Wednesday, March 11, 2015

At Sea, Size Matters

Back on the 9th, a friend left a little note,
Who is Gregg Easterbrook?
... with a link to this article in the NYT, Our Navy Is Big Enough.

Who is Gregg, indeed. After a couple of minutes of google-fu, I realized he was mostly a sports writer who happens to be a contributing editor at, yes them again, The Atlantic. I read the article, shrugged at it, and got back to the paying gig.

Well, I should have realized that regardless of his background, a lot of the "right people" would read and digest what he wrote simply because he has The Atlantic and NYT stamps on his card.

Why him though? Who gave him the tasking? My head scratching was in line with Andrew Erickson;
I remain perplexed as to why the New York Times considered Easterbrook’s polemic a substantive piece worth publishing—particularly when there are so many prominent, readily-reachable experts available on this and related topics.
Looking at it a second time, if it is going to get that kind of traction - then it needs to be pounded. Most people who read the article will not know that much about the Navy, and sure won't know that the author of the article is a nautical noob. With that stage, someone needed to do something.

Lucky for us, two of our favorites have already pig-piled on Gregg's dog's breakfast of an article, and I highly recommend both to you today. Join in the feast.

First, over at RealClearDefense, Jim Holmes weighs in old-school;
I feel like the Rick Grimes of naval affairs: the undead bad ideas keep coming no matter how many head shots you fire into the zombie herd. The Walking Dead fans among you will get that familiar feeling from reading the latest commentary on sea power, which appeared over at the New York Times yesterday. Read it and hurry back. And gather some extra clips along your way.
Nice ... very nice.
One lesson foreign officers learn in Newport, he opines, “is that there is zero chance they will ever defeat the United States in battle—so why even try?”

Now, I’ve been around the Naval War College since 1992, first as a student and then during two stints on the faculty—most recently since 2007. International officers constitute about one-sixth of the student body, so I can’t speak for all of them. But I have yet to hear anyone, foreign or American, voice the views about U.S. invincibility that Easterbrook claims to have gleaned in the hallowed halls of Newport.

More to the point, so what? Guess who sends no students to Newport: China, Russia, and Iran. No prospective foe of any consequence does. If someone in Newport is sending a message about American supremacy, there’s no one to deliver the message to Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran.

Next, let’s vault up to the strategic level. Easterbrook contends that sea power is all about “contesting the ‘blue water,’ or deep open oceans.” No open-ocean challenge, nothing to worry about, it seems.

Trouble is, this is a gigantic straw man. ... Blue-water combat isn’t at issue; near-shore combat is. And the picture is far murkier than Easterbrook allows in Asia’s marginal seas.
Easterbrook also bestrides shaky ground when drawing comparisons between China’s posture in the South China Sea and the U.S. posture in the Caribbean Sea. ... When Washington starts trying to dictate what others do in international waters or skies, evicts Latin American fishermen from waters near their home shores, or auctions off Caribbean states’ offshore seas to foreign firms for oil or gas exploration, then this analogy may gain credence. Not until then.
Yes, the U.S. Navy is constructing a destroyer class dubbed the Zumwalt class, a.k.a. DDG-1000. And yes, Zumwalt boasts some golly-gee technology. But its “huge arsenal” of guided missiles is smaller than that of current navy cruisers and destroyers (80 vertical-launch cells for Zumwalt, to 90 for DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers and 122 for CG-47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers).

Zumwalt’s “advanced cannon,” as Easterbrook terms it, is a 155-mm gun that delivers precision-guided but modest-sized projectiles at impressive range—and only against shore targets for now, not enemy fleets. This is not Victory at Sea. We’re not talking USS Iowa blazing away at enemy men-of-war with 16-inch guns.
Easterbrook fares little better when assessing carrier aviation. “No other nation is even contemplating anything like the advanced nuclear supercarriers like the United States has under construction,” he tells us. Really? Well, France has deployed a nuclear-powered carrier of modest size and armament, Charles de Gaulle, for over two decades now. So much for the nuclear aspect.

Nor is nuclear power fated to remain a Western thing.
Easterbrook mocks Liaoning, the PLA Navy’s refitted Soviet-built aircraft carrier, as an “outdated, conventionally powered carrier.” How does he know China’s first carrier is outdated? Is it because of chronological age? No. Liaoning, nee Varyag, was laid down in 1985. Old, eh?

But USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of the ten supercarriers Easterbrook touts, started construction in 1981 and was commissioned in 1984. Three of her Nimitz-class sisters are even older.
Read it all ... then follow the next link to our favorite, Bryan McGrath over at War on the Rocks;
... Gregg Easterbrook, author and contributing editor at The Atlantic, wrote an op-ed at the New York Times on 9 March entitled “Our Navy is Big Enough,” in which he lays out why the U.S. Navy need not grow and why its funding is sufficient. His argument is a tendentious restatement of the poorly informed ruminations of others. He thoroughly misunderstands the role of navies in general, and the U.S. Navy in particular, and he inaccurately portrays the rising support of a larger Navy as a partisan wish of the Republican Party. Let us begin with that last point.

Two consecutive independent National Defense Panels charged with reviewing both the 2010 and 2014 Quadrennial Defense Reviews reached the same conclusion: that the U.S. Navy was not large enough to meet its global commitments. These conclusions were affirmed by two leading Democratic Party members of those panels, former Secretary of Defense William Perry (2010) and former Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) Michele Flournoy, the latter of whom is considered very close to the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2016, Hillary Clinton. Additionally, the current (Democratic) Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is basing his entire legacy on growing the fleet to 300 ships by 2020, a fleet which on March 2 stood at 275 ships. Easterbrook’s suggestion that this is some kind of Republican cabal is simply not supported by the available evidence.
I don't see how Gregg can recover from that.

Read it all ... it only gets better.

I think there is a big lesson here for the traditional media types - if you are going to throw ideas out there in the national security arena, you better bring your A-game.

No comments: