011 exercise saw 11 ships–including three missile destroyers and four frigates–transit within 110 km. of Okinawa, within Japan’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ). Submarines and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have also been reported. Additionally, China has procured a Russian-built aircraft carrier, which in 2011 made three deployments in the Yellow Sea, off the northeast coast. While reports vary, it is possible that Su-30 fighter-bombers–comparable to the F/A-18 Hornet–could be deployed (China has 24 in service), providing an effective tool for power projection. Most importantly, China has deployed the DF-21D ballistic missile, specifically designed for use against U.S. carrier strike groups, providing a serious challenge to American superiority in the Western Pacific.

Another challenger is Russia. For more than a decade after 1991, the Russian Navy was a decrepit shadow of its Soviet predecessor. Now, however, this is changing. Some $160 billion has been allotted to refit the fleet through 2020, while four French Mistral-class amphibious assault ships will be deployed in the next few years. These will give Russia a considerable boost in power-projection capabilities. Furthermore, new supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles like the Yakhont and advanced torpedoes like the Shkival are in service, which are a major enhancement to the fleet’s firepower.

Then there are the smaller fleets that, due to geopolitical and ideological factors, are most likely to be faced in a shooting war. Iran has developed a formidable naval capability in the confined waters of the Persian Gulf, which U.S. naval forces would have to enter to maintain the flow of oil from the region. It has some 5,000 mines of all types, including Russian-made rocket-propelled EM53’s, and 23 submarines, many of which carry torpedoes that can home in on a ship’s wake. Iran also has a large force of patrol craft and corvettes with advanced anti-ship missiles, capable of swarm attacks on U.S. ships. Iran’s ally Syria, while weak in sea-going forces, has acquired the Yakhont missile from Russia, extending its threat radius into the Mediterranean. North Korea likewise has a large force of missile-armed ships, and it’s submarine force includes 20 midget vessels, one of which sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010.

While threats from abroad have emerged, the priorities of the Obama Administration have also served to undermine America’s continued naval supremacy. As part of the plan to reduce defense spending by $487 billion over the next decade, Navy shipbuilding will be hard-hit. According to the administration’s budget plan, just 41 ships will be procured over the next five years. The Navy’s March 2012 shipbuilding plan is even more stark: no new ballistic missile submarines will be built until 2021, while just one more large-deck amphibious ship will be built in 2017. Not until 2018 will shipbuilding be funded above replacement levels. As John Lehman, Navy Secretary in the Reagan Administration, noted in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the total of ships in the U.S. Navy could decline from its current 286 to just 240-250 in the next half decade. Given that the U.S. Navy, in its 2006 plan, called for a 313-ship fleet in the 2030s, the current reductions make that prospect highly unlikely.

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  • Sage on the Stage

    Besides. the Royal Air Force, the one thing that kept Hitler from conquering England was the Royal Navy. (And at one point, the RAF was nearly knocked out of the battle) Without the Royal Navy, England might well have been overrun by the Nazis; if that had occurred, Hitler likely would have won the war in Europe. The U.S. Navy had nearly 600 ships under George W. Bush; now under Obama our fleet numbers just 286. Obama will do anything to weaken America, and strengthen our enemies. He MUST be replaced in November.

  • Sage on the Stage

    During World War II, when the Royal Air Force was nearly knocked out of the Battle of Britain, the only
    thing standing between Hitler's military and England, was the Royal Navy. If at that point, Hitler had destroyed the Royal Navy, England would have been his for the taking. Had Hitler conquered England, he likely would have won the war in Europe. Under George W. Bush, the U.S. Navy numbered nearly 600 ships. Now under Obama, our Navy numbers just 286 ships. Obama and his Dhimmicrat lackeys in Congress have weakened the United States, at a time when we can least afford it. Whatever the cost, get him out of office in November.

    • Sage on the Stage

      Who cares what these two would say?(Do YOU?) And where does the article talk about merchant sailors? But…its obvious that, like them, you are a leftist. I know this because of your phrase "You don't deserve…" And you are a "former merchant sailor?"…no…somehow…I don't think so. Go back to your job…selling Avon door-to-door…or is it Girl Scout cookies in the shopping center?

    • dybbuk

      Bosun – The two SOBs to whom you refer are, of course, contemptible pieces of excrement. They, and the B. Hussein Obama regime to whom they genuflect, wish to see the end the United States of America in the form that we have known it.

      I agree with what you wrote. My only complaint with your post is that you have shortened the screen name of one of the two pieces of walking excrement to whom you refer as "schlomo" – I suggest that that the pile of filth never be mentioned, but, if you must do so, please do not use that moniker. He is a stinking, revolting antisemite (in addition to being an incurable America-hater), and he is not a Jew. The way you have shortened his screen name brings discredit upon Jews whose names are in fact Shlomo (Hebrew for Solomon). Given his hatred of Jews, I suggest that the vile filth be referred to as Chelmno – given the historical role of Chelmno, I think this is a more appropriate handle for the dirty swine.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    China has been offered a place in Saudi Arabia and a guaranee of oil until 2035, all they want and
    this is for protection from Iran. With China playing with Russia and Iran I wonder if the Saudis are
    wondering who will be sticking it to who………..A bad idea on the Saudi's part, China could move in
    and then take over completely and end Saudi trade with America. Things do change and with
    the American Government keeping our oil industry at bare minimum production when it
    should be expanding we may see doubling or even higher increase in gas prices down the
    road. What our enemies are doing is building off of the cash Washington has sent their way
    by closing American enterpises and paying them for what we should be producing and building
    National wealth with a well off citizenry, as it is Washington insures hard times for America
    with the exception of our elites…………………………………………William

  • Looking4Sanity

    It's ironic how often that yesterday's "friends" become the enemies of tomorrow. Just one more reason to "love" Communism, I suppose? </sarc>

  • ebonystone

    What the U.S. ought to be aiming at is the restoration of the 500-ship navy of Reagan's presidency.

    But the U.S. should also be pressing some of its allies, who are far more dependent on Persian Gulf oil than it is, to be doing their share to police the world's seas. Certainly the E.U., whose economy it as large as the U.S.'s, should be fielding a comparably-sized navy. And the free powerhouses of the Far East — Japan, S. Korea, and Taiwan — ought to be deploying a sizeable fleet — both as a counter to China, and to defend their interests in the safety of the seas. These last three are almost entirely dependent on imports of raw materials — especially fuels.
    The U.S. should make it plain that it can't carry the load alone; it can't defend everybody else's interests by itself. We have been carrying Europe and the Far East for too long.

  • Mongo

    The author of this article needs to fact-check more carefully. The story about Russian marines deploying to Syria was false. There are no Russian troops in Syria and there is no indication any will be deployed there in the future. The story about the Russia-Iran-Syria-China joint exercise is also false. No such exercise is being planned and there will almost certainly not be any exercise like it in the Middle East.

    • neged mamzerim

      Would you please cite your source(s)?

    • wooley booley

      I second the request for citation of sources. Without this, your post is simply a collection of entirely unsubstantiated assertions.