One of the historical justifications for naval forces is their use as a deterrence to would be troublemakers. A battleship or carrier group parked off one’s shore has had a calming effect on various hotspots over the years. Why does this work? It’s effective because of the visible power and the implied threat to use that power. Thus, we see that deterrence is dependent on certain factors such as,
Visibility is vital and is the reason that submarines make poor deterrents. The deterring force must be readily “seen” by the target.
Proximity is obvious. The deterring force must be in range to apply the power, if needed. Having forces stationed at some far away, remote location doesn’t constitute a threat. Some have argued that all we need to do is keep our forces at home bases but able to surge if needed. That may be fine once a conflict has started but only proximity provides the imminent threat that might calm a situation.
Power is the ability to apply pain that causes miscreants to pause and reconsider. This is why the LCS, for instance, will never be a deterrent. No one is afraid of the LCS because it has no ability to apply pain.
Finally, reputation means that at some point in the past you have to have actually spanked someone so that everyone believes you may do so again. If every hotspot is met with a strict policy of military inaction, eventually your reputation fades and no one believes that you’ll use whatever force you have.
If the conditions for effective deterrence are not met, then the hoped for deterrence becomes a simple bluff and one that is easily seen for what it is. Unfortunately, the Navy is steadily decreasing the number of carrier groups, decreasing the combat fleet size, and is committed to building 55 non-combat LCS’s to take the place of combat ships. We have ever fewer ships available for missions of deterrence and the forces we have are growing steadily weaker. Where are the future deterrent forces going to come from? The Navy is slowly losing its ability to influence regional bad guys.
Consider the Navy’s plan to forward deploy LCS’s to
. Does anyone seriously believe that an LCS is going to influence any of the actors in the region? Singapore