Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Decline of the Navy

A book review...

Is naval power back? Early in June, Russia announced that it would be permanently stationing an armada of ships in the Mediterranean, restoring a deployment that came to an end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This muscle-flexing is part of Russia’s effort to bolster the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and to stick a finger in the eye of the United States. China, for its part, recently introduced its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and the formation of carrier battle groups will eventually follow, enabling the Chinese military to develop long-range capabilities at sea.

As our major rivals expand their naval capabilities, America’s Navy has been on the way down. Today, the naval fleet is less than half the force it was at the end of the Cold War, and is roughly equivalent in size to what it was during World War I. And thanks to draconian cuts proposed by President Obama, the fleet will contract further in the decades to come.

What does this mean for our future? A well-informed view—and not just a view but a cry of alarm—comes now from Seth Cropsey, my colleague, a former officer in the naval reserve, and deputy undersecretary of the Navy under both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. The course we are on, he writes, "promises nothing except advancing powerlessness, the suspicion of allies, and global challenges to American security."

Mayday looks forward at these approaching perils by looking backward. It offers a capsule interpretive history of American naval power from the Revolution through the Cold War, with stops at some of the major conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries. But it is less a record of battles fought than the story of the evolution of American naval power, in practice and theory.

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