“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Seapower in the 21st Century

The U.S. unveils a collaborative plan for policing the seas

by Robert D. Kaplan

The Navy's New Flat-Earth Strategy

Over the decades our Navy has been slowly disappearing on us. At the end of World War II we had 6,700 ships. Throughout the Cold War we had around 600 ships. In the 1990s we had more than 350. Now we are down to fewer than 280. This decline is occurring while China is in the midst of a shipbuilding and acquisition craze that will result in the People's Liberation Army Navy having more ships than the United States Navy sometime in the next decade. Qualitatively, the United States will still very much have the edge, but China is catching up. And China is merely one of many challenges—terrorism, piracy, port security, and humanitarian disaster assistance are others—that the Navy now faces.

The Navy has plans to increase the number of ships from below 280 to more than 310. But according to the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service, cost overruns of 34 percent, plus other factors, mean that these plans may be overly optimistic. In fact, over the next decade and beyond, if the Navy builds only seven ships per year with a fleet whose life expectancy is 30 years, the total number of its ships may dwindle to the low 200s. And yet we live in a world where 75 percent of the Earth's population is within 200 miles of the sea, and in an era when 90 percent of commerce travels by sea, including two-thirds of petroleum exports.

Such is the sobering context for the United States's new maritime strategy, just released after many months of study—particularly at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. The study was commissioned by Chief of Naval Operations Michael Mullen, recently promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was released by the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard—the first time the three maritime services have jointly authored a common strategy.

This is very much a diplomatic document, meaning it is necessary to read between the lines. Without mentioning China and without going into specific numbers—or even asserting the need for more ships—the 16-page document makes the case for a Navy that must do, if not everything, then nearly everything. And it makes its case within an intellectual framework that should resonate with the public and a Democratic Congress: the dialectic of globalization. "Our Nation's interests are best served by fostering a peaceful global system comprised of interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people and governance."

As this document sees it, our world is interconnected, its population clustered in dense, pulsing demographic ganglia near the seas that will be prone to disruptions such as asymmetric attacks and natural disasters. The document pointedly does not rule out great-power military conflicts, asserting that "peace does not preserve itself." But according to the new strategy, even great-power conflicts are apt to be subtle and asymmetric. There is little talk here of conventional sea and land battles and the need to spread democracy. This is a post-Iraq document, with an emphasis on soft power. Indeed, the war in Iraq appears less relevant to the document than the Indian Ocean tsunami emergency of December 2004/January 2005. To wit: "Building on relationships forged in times of calm, we will continue to mitigate human suffering as the vanguard of interagency and multinational efforts ... Human suffering moves us to act, and the expeditionary character of maritime forces uniquely positions them to provide assistance."

The title of the report aptly describes its essence: "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower" is all about cooperation between the three maritime services and, more significantly, between the United States and allied nations. For the past few years, Admiral Mullen has been talking about a 1,000-ship Navy—an international coalition of friendly navies to share intelligence and help each other police the world's coasts and seas. The phrase "1,000-ship Navy" does not appear in the document. (I heard reports and rumors that the Bush administration did not like it.) But the spirit of the 1,000-ship Navy and "collective security" is everywhere in these pages. In fact, the new strategy goes further than Admiral Mullen's concept, expanding the definition of partnership beyond friendly navies to other institutions. "No one nation has the resources required to provide safety and security throughout the entire maritime domain. Increasingly, governments, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and the private sector will form partnerships of common interest to counter ... emerging threats."

In essence, this new maritime strategy represents a restrained, nuanced yearning for a bigger Navy, albeit one whose mission will be cooperation with other navies. That requires more than just new ships. "A key to fostering such relationships is development of sufficient cultural, historical, and linguistic expertise among our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to nurture effective interaction with diverse international partners." Such training costs money and creates bureaucratic challenges, but it helps lay the groundwork for an exceedingly gradual, elegant decline of the Navy's capabilities—a future in which it has fewer platforms but gets more out of the ones it does have by working more closely with others.

Strategies make bets, often subtly. This document does not disappoint. While it refers to the need to project massive power in a conventional conflict, its focus represents a clear wager that it would be a mistake to mirror-image a future peer competitor like China. "Adversaries are unlikely to attempt conventional force-on-force conflict and, to the extent that maritime forces could be openly challenged, their plans will almost certainly rely on asymmetric attack and surprise, achieved through stealth, deception, or ambiguity." In other words, even if China does emerge as a peer competitor as the Soviet Union once was, it will act subtly and be just one of myriad threats that the United States is best positioned to handle through a Navy that's forward deployed and interlocked with allied ones. As bets go, this seems like a reasonable one—but it's still a bet.

Bottom line: The new maritime strategy posits an unconventional naval vision for a flat world, as Thomas Friedman calls it. Consistent with that vision, it also calls for a powered-down command structure, with junior officers better trained and more influential than ever, working in dispersed networks around the world, in which marines and coastguardsmen are integrated with sailors in the same units: each unit built around a specific task, be it combat, irregular warfare, or humanitarian relief.

Hard-liners will be frustrated by the spirit of the new maritime strategy, if not its language. Yet because the new strategy travels with the prevailing political winds in Washington, it is likely to win support among Congress and the larger public. And that could produce what the Navy needs but the new strategy doesn't really talk about: more ships.

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  1. Fits in with the Law of the Sea Treaty.
    We're LOST.

    Or it's a realistic appraisal of the future's requirements.

    As the US's share of the global economy decreases, so to will our ability to maintain a dominating unilateral global presence. While remaining competitive economicly. We can't, and shouldn't carry the load alone.

  2. Coleman voted against the Law of the Sea this time.

  3. Gordan Liddy, of Watergate fame, always know for telling the truth, but not always the whole truth, is discussing this with Frank Gaffney(sp?) former assistanct sec of def. Says--Gaffney says--the Navy is run by the lawyers now, as is most everything else, alas. Which explains a lot. It gives control of the seabed to a cabal of basically unelected international environmentalists. Call your Senator--one of mine is missing in action so to speak--but maybe he will fell he can vote his conscience for once, if he has one. Can be stopped. All the republican presidential candidates are against it one way or another. Dirty Harry trying to bring it in under the radar, stealike, again. Little or no press converage, quick hearings, etc....

  4. For class I actually had to devise a Navy ship-building plan up to 2050. Suffice to say, giving coming budgetary pressures, we'll be lucky if we keep a 200 ship Navy.

    As to the new Maritime Strategy, "yech" only begins to describe my feelings. Somewhere Thomas Barnett is smiling.

  5. Cutler: For class I actually had to devise a Navy ship-building plan up to 2050. Suffice to say, giving coming budgetary pressures, we'll be lucky if we keep a 200 ship Navy.

    Don't be fooled by mere numbers. Back in the Reagan Navy they rolled out the old battleships Halsey used at Leyte Gulf, but they only sported 32 Tomahawk missiles. We just turned a boomer sub into an attack boat with 150 TLAM-C's, and it's standing room only for Tomahawks on our destroyers too.

  6. You have your
    *non-discretionary* responsibilities to take care of, Cutler!
    CARRY on!

  7. Don't leave out the Juicey Details, AlBob!
    Sen. Craig Uses Campaign Money For Defense

    The Republican Idaho Senator who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after soliciting sex in an airport bathroom has used about $23,000 in campaign funds to pay for a Washington lawyer to represent him before the Senate Ethics Committee.

    Federal campaign finance laws prohibit legislators from using campaign money for expenses unrelated to their duties as an officeholder or candidate and Senator Larry Craig has for months argued that he shouldn’t be punished by the Senate because this case has nothing to do with his official acts as a lawmaker.

  8. (Craig is pro law of the Seas, I believe)

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Theresita, I am very well aware that if we massed our forces, we could destroy every other navy on the planet, combined. As I see it, however, it is the equivalent to thinking that since we could destroy anybody in a conventional war on land, naturally we'd win the war that followed in Iraq.

    We're not talking about fleet actions, we're talking about an expressed strategy that is effectively global-policing of sea-lanes. Setting aside that we shouldn't be doing it in the first place, expecting 200 ships to be able to do it is the equivalent of expecting a roughly 500,000-man Army to do the same on land. I.e. it is a pipe dream.

    And expecting the rest of the world to help us make up the gap is even dumber.

    "We're LOST" - isn't that the truth.

  11. DENVER -- Republican state lawmakers unveiled a package of bills they plan to introduce next year on illegal immigration, including a proposal to deny bail in felony and drunk-driving cases involving people in the country illegally.

    Weld District Attorney Ken Buck, well-known for his battle against illegal aliens, said in some areas, a state Republican proposal could cause problems here.

    "I guess the first reaction would be that the jail here is already overcrowded, and if we keep all of the DUIs who are illegal, it could make things worse."

    Buck said the felony arrests usually aren't bonded out anyway, so they might not have a great impact on the jail population. But DUI suspects are usually bonded out, and there could be many of them.

    "The other problem is how fast you can identify someone as illegal," Buck said. "That may take several days. Does that mean we just keep everybody in jail until we prove they are illegal or not?"
    State Rep. Jim Riesburg said that most illegal immigrants won't show up at the polls to vote anyway, so a bill requiring proof of citizenship may not make a difference.

    Another measure would require detention facilities to determine immigration status of all detainees.

    Democrats said they have already dealt with the issue, passing a series of laws during a special session last year, including one designed to force 1 million people receiving state and federal benefits to prove they are legal U.S. residents.

    Republicans, who are outnumbered 40-25 in the House and 20-15 in the Senate, said the state can't wait for the federal government to act.

  12. Insofar as the political dimension is concerned, John Fonte has LOST down pat. Americans would do well to study the political development of the EU in this respect.

  13. Cutler: We're not talking about fleet actions, we're talking about an expressed strategy that is effectively global-policing of sea-lanes.

    We put 50 ships in the North Arabian Sea, 50 ships in the Straits of Malacca, 50 ships in the South China Sea, and the rest home in the shipyard getting overhauled. Follow the oil tanker wakes, that's what it's all about.

  14. Figures, anyway he isn't using any of my campaingn cash, as I never gave him any, ever.

    Over on the democratic side Hillary is getting her socks sued off over a big party and event. Everybody will be under oath. Peter Paul I think the guy's name is.

  15. Peter Paul

    ah, I see he is a convicted felon. No surprise there.

  16. By the way, I heard a unique theory about why all the Republicans are getting caught lately, with their pants down--but their g-strings up! We're all bi-sexual, and the dems have know this for years and accepted it, it is just dawning on the repubs, who have been in denial.

  17. From TPM Muckraker:

    Today's Must Read
    By Paul Kiel - November 1, 2007, 9:50AM

    When you get right down to it, Michael Mukasey has refused to answer the question of whether waterboarding is torture for three reasons, which he provided in his letter to Senate Democrats earlier this week. Two of those are readily disputable (not wanting to tip off "our enemies," for example), but the key to his rationale appears to be his expressed fear that the attorney general's public acknowledgment that waterboarding is torture would place interrogators in "personal legal jeopardy."



    As is pointed out, however, interrogators and others have already been granted immunity from prosecution. And with the Military Commissions Act Congress chose not to identify specific interrogation operations as conflicting with the law, leaving it purposely open to interpretation by the Executive.

    As Congress has had nothing definitive to say on the subject, one might wonder, "Why the fuss?"

    It's a question of responsibility, and no one wanting it, though it more clearly lies with Congress than with the Justice Department to speak clearly on a matter of law that one might gather is of greatest moral controversy and confusion.

    Have your cake and eat it, too. Everyone does.

  18. If there was a big action in the Persian Gulf, I think I'd rather be on a minesweeper, than on an aircraft carrier. My survival time might be greater. Might have to be a British minesweeper, I quess, as I read we have less around the area than they do. If what I read was right.

  19. Peter Paul and--Hillary

    The republicans might be better off with the squeeky clean Romney(assuming he is) than another candidate. Big contrast, and he at least in something new, to most people.

    'Better a new saint, than the devil you know'

    'A chicken in every pot'

    'The New Deal'

    Peace, Prosperity, Freedom! A stewed chicken in every pot.

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Trish wrote:

    "Have your cake and eat it, too. Everyone does."

    yeah, hopefully they'll cast off the veil of obfuscation and make sure the piper gets paid.

    or as they said in the NYTimes:

    "In a letter to the 10 Democrats on the committee, Mr. Mukasey refused to say whether he considered waterboarding (a method of extracting information by making a prisoner believe he is about to be drowned) to be torture. He said he found it “repugnant,” but could not say whether it is illegal until he has been briefed on the interrogation programs that Mr. Bush authorized at Central Intelligence Agency prisons.

    This is a crass dodge. Waterboarding is torture and was prosecuted as such as far back as 1902 by the United States military when used in a slightly different form on insurgents in the Philippines. It meets the definition of torture that existed in American law and international treaties until Mr. Bush changed those rules. Even the awful laws on the treatment of detainees that were passed in 2006 prohibited the use of waterboarding by the American military.

    And yet the nominee for attorney general has no view on whether it would be legal for an employee of the United States government to subject a prisoner to that treatment? The only information Mr. Mukasey can possibly be lacking is whether Mr. Bush broke the law by authorizing the C.I.A. to use waterboarding — a judgment that the White House clearly does not want him to render in public because it could expose a host of officials to criminal accountability.

    Mr. Mukasey’s letter to the Senate committee accepts the administration’s use of the so-called shocks-the-conscience test to determine the legality of interrogation methods, rather than the clear and specific prohibitions against torture, humiliation and cruel treatment embedded in American and international law. The administration’s standard is dangerously vague, invites abuse and amounts to a unilateral reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions. Would Mr. Mukasey approve of a foreign jailer using waterboarding on an American soldier? Mr. Bush’s policies increase the danger of that happening.

    There seems to be little chance that Mr. Bush will appoint the sort of attorney general that the nation needs, a job that includes enforcing voting rights laws and civil rights laws and ensuring that criminal prosecutions are done fairly. Still, senators with a conscience that can be shocked should insist that Mr. Bush meet a higher standard than this nomination."

  22. Bobalharb: By the way, I heard a unique theory about why all the Republicans are getting caught lately, with their pants down--but their g-strings up! We're all bi-sexual, and the dems have know this for years and accepted it, it is just dawning on the repubs, who have been in denial.

    Bobal, if you do some reading on the subject of bisexuality, you will run across something called the J curve. If you make a plot of how many people are gay, bi, or straight, with flaming fruit bar on the left (appropriately enough) and straight as an arrow on the right, you end up with a curve that looks like a "J". That is, a few people are gay, a lot of people are straight, and very very few people are shades in between.

  23. Bobal: If there was a big action in the Persian Gulf, I think I'd rather be on a minesweeper, than on an aircraft carrier. My survival time might be greater.

    A CV sits in the middle of a picket of destroyers and frigates who will jump in the way of a torpedo or cruise missile to protect the queen bee. With all the advanced AEGIS anti-air defenses on the accompanying cruisers, it would take another carrier to take out out of our carriers (that's been true since the battle of Coral Sea), and even then it would be a knock-down-drag-out. Don't forget about Electronic Warfare. Iran isn't gonna get within 200 nautical miles of a carrier battle group with a wing of F-14s on their last legs.

  24. "...rather than the clear and specific prohibitions against torture, humiliation and cruel treatment embedded in American and international law."

    Common Article 3.

    Try and pin it down as an objective matter.

    In any event, Congress does not want to. And has handed the responsibility to the Executive. Now they want the Executive to forswear an operation that they themselves chose not to.

    And why did they choose not to?

  25. i dunno...they are a bunch of wussies holding their fingers up trying to gauge which way the wind is blowing?

  26. That's interesting, Ms. T., I wouldn't have quessed quite like that. Very few people in between. Well, that blows (!) that theory all to hell:) The we're all bi defense.

    And I see I know nothing about naval warfare either.:) But I do remember a Secretary of the Navy saying, in a real war, after 1/2 an hour, all that will be left in the ocean will be US and USSR subs hunting each other under the arctic ice cap, or what's left of it these days. This was a statement made before the breakup of the USSR--back in the stare down the gun barrel days.

  27. "A CV sits in the middle of a picket of destroyers and frigates who will jump in the way of a torpedo or cruise missile to protect the queen bee. With all the advanced AEGIS anti-air defenses on the accompanying cruisers, it would take another carrier to take out out of our carriers (that's been true since the battle of Coral Sea), and even then it would be a knock-down-drag-out."

    We're getting rid of the last of our frigates (Perry Class), with their high frequency sonars. Regardless, a relatively advanced submarine, Russian Akula, Sierra, or whatever, could do the deed. So too could an enemy diesel submarine under the right conditions if it hit with most of a spread, especially considering most of our prospective enemy's subs have at least half a dozen torpedo tubes a piece, unlike our own.

    And an enemy cruise missile could get through Aegis (which has never been seriously tested in combat) and wreck the flight deck, which is all you need to do to put a carrier out of action.

    I'm not one of these "carriers are useless fanatics," but they're not that invulnerable, especially considering that against a serious enemy (i.e. China) they'd be operating on that country's turf and within range of land-air power (operating off Taiwan is like them operating off Florida). As a weapons system, they are also miraculously inefficient when it comes down to do it. Billions of dollars to construct and protect roughly 2-3 attack/fighter squadrons. It is nice to have, but a fragile tool against serious opposition. We're just we don't current have much serious opposition above 15,000 feet.

  28. "carriers are useless fanatics"

    Just to make it clear I'm not beating strawmen to make myself seem reasonable - there are actuallly people out there who think that modern cruise missiles and stealth aircraft have basically made carrier groups obsolete in a shooting war. Basically "networking" and "fifth generation warfare" theory brought to sea.

  29. Anyone's interesting, this is a CBO report on future options for the Navy. Page 69 have the simplest table, projecting the number of ships of various classes under different options.

    In class we concluded that the CBO had probably overestimated the amount that's probably going to be available for shipbuilding, so that's why I eventually came up with under 200 numbers.

  30. "73% of regular democrats want the illegals kicked out of the country. They see them at the Dept. Motor Vehicles, at the store, at the clinic. They see them taking money out of their own pockets."

    "Giuliani is a self-serving, self-aggrandizing stradler whose campaign manager is a former bar-tending thung, an illiterate."

    "A candidate that would close that border and kick them out would beat Hillary by 10 percentage points. If Giuliani can get his act together and become a conservative he can beat Hillary by 10%."

    Michael Savage

    :) The quotes are awfully close, just reporting.

  31. One of the climate scientists on the United Nations climate panel that co-won the Nobel prize with Al Gore is turning down the opportunity, says Savage:) Says whole thing is a fraud. That is to say, the scientist says the whole thing is a fraud, with which Savage evidently agrees.

  32. Nobel Winner

    A growing ice sheet in the Ant-arctic can be explained by global warming, as it rains(snows) more, which is occurring to some extent, he says, at the south pole. But we shouldn't be going ballistic, just yet.

    Meanwhile, the Senate debates carbon credits and so forth, but what about nuclear energy?

  33. What about it, bob?

    The French are moving forward on the use of nuclear technology. The US is going to burn coal, seems to me.

  34. Cutler looks foreword to giving aide to needy Millionaires!

    "All applicants would be required to stipulate that family assets did not exceed $1 million. "

    "Senate Again Passes Child Health Bill"

  35. Central banks should prick asset bubbles

    The problem that we have seen in the recent crisis is that the banking sectors were not insulated from movements in the asset markets. Banks were heavily implicated both in the development of the bubble in the housing markets and its subsequent crash. Since the banking system was implicated, the central banks were also heavily involved owing to the fact that they provide insurance to the banks as lender of last resort. Some may wish that central banks would abstain from supplying this insurance. However, central banks are forced to provide liquidity during a crisis because they are the only institutions capable of doing so. Thus, when asset prices experience a bubble it should be a matter of concern for the central bank because the bubble will be followed by a crash, and that is when the balance sheet of the central bank will be affected.

    There is a second reason that the hands-off approach has been shown to be wanting. During the past few years, a significant part of liquidity and credit creation has occurred outside the banking system. Hedge funds and special conduits have been borrowing short and lending long and, as a result, have created credit and liquidity on a massive scale. As long as this liquidity creation was not affecting banks, it was not a source of concern for the central bank. However, banks were heavily implicated. Thus, the central bank was implicitly extending its liquidity insurance to institutions outside the regulatory framework. It is unreasonable for a central bank to insure activities of agents over which it has no super­vision, just as it would be unreasonable for an insurance company selling fire insurance not to check whether the insured persons take sufficient precautions against the outbreak of fire.

    So, what should central banks do besides target inflation? First, central banks should recognise that asset bubbles are a source of concern and that they should act on the emergence of such a bubble. The argument that a bubble can never be recognised ex ante is a very weak one. One had to be blind not to see the bubble in the US housing market, or the internet bubble. This is the case for most asset bubbles in history.

    It has been argued that even if central banks can detect bubbles, they are pretty much powerless to stop them. This argument is unconvincing. It is not inherently more difficult to stop asset bubbles than it is to stop in­flation. Central banks have been highly successful at stopping inflation.

    Second, central banks should be involved in the supervision and regulation of all institutions that create credit and liquidity. The UK approach of dissociating monetary policy from banking supervision has not worked. Central banks are the only insurers against liquidity risks. Therefore they are the ones who should control those who ­create credit and liquidity. Failure to do so will continue to induce agents to create excessive amounts of liquidity, endangering the financial system.

  36. The French are already about eighty or ninety percent there now, according to what I've heard. Other than the Peugeot cars,nuke pretty much lights up the country. I don't know how we will go. The coal industry is powerful. And the natural gas industry.
    We will muddle though, I quess. We need to cut the approval time for nuclear plants. The ones in the approval process now won't be on line for something like another decade.

  37. Bush finally had a good speech, even focusing on Islamofascists.

  38. Thomas Sowell On Muddling Through

    Having a farm background I might disagree with Mr. Sowell's thoughts on 'making the desert bloom'. In central Washington the desert was made to bloom, from water from the Columbia, and that has worked out well. But then there is a lot of water in the northwest.
    Did Bush speak in English, Doug?

  39. Cutler:
    B-2's are supposed to be our carriers against China.
    Might be nice to have a strategic Air Force of more than 20 Planes, eh?
    F-22 fanatics will act like they could make up the difference.
    Forget how many of them we'll buy.

  40. Hiroshima Pilot Dies-Tibbits

    Nearly born in an airplane, he dropped candy samples out of the rear seat of a plane over county fairs, as advertising for the candy maker.

    Which brings up the question, should the US have made a demonstration in Tokyo harbor, before the real one? I remember that talked about over the table when I was growing up. Seems like we only had two or three bombs though, and the generals won the argument.

    That would be Boberto, El Dougal.

  41. Hillary Returns to Wellsley.

    How many Wellsley Girls does it take to change a light bulb?

    It's Wymin, and that's not funny!

  42. Doug: Question:
    How many Wellsley Girls does it take to change a light bulb?

    This girl enters a doctor's office for her annual physical. The doctor has her disrobe and sit on the examining table. Right off he notices a rash all across her chest in the shape of an "H". "How did that happen?" he asks. She says, "My boyfriend is a big football star at Harvard, and he won't take off his letter sweater when we fool around."

    Strange, thinks the doctor, but to each his own. Some time later another girl enters the same doctor's office for her annual physical. Same drill, disrobe, and sit on the examining table. The doctor notices an almost identical rash on this girl's chest, only this time, it's in the shape of a "Y". "How did you get this rash?" the doctor asks. The sweet young thing replies, "Oh, my boyfriend is a letter man at Yale, and he won't take his sweater off when we fool around." "Oh" says the doctor.

    Not a half hour after this young lady leaves, another girl comes in for her annual physical. Again the doctor notices a rash on her chest in the shape of a giant "M". The doctor says, "Don't tell me, your boyfriend goes to Minnesota State!" "No, but my girlfriend goes to Wellesley."

  43. LOL!
    Wretch has a French Joke thread, I put my Wellsley there, so should you!

  44. One guy on Coast to Coast says oil's about out, and a Madd Maxx world is only months or years away, the other expert says it's abiotic, and the shortage is all political, and if you don't see that you're idiotic for not recognizing the abiotic. In either case I still argue for nukes.