The 2007 Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower has been updated and we’ll be taking a look at various aspects of it. The document starts by flatly stating two foundational principles.
The first is forward presence.
“First, U.S. forward naval presence is essential to accomplishing the following naval missions derived from national guidance: defend the homeland, deter conflict, respond to crises, defeat aggression, protect the maritime commons, strengthen partnerships, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response. … “
Forward presence is a debatable but valid approach to achieving the Navy’s goals. Forward presence implies several things such as increased costs for forward basing and maintenance, an acceptance of a certain degree of inefficiency due to multiple, disbursed storage, maintenance, and training requirements, and a degree of vulnerability of bases and ships to initial attack due to proximity to enemy long range ballistic and cruise missiles. Properly implemented, it also offers the ability to respond quicker to crises and promotes a degree of local familiarity with geography, climate, oceanic conditions, and enemy forces and tactics that would be unavailable to surge forces. It also offers the theoretical possibility of deterrence through presence although history suggests that the reality of that is suspect.
Most significantly, it offers the possibility of head to head confrontational containment, if we have the will to do so. For example,
’s steady encroachment across the East and China , backed by localized small scale military force, could be countered by similar counter-encroachments by South China Seas naval forces as long as we are willing to accept the risk of small engagements. It is this ability to apply counter-encroachment that is the most valid justification for, and use of, forward presence. U.S.
This principle is also notable as much for what it precludes as what it includes. It rules out the concept of home-based naval forces (sometimes referred to as a nodal strategy) that operate via the surge mechanism as the primary means of naval employment. Similarly, it rules out the various concepts of cadre/reserve/garrison approaches that would have the bulk of our forces home based in some type of reduced status and only responding to a crisis as necessary.
The second foundational principle is global naval cooperation.
“Second, naval forces are stronger when we operate jointly and together with allies and partners. Merging our individual capabilities and capacity produces a combined naval effect that is greater than the sum of its parts. By working together in formal and informal networks, we can address the threats to our mutual maritime security interests. Maximizing the robust capacity of this global network of navies concept, we are all better postured to face new and emerging challenges.”
This is pure and utter bilge water. While there is nothing wrong with cooperating with allies, the belief that some kind of magical global naval network can exist and provide an enhanced level of naval might is pure fantasy. We’ve seen in the past that every country has its own objectives and priorities and those only rarely coincide with ours. How many times have we been denied overflight rights by allies? How many times have we been denied basing and operational rights by allies? How many times have allies balked at joining us in military operations?
Further, with the exception of the
, UK , and, possibly, Japan , what other country has naval power significant enough to be worth attempting to cooperate with? I’m sorry but teaming up with countries whose most powerful vessel is a patrol boat doesn’t gain us anything. Korea
Even partnering with the
, UK , and Japan has limitations. The Korea has very limited numbers and no significant naval aviation capability. UK is a localized force only, though a powerful and capable one. Japan is completely occupied with their own defensive needs. When it comes to meeting our global needs and responsibilities, these countries are marginally helpful but hardly significant global participants. Korea
I’m all for naval cooperation but to make some kind of nebulous global naval network a foundational principle is idiotic. As with any country, our needs and requirements must be met by our own resources. Dependence on foreign assistance is a sure path to disappointment, as history has amply demonstrated.
A better version of this foundational principle is that
’s Navy stands alone. As such, the Navy must be sized to meet all its needs and requirements on its own. If, in a given situation, we can obtain assistance from an ally, so much the better but to count on such assistance as a foundational principle is just pure fantasy and folly. America
A country and a Navy that would count on global cooperation as a foundational principle is a country and a Navy that is setting itself up for disappointment and defeat. No other country has our interests at heart and we should, therefore, count on no one but ourselves. The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower document is flawed from the very start because of this misguided principle.