Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Peacetime Navy Activities

ComNavOps largely focuses on peer war combat, quite correctly, because that is, after all, the number one responsibility of the military.  Lesser conflicts are a subset of the main responsibility and peacetime activities are a distant third responsibility although they are the most common.  For a change of pace, let me now focus on the Navy’s peacetime activities.

As always, there are two levels to this:  one, is the activities that the Navy actually does and, two, is the activities that the Navy should be doing.  Predictably, we’ll focus on what the Navy should be doing.

Just to gather our thoughts and set the table for the comparisons to come, let’s ever so briefly review what the Navy actually does during peacetime.

The Navy engages in interminable deployments (see, “Deployments or Missions?”), usually several months long, that amount to nothing more than austere, low budget cruise ship ‘vacations’ for the crews.  The cruises accomplish nothing other than adding wear and tear to the ships and running up huge operating costs while plinking occasional pickup trucks and colliding with commercial cargo ships. 

The deployments are supposed to promote deterrence but are utterly ineffective as such.  China is still engaged in annexation of the entire East and South China Seas and ordering us out of the area while seizing our UUVs and expanding into Africa and other countries.  Iran is mining commercial ships and shooting down our UAVs.  Russia is engaged in annexation and invasion of neighboring countries while engaging in unsafe harassment of our ships and planes.  North Korea continues their ballistic missile program.  Houthi rebels launch anti-ship missiles at our ships, if the Navy is to be believed.  Clearly, our enemies are unimpressed with our deterrence cruises.

In addition, we engage in chasing pirates in skiffs, showing the flag to anyone who cares, hosting foreign dignitaries, and exercising with foreign navies whose biggest warship is, all too often, a patrol boat or corvette – none of which prepares us for war.

So, if deployments accomplish nothing and we’re not deterring anyone from anything, what should the Navy be doing during peacetime?

Well, the answer is obvious – we should be preparing for war.  We should be training hard, exercising constantly, and performing maintenance when we aren’t training.  We’ve discussed this in previous posts so I won’t belabor it. 

Beyond this, is there anything legitimate that the Navy could and should be doing?  Yes!  The world is an unhappy, angry place marked by unfriendly peers and near-peers, terrorists, and third world countries full of unrest.  These represent a threat to our interests and should be monitored and dealt with before they become major problems.  In addition, we should be preparing the battlefield for potential future wars (as distinct from training for wars).

Let’s look a bit closer at these peacetime activities.

Monitoring.  This consists of monitoring our potential enemy’s capabilities and developments.  If we can better understand their capabilities then we can be better prepared for the inevitable war.   We need to monitor signals, electronic capabilities, military testing and exercises, and the like.  This is where the Navy can make a huge contribution.  Surveillance ships should be parked 13 miles off the coast of every potential trouble spot in the world.  As a nation, we have many types of surveillance capabilities but ships offer the one thing that no other surveillance asset can and that is persistence.  A ship can sit off a trouble spot continuously, providing uninterrupted, real time surveillance. 

A lot of people will object to this out of fear that we might offend or upset an enemy.  Hey, they’re called enemies for a reason.  Who cares what they think?  If they don’t want us monitoring them that closely then maybe they should consider being a little more friendly.

For the case of countries that are harboring terrorists, whether intentionally or not, we should be flying UAVs over those trouble spots regardless of international law (see, “The Navy and the War on Terror”).  There are two justifications for this:

1. I’ve previously discussed that a country that won’t or can’t stop terrorists in their country forfeits their right to the protections of international law. 

2. Given the world’s evolving cavalier attitude towards unmanned assets (the Chinese have seized our unmanned underwater drones and Iran has shot down our UAVs) UAVs are quickly taking on the characteristic of being above/beyond/outside of the constraints and protections of international law. 

If terrorists are forming, we need to know about it before it becomes a major problem.  If an unfriendly country is testing and developing new radars to missiles, we need to know about it so that we can develop countermeasures.

Interestingly, a suitably modified LCS would make an outstanding surveillance platform (see, “The Electronic LCS” and “LCSAlternative Uses”).  Modifications would have to include a larger crew and facilities to conduct onboard maintenance as well as specific surveillance equipment.  Such an LCS would have the speed to avoid trouble and enough firepower to discourage troublemakers.

Pre-emptive Action.  Monitoring is only half the peacetime activity.  Pre-emptive action is the other half.  We need to stop problems before they become major.  America should not be apologizing for aggressively exercising our legal rights and our inherent right to self-defense.

The Navy has much to offer in the realm of pre-emptive action.  In addition to the obvious direct action such as air strikes and Tomahawk strikes, the Navy is ideally positioned to support other, less obvious actions, direct or indirect.  Navy ‘barges’ (could be a MLP, JHSV, AFSB or, gods forbid, an actual barge) could be parked just outside territorial waters (or inside, if needed) and used to host special forces and UAVs.  That terrorist training camp that we’ve been monitoring should be struck before it actually generates functioning terrorists.  That corrupt government that is unofficially supporting terrorism should be ‘visited’ in various ways to encourage them to cease their support.

Battlefield Preparation.  We know where war is likely to occur (looking at you China and Iran) so let’s study the battlefield.  Let’s map the underwater domain.  Let’s map the electronic ‘geography’.  Let’s practice trailing enemy subs.  Let’s fly practice missions to the extent we can.  Let’s intercept any aircraft or ships that venture into international air/water.  Let’s insert ourselves into enemy exercises and observe the reactions and capabilities (China has done exactly this during RIMPAC, for example).


We see that there is much productive work that the Navy could be doing during peacetime but it all starts with ending the useless, interminable deployments that wear out ships and accomplish nothing.  We need to pull our ships back and engage in intensive maintenance and hard, realistic training.  That will free up ships to conduct the missions described above.

It is noteworthy that none of the peacetime missions described require high end, sophisticated ships.  Thus, the bulk of the fleet can undergo maintenance and training without adversely affecting the peacetime missions that should be done.  Indeed, converted commercial ships could perform most or all of the peacetime missions.

We need to make the Navy truly productive during peacetime and now we know how to do it.


  1. Part of this needs to get the missile defence mission of land targets off the Navy. A Burke doing figure 8s off the coast of Japan waiting for North Korean missiles is a costly endeavor.

    1. Yes and no. Yes, a Burke idling around waiting for a war to happen is utterly pointless. No war in history has started spontaneously with no warning. There is ALWAYS a buildup to war in terms of both political tensions and military might. Plenty of warning. If/when that time seems to be approaching we'll have plenty of time to position ships where needed. Until then, sailing in circles against the million-to-one chance they're needed is completely pointless.

      No, completely removing the missile defense mission from the Navy is wrong. Land anti-missile defense is good and should be increased. HOWEVER, land defenses are fixed targets and susceptible to ballistic and cruise missiles. In contrast, a ship at sea is a very difficult target to find and hit. In other words, it's a far more survivable defense than land defenses.

      So, it's not a case of removing the missile defense mission from the Navy, it's a case of better using the ships in a way that makes more sense.

  2. The logistics systems need to have a peacetime stress test/training as well. The last turbo activation of the National defense ready reserve fleet (NDRRF) was not a great show of readiness. Including the logistics ships in the training will be needed to expose the degree of deficiency in logistics.
    The CHAMP (Common hull auxiliary multi-mission platform) may be dead/moribund but there is still a need for new ships to replace the outdated ships of the NDRRF.
    The current fleet is sized to transit the old locks at the Panama canal. The new locks are significantly larger and afford new opportunities for ship designers to increase the capabilities of naval ships. Neopanamax container ships hold 13,000 TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit) while the old panamax container ships held around 5,000 TEU, so 260% increase in capacity. New ships designed to transit the new locks should be evaluated as well as legacy designs. The larger designs may be more economical since the majority of new construction is of the large size and many of the ships sized for the old locks are being or have been scrapped. The remaining old panamax sized ships offer an opportunity to pick up some lightly used ships that otherwise would be heading to the scrapyard.
    The Neopanamax dimensions could also serve as a standard for transportation upgrades in the United States. Expanding the St. Lawrence Seaway, Mississippi river or New York state barge canal locks to allow transit of Neopanamax vessels would reduce transportation cost in the upper Midwest of the United States.

  3. Does the LCS have the endurance to stay in position for a long time both in terms of sea keeping and supplies (and not breaking down!)?
    Otherwise in principle I agree, all it requires is a helepad, boat storage etc for special forces, spare accomodation, good sea keeping abilities, and a size that permits a high mast for radar etc.

    1. "Does the LCS have the endurance to stay in position for a long time"

      No, it does not. That would have to be among the modifications for this application. By eliminating the ridiculous module concept, it frees up a lot of internal volume for repair shops, fuel storage, food storage and everything else needed to significantly increase range and endurance. Ideally, you'd replace the waterjets with either conventional shafts or podded motors but, realistically, that would probably cost too much to do.

      In addition to a tall mast, the ship could float small blimps to elevate various sensor packages.

    2. With all the modifications it sounds easier to design and produce a new ship and cheaper to boot.

    3. "cheaper to boot."

      Come on, now. You can't have watched the Navy's last several ship programs turn into multi-billion dollar runaway programs and think we could design and build a new ship for less than the cost of some modifications????

      You can get an entire brand new Aegis combat system and sensors for a couple hundred million dollars. For this application, the passive collection sensors would be far less, presumably, but, hey, let's say $200M. Add in, say, $100M of new storage for added range and endurance. That's probably way overestimating because storage tanks and food lockers and the like are not terribly expensive but let's go with the high number. That puts us at $300M. Compare that to the cost of any recent new Navy ship design/build. There's no comparison!

    4. Another option would be to produce an existing design that would be better suited for the mission. If you are going to add the aegis combat system and sensors to a ship I would chose one that already has the range that is required, resulting in fewer modifications.
      I would consider the Arrowhead 140 a better choice for modifications. The national security cutter could also fulfill the requirements and is in active production. 28 knots top speed for both designs is not quite in the lcs range but the conops will dictate the top speed needed.

  4. The USN has around 110 ships deployed at a time.

    For a small Navy one would use 3s (1 x operational, 1 x training, and 1 x maintenance) to it would need 330 ships. But for a Navy preparing for great power conflict a rule of 4s (with an extra 1 x surge/war games) are needed so a navy of 440 ships minimum.

    So the USN has 3 choices - remaining overstretched, reducing their activities to their fleet size (at 355 that is still 90 deployed), or going for 440 ships.

    1. "So the USN has 3 choices"

      There is a fourth choice and that is terminate the idiotic, unproductive deployments, as I've posted.

    2. "for a Navy preparing for great power conflict a rule of 4s"

      NO! If you're serious about preparing for a peer war you bring your ships home, put them through intensive maintenance and upgrades, and begin intensive training. What you don't do, is deploy on useless 6-12 month cruises.

    3. Precisely.

      The LAST thing one wants before a major war is wear and tear for no good reason.

  5. The problem with terminating the deployments is the deal we made at Bretton Woods near the end of WWII. We'll give your products one-way entry to our markets with no reciprocation, and our Navy will protect your sea lines of communication (SLOC)/supply chains, and in return you take our side in the Cold War. It worked. We had 40+ years of prosperity and no WWIII. The problem is it worked too well. When the Berlin Wall fell, it became obsolete.

    But 30 years later, we still haven't adjusted. If we don't have a carrier task force in WestPac and another one in the Indian Ocean, and one in the Med, then somebody else has to. And so far, all those somebody elses still like their sweetheart trade deals and leaving the defense up to us. Either we have to play world policeman, or we have to turn at least part the job over to somebody else, because the job still has to be done.

    It makes no sense to have Burkes doing Somali pirate patrol. But if they don't do it, somebody else has to. And we have not a clue how to get there from here.

    1. "Bretton Woods"

      You keep referring to this agreement as justification/requirement for US intervention, NATO, and world policeman. I can find no such terms in the agreement. The BW agreement focused on the Gold Standard and international banking with some side agreements not to engage in trade wars or currency manipulation. Maybe you could provide some specific reference that documents your view?

      Setting aside the exact terms, if any, of the BW agreement, one can certainly make an overwhelming argument that the relevancy of the BW agreement is over especially given that the US, among others, have violated the various original banking and gold standard provisions and that the original intent (international monetary stability) was long ago fulfilled and the agreement is no longer relevant or needed.

      There is absolutely no legal requirement for the US to have carriers, ships, or a Navy deployed around the world. That we do so (stupidly) is for our own benefit.

    2. For example:

      "At Bretton Woods the Americans changed the nature of the game. From now on the U.S. Navy would guard oceanic commerce for all participants, while the American economy would be opened to all participants. There was, of course, a catch — you had to join the Americans in their Cold War."

      The formal agreement at Bretton Woods was a currency agreement. But we also reached informal agreements making the promises discussed. Those became the basis for, and formalized in, NATO, SEATO, the Marshall Plan, and even the UN, and out of that our support for entities like the World Court, WHO, WTO, and others. Those things all happened, and are entirely consistent with what I have called the BW principles. If you want to argue that the stage was not set at BW, so be it, but the substance clearly came from somewhere, and BW is reasonable shorthand notation IMO.

      "Setting aside the exact terms, if any, of the BW agreement, one can certainly make an overwhelming argument that the relevancy of the BW agreement is over"

      That's precisely the argument that I am making. The currency part as been outmoded since Nixon, and the security consensus lost its purpose when the Berlin Wall fell. The problem is that we are still living with both the trade and military implications 30 years later. We need to quit being the world's policeman. But are we willing to turn that over to China? I don't think so. And are there any other takers? I don't see any, do you? Bottom line, we are so dependent on maintaining global sea lines of communication and commerce that if nobody else does it, we kind of have to.

      We don't need to have Burkes doing Somali patrol. It's a waste of an expensive asset which is not particularly suited to the task. But somebody has to, or world commerce gets disrupted. To the extent we stay involved, your ASW frigate is probably much better suited to the task, and cheaper. But better to find somebody else to do it. Europe has at least taken part of the burden.

      This is one motivation behind my thoughts about a closer alliance with the British Commonwealth. We have a large carrot to offer UK--a trade deal to replace at least some of what they lose from Europe with Brexit. Bring them into NAFTA, hypothetically. Then you would have two major Commonwealth countries, so consider bringing in the rest. On the defense side, there has been talk of a combined Commonwealth armed force. It hasn't gotten very far, but if it did then such force would be no worse tan the 4th strongest military in the world, and arguably the 2nd strongest navy. That would be a force to which we could pass a lot of our commitments.

    3. " if nobody else does it, we kind of have to."

      No and qualified no.

      No, we don't have to do it and yes someone else will step up to fill the role. All we have to do is pull back and let nature take its course. When other countries realize that the Iranians, for example, are hijacking their ships and the US isn't doing anything about it then they'll either have to start supplying their own naval protection (good for us) or they'll stop shipping (unlikely but just as good for us in terms of not having to protect anything).

      Qualified no means that if we do continue to provide the global protection then we need to aggressively pursue recompense from every other country. Trump has begun to do this and with some success.

    4. "No, we don't have to do it and yes someone else will step up to fill the role."

      Yes, somebody will. I'll tell you who--China. They're not ready or able to do it today, but they will be, at least to the extent needed to cover the Indian Ocean and WestPac.

      I don't think we want that.

    5. Oh, China might attempt it but I don't think anyone will accept China being in charge of the global commons. China has pretty well revealed itself to be evil.

    6. "I don't think anyone will accept China being in charge of the global commons. China has pretty well revealed itself to be evil."

      Who is going to stop them?

    7. They'll stop themselves by their own actions. It's already happening. Every 'success' they have breeds more enemies and more hatred because of the methods they use.

    8. @CDR Chip: While a combined Commonwealth military sounds a lot like a great idea, realistically it'll never happen, because of how far flung the Commonwealth is and how little truly connects the Commonwealth. Besides, the biggest players militarily in the Commonwealth - Canada, UK, Australia, Singapore - are already US allies anyhow.

    9. Wild Goose,

      I'm trying to find somebody that we can ally with that can take on part of our "world policeman" load. The Commonwealth idea may not be perfect, but I'm not seeing a better one--unless the other NATO countries want to do a complete 180 on their defense spending.

      You did not mention India, which I think is the interesting potential player. They pose a major threat to China's critical oil supply chain, and they don't like China very much. I think they could hold their own with either China or Iran for the foreseeable future. They have had a pretty close relationship with Russia, but there has been some discontent with Russia's inability to deliver quality on time. We gave some consideration to turning Kitty Hawk over to them. Even at its age and with prior problems, I think it would have been a more useful carrier than what they got from Russia. If we could get India into some kind of Commonwealth arrangement, I think they could take on a lot of our 5th Fleet commitments. And they might make a good replacement for China as a source for cheap low-end consumer products, without the intellectual property theft issues. Of course, one more issue with India is its ongoing squabble with Pakistan.

      And I forgot about Singapore, which is clearly a threat to Chinese oil shipping in the Straits of Malacca, or whatever routing they use to get through Indonesia.

      I'm not saying this is the right or only answer, as much as I am asking, "Have you got a better one?"

    10. @CDR Chip:

      India *is* in the Commonwealth, but it's a paper tiger. The troops are motivated and patriotic, but much of their equipment is aging, readiness levels are down, their procurement and shipbuilding is an even bigger mess than LCS - we're talking TEN YEARS to construct a CORVETTE, that's not even counting the fitting out and working up! - and quality control of their local production is shoddy. Add to that an attitude of "India is the best in the world!" and a refusal to seriously self-assess...

      Like, they talk about their 120mm tungsten sabot ammo as if it's the best in the world. They claim 300mm RHAe penetration at 2,000 meters. The oldass legacy M829 did just under twice that figure, 30 years ago. (540mm at 2,000 meters.)

      For sure India's naval buildup is aimed at being a check to China's blue water ambitions but they still have a long way to go before they can be a credible challenger to China, simply because China's procurement isn't the clusterfuck meme that is Indian procurement. India is more of a land power than it is a naval power, and in the immediate term India's greatest use is to be a threat in being on China's western border, forcing them to split their focus from the Pacific (but the problem is that the Pacific is going to be primarily a naval theater...)

      It would be great if india could be a source for low-end consumer products, except that they don't have the industrial base to do that - it's a combination of Indian economic planners skipping industrialisation straight into a knowledge based economy, and a shitload of protectionism and red tape that discourages small/medium enterprise-type industry from taking root (and even in the big indian indusrial firms, QC is questionable - a key part of the Indian deal with Dassault for the purchase of the Rafale was that Hindustan Aircraft Limited would assemble the aircraft in India, but DASSAULT would be held responsible for any and all defects, while having zero oversight or authority on HAL's Indian production line. Madness. Which is why Dassault walked away from a deal it had been chasing for a decade.)

      You're saying the Commonwealth idea isn't perfect - as someone who actually lives in the Commonwealth (I'm Malaysian), I'm telling you point blank that the Commonwealth as a whole is not sufficiently unified to be able to pull off these joint ops, and they're all regional powers with very short reach, limited to only their back yards. You might as well directly ally up with the ones who can pull their weight, which means Australia, Singapore, UK, Canada. Malaysia... look, Singapore has more F-16s than the Royal Malaysian Air Force has aircraft, total. :V

      Like it or not, the problem is that the rest of the world is so used to America playing world policeman that nobody else can step in to fill that void except China.

      "I'm not saying this is the right or only answer, as much as I am asking, "Have you got a better one?"

      tl;dr: Hoping for the Commonwealth to step up... sorry, that isn't gonna happen. Better to identify which regional nations can make good allies, and then work to strengthen that relationship.

      It's funny: Malaysia might be back in the hands of an Islamist Racist Kleptocracy, but our military are very much fans of the US military.

    11. @CDR Chip

      Now that said, talking about the Straits of Malacca, this is where allying with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand comes into play. Thailand pivots between China and the US; right now, you can definitely see it pivoting away from China and closer to the US, especially after China's failed attempts to diplomatically flex on Thailand right now. Keep Thailand away from China's orbit, and China doesn't get to dig a canal through the Kra Isthmus so they can bypass the Malacca Strait.

      Singapore and Malaysia are no friends of China, but their diplomatic posture is based on the acknowledgement that their interests do not align 100% with America and that therefore both nations must make nice with China in case America isn't around. Both Nations, if push came to shove, would also be willing to support the US against China for concrete support and protection against Chinese retaliation. It's worth noting that MY, SG and TH militaries excercise more with US forces than PLA, and that Malaysia and Singapore both have naval bases situated to support US operations (hell, the USN has a full on logistics presence at Changi, and Sepanggar's berths are sized to take CVNs).

      All three nations - SG, MY, TH - are also well positioned to cut off Chinese merchant shipping through the Straits of Malacca, meaning that either Chinese merchant shipping dies on the vine, or they go the long way around southern Sumatra - which also assumes that Indonesian waters are safe territory for chinese shipping (which may or may not bbe the case, it'd depend on whether IN figures they have more to gain supporting China or supporting the US).

    12. Wild Goose,

      Thank you for the input. It is good to get the perspective of someone in the area who sees things that the US press does not report.

      Do you think a trade deal would bring relations with SG, MY, TH, and IN to a point that they would lean strongly US? That's what we did with Europe and Japan after WWII. As a result of what I call Bretton Woods, which was really the beginning of a series of agreements, we gave people trade deals to buy their military loyalty. As a result of this COVID-19 fiasco, there is going to be intense pressure in the US to move manufacturing out of China. A lot will come to the US, but there will be enough left over to have a major impact on their economies, and even India's.

      As I understand it, India, SG, and MY are Commonwealth members. TH and Indonesia are not, and neither is Japan. So a strict Commonwealth deal wouldn't cover everybody in the region, but it would be a structure that could be built upon. The US has a market that no other country offers, and preferential entry into that market could be a huge carrot.

      I wonder from afar about India. Yes, I see the paper tiger aspect. But China is really just coming out of that status, and until they develop carrier aviation and underway replenishment skills to a level approaching the US fleet, or even RN, they are going to have a hard time being anything more than that in the Indian Ocean. They can send a couple of ships to show the flag and do port visits, but they really can't mount a viable combat fleet outside the First Island Chain.

      Anyway, this whole Commonwealth idea is kind of an aspirational goal, and a lot would have to be worked out to make it happen. But I think the idea of preferential entry into the US market could be a huge carrot, and the US is going to be looking for some place to go with stuff that is now in China. We could make those countries have more to gain by supporting the USA than by supporting China, and that seems to be a reasonable policy objective. And the fact that India, Singapore, and Malaysia (and Thailand and Indonesia) are all in positions to disrupt a supply chain that China cannot live without, suggests very strongly that such alliances would provide significant leverage.

      Ronald Reagan took the Cold War from a purely military contest to an economic one by spending money on the US military that Russia didn't have to spend, and Russia gave in. In 1992, Ross Perot said something that made a lot of sense to me, "In the post-Cold-War era, economic power will become more important than military power." I think we can use our economic power to bribe up another alliance to beat China, just as we did to beat Russia.

    13. A trade deal with UK, which I think is in both the USA's and UK's best interests, plus the one we already have with Canada, would mean that we have trade deals with two of the top three economies in the Commonwealth. And obviously we have close military and economic ties with Australia. So some of the pieces are already in place.

      I can see where some sort of alliance with a worldwide collection of nations that share to a greater or lesser extent a common language and a commitment to democracy and a common legal tradition could be very advantageous to the USA. I think some sort of associate membership could even be a viable objective.

      If nothing else, I am a huge fan of international sport, and I think it would be great fun to participate in the Commonwealth Games. I realize that is only symbolic, but it is not insignificant.

      Seriously, we need to do something. We simply cannot afford to continue to be the world's policeman. But we need something to fill the void, and this seems like something that could do it.

    14. "A trade deal with UK,"

      The UK/US already have fairly unrestricted trade arrangements. The US exported $69B in goods to the UK in 2019 and imported $63B. How much more trade is there to be had?

      I'm assuming you're referring to a post-Brexit trade deal of some sort but it seems like we've already got all the trade arrangements we need!

    15. I am definitely thinking of post-Brexit. Pre-Brexit, whatever trade deal we have with them has to be negotiated through the EU. Once they are completely out of the EU, they will need something. I think we throw them a lifeline in exchange for increased security support. One thing about it, a UK with a NAFTA/USMCA deal is in a primo position to become the conduit for goods and services between the US and the EU. And depending on how Northern Ireland gets resolved, Ireland becomes a premier conduit for trade between EU and UK. The benefits to both countries are very big and very real.

      They've already pretty much pledged that in several ways, but I think we can make it more concrete--we bring them into NAFTA/USMCA in return for further security commitments. It's Bretton Woods II (and again, I am using Bretton Woods as shorthand for all of the deals and agreements that grew out of there-NATO, SEATO, etc.). Then we have 2 of the 3 largest economies in the Commonwealth, and we do a deal with Australia to give us 3 of the top 4. At that point, I think we can do a deal with the whole Commonwealth. We are a consumer economy, China is an export economy. That gives us more to offer economically than China can. They get into our markets, we have India, Malaysia, and Singapore as places to move production that we want to get out of China, in addition to bringing a lot of that back home, and they pledge to take our side militarily. If we do that, then I think Indonesia and Thailand (and maybe even Philippines and Vietnam) want to get in on the game, so we cut deals with them. At that point we have formed an economic and military alliance that can cut off China's critical supply chain. Not that we ever pull that trigger, but we gain considerable leverage going forward.

    16. @CDR Chip:

      Trade deals might work, perhaps, but it would need to be guaranteed, certain things. A very solid mutual defense pact would probably seal the deal, because the concern of all of these nations is "What happens when we jump over to the US and then the US leaves us to hang alone against China?" The Vietnam War and the Boat People are still in living memory - we remember how the US left South Vietnam.

      With regard to China's blue water ambitions, it's a series of stretch goals. Right now they can operate in the first island chain and support a fight in the Spratlys, which is a lot more than India can do.

  6. "Trump has begun to do this and with some success."

    Trying to stay as apolitical as possible, but I think Trump (or somebody on his team) understands the new reality and is doing things that make sense.

    What we really need is a total new paradigm. We bribed up an alliance to win the Cold War. It worked, but we didn't know what to do next. We still don't, apparently.

    I don't know if we have any great options available. We may need to find a new bribe to come up with some new alliance to stop China. As much as you hate combined operations (and I frankly had more than my fill of NATO politics in my active duty days) it's either find somebody to help, do it ourselves, or let China do it.

  7. Actually, I think India can create a major problem for them in the I.O. That's one of my thoughts behind the Commonwealth idea. Of course, there is a problem with India getting along with Pakistan, but perhaps we could exert some influence to get that resolved.

    Let India back us up (or we back them up) in the I.O., let UK do the same in Europe, and we've reduced our deployment needs considerably. Canada and Australia can help a little in the Pacific (and Japan could help a lot if we brought them into some kind of deal). With those things in place, we have reduced our deployment needs substantially. I also think we could triangulate Russia against China to some good effect (pretty much what Nixon had in mind when he went to China). One thing we could do at that point is work on improving our relations in Latin America.

    I'm not saying that's the only way, but I do think it's one way. And I'm open to suggestions of alternatives.

    I know you are not a fan of combined operations (consider your Lepanto post among others), but I think the alternatives are find some allies, keep doing it ourselves, or let Chinese power fill the vacuum. And only one of those works for me.

    1. "I know you are not a fan of combined operations"

      I am, however, a fan of side-by-side operations! Let the Spanish, for example (because they cut and ran on us), be responsible for a section of the Middle East waterways. If they opt not to, then we let it be known that Spanish merchant shipping is free game to pirates and Iranians (not a lot of difference …).

      Spain can see their commercial shipping suffer or they can step up and take action. Their choice.

  8. Obviously, if we reprised the BW concepts, if Spain doesn't want to play, then Spain doesn't get the benefits. It's definitely tit for tat.

    UK almost paid a price. Under NATO they were supposed to be an ASW force covering the GIUK gap, with some mine countermeasures capability in the Channel. We encouraged them to get out of the power projection business, so they were getting rid of carriers and amphibs when the Falklands happened. If the Argies had waited six months, there would have been no Fearless or Interpid LSDs, no Hermes, and possibly no Illustrious. They would be the Malvinas today. But UK learned from that mistake, and they have built more air and amphibious assets since then.


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