A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief”
Summary: This post describes an article wells worth reading, a sophisticated example of war-mongering. For a contrast see Geopolitical analysis need not be war-mongering. At the end are links to other articles on this topic.
This is a review of “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief“, Sandy Winnefeld (Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy), Proceedings, July 2008 — Vice Admiral Winnefeld leads the U.S. Sixth Fleet, NATO’s Allied Joint Command Lisbon, and Strike Force NATO.
(1) A case history of provocation and response: Russia
A classic formula for escalating tensions is to provoke rival states, then declare their response to be aggressive. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region changed from threat to be feared into a ruin to looted. We sought to dismantle Russia’s sphere of influence. NATO has expanded into Russia’s sphere of influence, admitting Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Russia should tweak and re-release the Monroe Doctrine, and see how we like it.
As we enter the Age of Peak Oil, Russia returns to the ranks of the Great Powers. As Russia rebuilds, we have initiated even more provocative programs.
- The US has attempted to install missile interceptors in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic.
- In response, President Putin threatened that Russia “should freeze its compliance with the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty – which limits military deployments across the continent “until all countries of the world have ratified and started to strictly implement it”. (BBC, 26 April 2007).
- NATO dismisses Russia’s concerns.
- Russia’s leaders makes good on their threat (BBC, 14 July 2007).
Admiral Winnefeld paints a different picture of the situation, in which Russia is the aggressor.
“Let us begin with the biggest change in Europe: the emergence of a new Russia with many of the same ambitions as the old Soviet state. … One of the first things observers detect today is a profound anxiety, especially in Europe and the West, over Russia’s re-emergence strategically.”
“… Current Russian strategy appears to have two fundamental tenets. The first is to divide a Europe eager to avoid conflict and maintain its energy supplies by employing an angry rhetorical drumbeat of Western encirclement and the use of energy as an economic weapon. … The second tenet of Russian strategy is to buy time for energy profits to project the illusion of global power when it is not yet there-a “walk loudly and carry a small stick” approach.
“… Near-term Russian actions in support of this strategy convey a troubling long-term intent. Russia is too powerful to ignore and — given its new global economic orientation in an energy-hungry world — unlikely to be contained. A successful Western strategy will therefore speak to the Russian governing elite in the only language to which it has ever responded positively: principled cooperation backed by strength. ”
To our surprise, Russia is about to build a Navy (again). Even five or six aircraft carriers (a Cold War staple of US Naval forecasts).
“On the other hand, hedging our bets will require setting aside the assumption that any stagnation in Russian military capability will continue. Moscow’s conversion of soaring energy profits into proposed military recapitalization includes nearly $50 billion for the RFN over the next seven years to modernize existing forces and build new classes of submarines and surface ships. Russia may even begin construction of a new class of aircraft carrier beginning as early as 2012, with an ultimate goal of five or six.”
The Admiral then warns us.
“While RFN current capability and intent pose no immediate danger, we would be wise to remember that China wasted no time in translating its conversion-to-capitalism affluence into a navy that poses a serious challenge to U.S. influence in the Western Pacific.”
This is bad news, considering the cautionary example of China. If, that is, the Western Pacific being defined as a that area extending few hundred miles from China’s coast. Do China’s capabilities at coastal defense obviously indicate a belligerent intent?
(2) Our enemies are always the aggerssor, no matter what you read in the news
A second classic formula for escalating tensions is to threaten rival states, then declare them to be the aggressors. If they respond, see section one above.
“Perhaps most worrisome of the threats in the region is Iran’s increasing ability to quickly launch ballistic missiles in an attempt to overwhelm Israel’s organic defensive systems. This is, in my opinion, by far the most likely employment of ballistic missiles in the world today, and it demands our immediate attention in the event of a need for a U.S. or NATO response. This unpredictable adversary could be provoked by an isolated, and perhaps seemingly unimportant, event.”
On this planet Earth, unlike that of Vice Admiral Winnefeld, the “unpredictable” States folks worry about are Israel and the US, and the “most likely employment” of massive force is one of them launching “an attempt to overwhelm” Iran’s “organic defensive systems.” In a post-Westphallian world where the prohibitions against preemptive attacks have faded, where Israel and the US both declare preemptive attacks as a routine part of their military strategy, nukes have become the only guarantee of sovereignty.
Iran might also be fearful of a global hegemon with our thirst of oil and a history of attacking and occupying states with flimsy reasons and less evidence.
Successful strategy requires the ability to see things from the point of view of other states. Our government’s top leaders, especially our senior military officers, seem unable to do so. No wonder the Admiral considers Russia an “enigma” and Iran as “unpredictable.” This is a serious disability.
(4) For More information
Other posts about Israel and Iran:
- The Fate of Israel, 28 July 2006)
- Posts about the possibility that the US or Israel will attack Iran
For more information about the US Navy
- DoD Death Spiral – the US Navy version, 31 January 2008
- Update to the “Navy Death Spiral”, 22 April 2008
- A step towards building a Navy we can afford, 16 July 2008
- “Amphibious Ships are the Dreadnoughts of the modern maritime era”, 2 September 2008
- What Tom Barnett should have told Congress about America’s 21st century Navy, 3 April 2009
- How to design a naval strategy for a crazy nation, 16 July 2009
- Dr. Gross asks “Can The Case Be Made For Naval Power?”, 5 July 2010
To see all articles on the FM sites on this topic (including piracy): Naval warfare and strategy.
For in-depth coverage of Navy-related issues, see Galrahn’s work at Information Dissemination. His blogroll has many other sites of interest discussing these matters.
Grand Strategy and our national security
Does America need a grand strategy? If so, what should it be? Answers to these questions illuminate many of the questions hotly debated about foreign policy and national security.
- The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
- America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
- Why We Lose at 4GW , 4 January 2007
- America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
- One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I , 19 March 2007; revised 7 June 2008
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II , 14 June 2008
- America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008 – chapter 1 in a series of notes
- President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris , 1 July 2008 - chapter 2
- America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
- America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
- The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
- “A shattering moment in America’s fall from power”, 19 November 2008
- Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009