GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Asymmetric Warfare-A Timeless Classic

Asymmetric warfare, although certainly the current rage among strategic thinkers, is not really a new concept in warfare. The basic definition of asymmetry-‘having two sides or halves that are not the same: not symmetrical’ really applies to warfare from antiquity. Generals have always sought an advantage during warfare, whether at the strategic or tactical level, and the current discussion of asymmetric warfare is really only a discussion of means, not ends in warfare. The great philosophers would have quite a bit to say about “asymmetric warfare.” Sun Tzu in particular was a great proponent of using psychological warfare, intelligence, maneuver and deception to bring about military victory. Clausewitz would probably have labeled asymmetric warfare to be ‘warfare by another means’ and would likely to have put a different spin on it, but basically agreed with Sun Tzu on the advantages in waging this type of combat.

Sun Tzu provides a great deal of discussion on asymmetrical warfare, in particular methods by which a weaker army can successfully attack a stronger foe. Because warfare was such a constant condition in his time, Sun Tzu placed a great deal of emphasis in his strategic writing on preparing for war and ensuring as many advantages as possible before combat begins. [1] His overall philosophy, which can be seen in current U.S. strategic thinking and doctrine, is to defeat the opponent with the minimum actual combat necessary, both to ensure a speedy conclusion to the war and to ensure the minimum casualties to your own forces. Sun Tzu had some keen early insights on both the psychological aspects of warfare, in particular a prescient understanding that it was far better to defeat the enemy leadership, both political and military, rather than have to fight a costly battle with the enemy army. [2] In fact, in a hierarchy of Sun Tzu’s strategic targets for a commander to attack, the enemy army is far down the list after attacking his plans and disrupting his alliances. Sun Tzu actually noted that the most successful general has, in fact, won the war before a shot is even fired. [3]

Clausewitz is actually very prophetic in his chapter on insurgencies and revolts to the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and shows an excellent grasp of not only the tactical and operational limits of guerilla forces and how to employ them, but his five conditions of a successful uprising show a profound grasp of the political and social nature of an insurgency and closely mirror the situation currently facing American forces. [4]

One of the reasons asymmetric warfare has become more common and more difficult to deal with is that military technology previously reserved for nation-states is now widely available. In addition, the explosion of the internet, communications technology and global media have allowed groups like Al Qaeda to recruit, move money and perform other logistical operations that previously required large and well established organizations.

Similar to the issues the American military has with ‘unconventional warfare’, the U.S. has not dealt well with asymmetrical warfare, particularly in those areas where American forces are in direct combat, Iraq and Afghanistan. Operationally, American forces have clearly attempted to move from a Clausewitz model of fighting a massive campaign of firepower and attrition to a more Sun Tzu model based on deception, maneuver, subterfuge and co-opting our enemies. In the initial phases of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces were able to quickly achieve their initial goals of toppling both hostile regimes, and in the case of Afghanistan, scattering the Al Qaeda forces in the country. However, American strategy has not completely followed Clausewitz’s first maxim on strategy to understand the nature of the war being fought and comprehending that each war has unique attributes that separate it from other conflicts. Beyond the conventional phase of each campaign, the U.S. and our allies have not been as successful at achieving successful termination of the conflict. The U.S. did not really understand the culture in either country, or the Islamic world in general, and the failure to quickly and effectively initiate post-conflict political efforts helped exacerbate insurgences in both countries. The U.S. has also not clearly understood our opponent and what motivates them and has done a poor job in many cases of differentiating between political and religious enemies, undercutting our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan to a considerable degree. The greatest challenge American strategy has faced from 2001-2009 has been the need to successfully tie military prowess with political purpose.

Because of the radically changed global environment and the political nature of terrorism and insurgency, this will continue to be a challenge for American strategy. The U.S. and other Western powers have not learned that to the asymmetric warrior, YouTube and CNN are weapons just as much as an AK-47 or an RPG-7. [5]

As the U.S. begins to shift resources and attention from Iraq to Afghanistan and also begins it next strategic assessment, a return to a more balanced look at potential threats and challenges will likely require another look at ends, ways and means. Although the threat of transnational terrorism and continued combat in Afghanistan will be a primary focus of attention in the near-term, threats of a more conventional nature that have been less emphasized over the last eight years will likely return to prominence. Even conventional adversaries like China have embraced the notion of asymmetric warfare in their doctrine—using cyber, space and types of psychological warfare to paralyze American decision makers and blunt areas of American technological superiority. [6]

The U.S. military is still coming to grips with the issues of “generational” versus “asymmetric” warfare and has only begun to understand the “hybrid” wars that it is likely to face in the 21st century. As information technology and sophisticated weaponry become more ubiquitous, the technology advantage that Western armies have long enjoyed over potential adversaries will continue to dissolve. Once again, issues of training, moral, willpower and even simple numbers will become decisive factors on the battlefield. The issues of generational warfare involving weapons and tactics and conventional versus asymmetrical warfare must merge into developing a doctrine to wage some combination of conventional, information, and psychological hybrid warfare to attack not only an opponent’s military but their entire society and will as the U.S. military seeks some weakness of our opponent, whether that opponent is a Hezbollah fighter or a Chinese tank commander. [7]

[1] Ralph D. Sawyer, trans., The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, trans. Ralph D. Sawyer (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1993), 184-186.
[2] Chester Richards, "A Swift, Elusive Sword: What if Sun Tzu and John Boyd Did A National Defense Review?," Center for Defense Information (Washington, DC, 2003), 17-20.
[3] Michael I Handel, Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought, 3rd (New York, NY: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001), 61.
[4] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 479-483.
[5] Daniel Marston, "Lessons in 21st Century Counterinsurgency: Afghanistan 2001-2007," in Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, 220-240 (New York, NY: Osprey Publishing, 2008); Carter Malkasian, "Counterinsurgency in Iraq: May 2003-January 2007," in Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, 241-259 (New York, NY: Osprey Publishing, 2008).
[6] Michael Mazarr, "The Folly of 'Asymmetric War'," The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2008: 33-53.
[7] Charles Dunlap, "21st-Century Land Warfare: Four Dangerous Myths," Parameters (U.S. Army War College), Autumn 1997: 27-37.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Different Kind of War? Part II

Strategically, hybrid warfare exhibits the ultimate Clausewitzian trait of warfare as an instrument of policy and not merely an end to itself. The very nature of the military mismatch between the opponents in a hybrid style of war means that the weaker side cannot achieve a strictly military victory and will aim for a political victory by attacking either their opponent’s will to resist, or, in this era of multi-national institutions and global information, defeating their opponent in the realm of public and international opinion. This is the biggest challenge for the U.S. and other hi-tech conventional militaries. The U.S. military and security establishment likes to interpret warfare and combat as a series of discreet events, which is no longer possible or realistic. [5]

This will present a very severe challenge to large, mechanized, firepower-centric Western militaries. In most conflicts likely to be faced by the United States, Israel, or other democratic societies, there will be extreme limits at the strategic, operational, and tactical level on the amount of violence and weapons available to military forces. Warfare of annihilation, where one side completely destroys their opponent’s army and occupies their territory essentially ended in 1945. Even the invasion of Iraq in 2003 did not see the U.S. completely destroy the Iraqi army and government, one of the major psychological and military reasons the subsequent insurgency was able to take root. Future combat, or at least periods of intense fighting, will be severely shortened in hybrid wars as the weaker side will likely appeal to sympathetic media outlets and international organizations to end the complete destruction of their forces at the hand of their better equipped foes by decrying collateral damage and civilian casualties. These media organizations, international bodies and even non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will practically become co-belligerents on the battlefield, wielding disproportionate influence on the operational and political outcome of the battle. [6]

Operationally, hybrid warfare will present two significant challenges to conventional militaries. First, the weaker side does not need to achieve any major battlefield victories to achieve their political goals. As the 2006 Lebanon War shows, merely being able to fight and survive against the superior military allows the hybrid warrior to claim some measure of ‘victory’ even after suffering significant casualties. [7]

Second, the weaker power is likely to operate in a loose network of fighters that will not present a significant target for conventional firepower. Moreover, the growing urbanization of many Third-world countries, combined with the deliberate decision to wage war in densely populated areas will make the operational and tactical problems more difficult for Western militaries. The USMC is already grappling with this issue in their discussion of a ‘three-block war,’ where Western military forces may be conducting assistance, security, and combat operations in close proximity and nearly simultaneously. Hybrid warriors will not be faced with his problem and will be singularly focused on inflicting casualties on their enemies. [8]

The U.S. experienced a version of hybrid warfare in the Fallujah campaign of 2004. When U.S. Marines conducted a hasty and underprepared attack into the city in April 2004 in response to the killing of American security contractors by Sunni insurgents, they were halted not by military resistance from the insurgents, but by Iraqi political pressure and an international outcry against the alleged overuse of American firepower and the infliction of collateral damage and civilian casualties. Their ability to manipulate the “strategic narrative” kept the entire might of the U.S. military at bay for nearly nine months. When the U.S. finally conducted an all-out assault and capture of the city in November 2004, careful political and information operations preparations were conducted as an integral part of the overall military operation and the Sunni insurgents dug into the city were largely defeated. Control of the city passed to U.S. and Iraqi authorities in time to proceed with the 2005 Iraqi elections. [9]

COIN and CT operations are time consuming, messy and often do not present a clear military victory. They are often waged as small unit actions without any of the major battles at which the U.S. military excels. However, they are likely to be the major mode of combat faced by the U.S. and our allies for the foreseeable future and must be understood as warfare as deadly and earnest whether waged on the battlefield, internet or village markets. 

[5] David Johnson, "Military Capabilities for Hybrid War," Rand Corporation, 2010, www.rand.org (accessed May 2010), 1.
[6] Hoffman, 55-59.
[7] Stephen Biddle and Jeffrey Friedman, The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy (Ft. Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, 2008), 1-9.
[8] Maj Philip Boggs, Joint Task Force Commanders and the "Three Block War": Setting the Conditions for Tactical Success, Monograph, School for Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (Ft Leavenworth: U.S. Army War College, 2000).
[9] Bing West, No True Glory (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2005), 89-94, 119-123, 257-263, 317-32 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Different Kind of War? Part I

The U.S. military is just another in the long history of conventional militaries struggling to understand and deal with guerrilla or irregular warfare. Traditionally, the U.S. military has fought large scale, conventional conflicts against an enemy in uniform that fought in a manner similar to U.S. forces. With the exception of the Indian Wars of the 19th century, the U.S. military had little experience fighting guerilla wars until Vietnam and avoided them after 1975 until the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, not only has irregular warfare become prevalent again, it is morphing into a new form of warfare that combines conventional and irregular warfare into an even more challenging mode of combat called “hybrid warfare.”

One of the principle reasons the U.S. continues to face a challenge in fighting guerrilla, irregular or terrorist forces is that counter-insurgency (COIN) or counter-terrorism operations are about more than traditional kinetic combat- finding, fixing, and using firepower to destroy enemy forces. COIN operations are also about diplomacy, intelligence, propaganda or information operations and even economics and infrastructure building, all of which usually fall into military purview as the only force able to conduct complex operations while maintaining the ability to wage combat. [1]

Warfare in the 21st century will continue this divergence from traditional conventional combat waged by large mechanized forces of tanks, artillery, and infantry. Recent experiences by the ground forces of Israel and the United States illustrate how new adversaries are developing innovations in tactics and strategy to negate traditional Western conventional military superiority. This has presented a severe challenge to the U.S. and our allies as these traditional notions of conventional, irregular, guerilla, terrorism and criminal activity continue to merge in the primordial soup of failed states in the Third World.

This new type of warfare, labeled “hybrid warfare” by some analysts and defense pundits has created a great deal of uncertainty on the role of conventional military forces and the operational level of war. Since the September 11 attacks, and particularly after the invasion and insurgency in Iraq, the concepts of asymmetric, compound and hybrid warfare have been confused and comingled. The best definition of hybrid warfare combines elements of all of these modes of combat and expands the political use of violence beyond traditional military methods: “Hybrid Wars incorporate a range of different modes of warfare including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts, including indiscriminate violence and coercion and criminal disorder.” [2]

Hybrid warfare is often confused with “Fourth-generation” warfare (4GW) which is primarily an insurgency/terrorism mode of war that evolved from the communist guerilla strategy and tactics of Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh. 4GW fighters have built upon these concepts of guerilla conflict to incorporate new technologies such as the internet and global media. Hybrid warfare incorporates many of these 4GW tools into a larger construct that includes more conventionally trained and equipped forces and even a functioning legitimate political organization to tie all of these elements of political violence into a coherent and simultaneous strategic and operational plan. [3]

Even the attempt to differentiate warfare by technology using the construct of generational warfare is becoming meaningless against well-executed asymmetric warfare. Suicide car bombs can be just as effective as tanks and artillery at destroying a building. More importantly, future insurgent and non-state groups will have no compunction about using non-combatants as defenses against Western militaries reluctant to use massive firepower in the face of unbalanced media coverage. For better or worse, Western militaries are held to tighter rules of engagement, which their opponents either blithely ignore or actively circumvent to attack the will of Western societies. The fact that asymmetric opponents are willing to wage unlimited, no-quarter warfare has not been completely understood by Western militaries and is really incomprehensible to modern Western society. Moreover, asymmetric warfare will also bring asymmetric measures of victory, usually to the advantage of the weaker side. Just as powers that wage counter-insurgencies are considered to be losing if they are not winning, in the future, non-state actors and terrorist groups waging asymmetric warfare can “win” a war by simply not being completely annihilated by their opponent while providing propaganda videos to the internet. [4]



[1] David Kilcullen, Counterinsurgency (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1-13.
[2] Frank Hoffman, Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars (Arlington, VA: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007), 29.
[3] Thomas Hammes, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (St Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004), 207-223.
[4] Robert Cassidy, "Why Great Powers Fight Small Wars Badly," Military Review, Sept-Oct 2000: 41-55.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time for a new Army Air Force

Airpower has played a key role in warfare since its development in the 20th Century, evolving into an indispensible component of American military prowess. However, airpower advocates have long been overly enthusiastic about the revolutionary aspect of airpower to affect the course of warfare and the rightful place of aircraft into the overall battlefield construct. The controversy between airpower as a strategic or tactical weapon systems has recently become even more entangled as highly sophisticated and accurate sensors and weapons delivery systems allow airplanes to fulfill capabilities envisioned by advocates like Douhet and Mitchell. Like naval forces, the role of air forces in America’s current conflicts involving primarily ground force intensive counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations have created a continuing debate about what our future Air Force should be in terms of force structure and missions. This debate will likely continue as Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and critical decisions must be made about expensive platforms, the role of manned and unmanned aircraft and how the Air Force fits into America’s overall defense way forward. Recent technological developments as well as changing mores of warfare combine to bring into question the very utility of a separate Air Force.

In the aftermath of World War I, militaries throughout the world sought methods to overcome the power of defensive trenches and machine guns and restore offense maneuver to warfare. Air forces seemed to offer a revolutionary weapon that could replace traditional armies and navies by taking the war directly to a country’s industry and population. Giulio Douhet, in his treatise The Command of the Air advocated a strong, independent air force composed of what today would be termed strategic bombers to quickly reduce the opponent’s cities to rubble “The complete destruction of the objective has moral and material effects, the repercussions of which may be tremendous…we need only envision what would go on among the civilian population of congested cities once the enemy announced that we would bomb such centers relentlessly, making no distinction between military and non-military objectives.” [1] Douhet and other strategic bombing disciples made no distinction between civilian and military targets as most military men understood that industry and economic output was crucial to modern war making. [2]

The majority of air power thinkers between the world wars emphasized strategic bombing and were loath to consider the role of providing close air support (CAS) to ground units or what today would be termed interdiction air strikes-preventing supplies and reinforcements from reaching the battlefield. Most airpower enthusiasts were very static in their thinking about technology and did not consider the inevitable development of aircraft carriers, anti-aircraft guns, radar, and even the proximity fuse as all militaries not only prepared to use their air forces offensively, but to defend against air attack. It would be inevitable that networks of pursuit planes, spotters and centralized command and control tied together by radio would be developed by every country. The fact that Douhet did not consider this shows how parochial his views were on air power. [3]

Ironically, World War II showed the essential enabling role of aircraft on the battlefield supporting ground troops while highlighting the limitations of strategic bombing. Although Douhet was correct in his thesis of the importance of gaining air superiority over an enemy, the technical limitations on payload, ranges and accuracy of even the best bombers of the day made daylight strategic bombing questionable, particularly given the serious losses inflicted on German bomber fleets over Britain in 1940 and the Allied bomber force over Germany in 1943-1944. The only truly indisputable contribution of the U.S. 8th Air Force in World War II was to draw the Luftwaffe into a war of attrition that ground it down prior to the D-Day invasion. [4]

Although the USAF became an independent service after World War II, the role of airpower in warfare has continued to evolve in unexpected directions. The advent of nuclear weapons was the ultimate enabler of Douhet’s theories and the case can be made the atom bomb prevented a costly and terrible invasion of Japan. However, the shear destructiveness of nuclear weapons brought renewed thinking on the morality of bombing civilian populations after World War II. [5]

Today, the continued utility of an independent Air Force is questionable. Although air power continues to be an important component of military power, there will never be another strategic bombing campaign like World War II. Even though aircraft, sensors, and weapons have achieved capabilities only dreamed of by Douhet and his American counterpart Billy Mitchell, general revulsion of indiscriminate area bombing has produced very restrictive rules of engagement and targeting criteria. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Lebanon in 2006 also show the limitations of airpower in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions where our enemies deliberately hide among civilian populations to avoid air strikes. In addition, the over reliance of Western militaries on airpower as a substitute, rather than a compliment to ground forces has been interpreted by some adversaries as a weakness. This idea that Western militaries seek to avoid casualties and collateral damage has given our enemies even more reason to hide weapons and fight from mosques, schools, apartment buildings and hospitals. [6]

However, close-air support and interdiction have become even more critical to overall military power as air forces have assumed a de facto role of “flying artillery” long dreaded by the disciples of Douhet. The U.S. military’s development of the AirLand Battle doctrine in the 1980s shows the integration that I believe makes the case for the Air Force to become the Army Air Force once more. As U.S. forces become smaller and more expeditionary, with fewer overseas bases from which to stage massive armadas of aircraft for Desert Storm type prolonged air campaigns, the role of long-range strike missions can be assumed by either naval aviation or even new models of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). This will leave the Air Force to concentrate on providing CAS in those situations where ground forces are in battle. This CAS role will more than likely be assumed by more sophisticated, longer endurance unmanned aircraft, especially as air defenses become more automated and lethal. The current Joint Strike Fighter could, in fact, be the last manned fighter aircraft produced by the United States as the political liability of shot down and captured aircrew is replaced by the plausible deniability of drone attacks. [7]

Although airpower remains a critical military force, it is no longer a singular war-winning weapons. Integration with ground forces and the ability to fight in a joint environment make the need for an independent Air Force more questionable.

[1] Giulio Douhet, "The Command of the Air," in Roots of Strategy: Book 4, ed. David Jablonsky, 262-407 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999), 294.
[2] Douhet, 330-336.
[3] David Jordan, James Kiras, David Lonsdale, Ian Speller, Christopher Tuck and C. Dale Walton, Understanding Modern Warfare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 194-198
[4] Jonathan House, Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001). 168-178
[5] Jordan, et.al., 73-77
[6] Ralph Peters, Wars of Blood and Faith (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007), 239-241; Charles Dunlap, "Making Revolutionary Change: Airpower in COIN Today," Parameters (U.S. Army War College), Summer 2008: 52-66.
[7] House, 250-259; Peter Singer, Wired for War: The Future of Military Robots, August 28, 2009, http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0828_robots_singer.aspx (accessed November 8, 2010).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seapower in the 21st Century- NeoMahanian?

 
“Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA) characterize the environment of the 21st Century and thus a strategy for the U.S. can be a difficult concept to develop and implement.” [1] This phrase aptly describes the situation the U.S. Navy faces in the second decade of the 21st century. The primary purpose of seapower, or, to use a more Mahan-like term “maritime power” has remained fairly steady since Mahan and Corbett wrote their tomes on seapower and strategy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Great maritime trading nations have depended on ocean-going commerce for economic prosperity and have required a strong navy to protect their interests and ensure the safe flow of shipping.

Writing in the late 1890s, Alfred Thayer Mahan advocated a strong navy for both peacetime and wartime purposes. In peacetime a strong navy ensured the safety of both national and international commerce on the high seas, and in wartime, a strong navy not only protected American merchant shipping, but could menace an opponent’s sea-borne trade. To build-up and maintain this strong Navy, Mahan outlined six components of naval power, in particular noting the importance of overseas bases and a government supportive to ship-building and other maritime industries. In the spirit of the era of colonization, Mahan espoused the view that America would need to emulate the great maritime empires such as Holland, Spain and Britain and build a large navy supported by overseas colonies if it was to become a world power. [2]

Corbett completed his work shortly after Mahan and took a uniquely British view about sea power by combining prophetic view on expeditionary warfare and the concept of a “fleet in being” that Germany would use effectively in World War I to tie down a large portion of the British fleet in anticipation of a climatic naval battle. Corbett was a student of both Clausewitz and Jomini and attempted to integrate Clausewitz’ theories of limited and unlimited wars, along with the primacy of the defense into his thinking on naval warfare. [3]

As the U.S. begins to retrench from Iraq and Afghanistan, American ground forces will require extensive recapitalization and refurbishment form 10 years of combat operations. Moreover, the American public and international communities are both leery of any further large scale deployments of American troops to the world’s trouble spots.

Enter the U.S. Navy, with a new Operations Concept that is realistic and attuned to the challenges of the 21st century security environment. This new concept embodies the best of both Mahan and Corbett’s thinking, upgraded for today, and has been called neo-Mahanian thinking by some strategic pundits. Replacing the old concept of colonies and bases for coaling and refueling ships, today’s American navy provides key capabilities in maritime presence, expeditionary forces, and the ability to deter or defeat maritime enemies securing the free flow of maritime commerce world-wide. [4]

Globalization and free trade have replaced the old colonial concept of economic power, but the ‘global commons’ of the world’s oceans continue to carry more than 77% of international trade. Naval forces fit a unique niche among the armed services in maintaining a fairly small overseas footprint with minimal presence in foreign countries, mainly from port visits. Naval forces also fulfill a unique diplomatic position among the armed services through the interaction with other countries’ navies to ensure the safety and security of all international shipping. The current counter-piracy operations being conducted off Somalia are the ultimate example of navies from disparate countries such as China, Russia, the U.S., India and even Saudi Arabia working together to protect shipping and ensure the flow of international trade. [5]

Because of their offshore presence and ability to operate at sea nearly indefinitely, naval forces have also expanded into new roles of humanitarian relief and disaster assistance where the capabilities of large, capable platforms such as aircraft carriers and large amphibious ships provided diplomatic success to U.S. efforts to show benevolence and outreach to countries affected by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean area.[6]

In terms of traditional nation-state conflict, the only significant potential competitor to the U.S. in the near to midterm is likely to be China, where any armed action will primarily involve naval and air power across the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy and their Air Force counterparts are just beginning to grapple with the realities of increasingly capable Chinese naval and air forces able to achieve local dominance in the East and South China Seas as the U.S. Navy operates at the end of a very long logistical tether. Unlike the U.S. Navy panned by Secretary Stimson, the modern U.S. Navy understands that it must act as part of a larger joint and combined team to overcome the Chinese military in its own back yard, if conflict becomes unavoidable. [7]

Several strategic studies have shown that the two most important regions of the 21st century are likely to be the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, where maritime power will be the most important measure of military and diplomatic influence. These facts will challenge the U.S. Navy as it continues to downsize through retirement of older ships and a much smaller shipbuilding program over the next twenty years. Discussions now underway about the size and composition of the future force will have a profound effect on the capabilities and influence of the U.S. Navy in the future. In order to achieve the national security objectives of America and its allies, the Navy will not only have to work with other U.S. services, but foreign militaries as well, when required. The unique capabilities of the Navy-Marine Corps team will remain extremely important, as world populations continue to grow, particularly in unstable and developing countries. Since most of these populations continue to live within 200 miles of the coast in many countries, power projection and expeditionary capabilities provided by modern and capable naval forces will remain an important component of American power and diplomacy. With the decline of the U.S. Navy from a force of nearly 600 ships in the late 1980s to less than 300 ships today, cooperation with allies and regional powers will become a necessity as American warships begin to shift their deployments and forward presence from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean in response to the increasing importance of that region to both regional and global stability. Stability, not hegemony will become the new watchwords of naval power. [8]

[1] CDR Bruce Black, The Legacy of Mahan for the 21st Century, U.S. Army War College (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army, 2006).
[2] Alfred Thayer Mahan, "The Influence of Seapower Upon History, 1660-1783," in Roots of Stratgy, Book 4, ed. David Jablonsky, 43-148 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999).
[3] Julian Corbett, "Some Principles of Maritime Strategy," in Roots of Strategy, Book 4, ed. David Jablonsky (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999).
[4] U.S. Navy, Naval Operations Concept, 2010, U.S. Navy (Washington, DC: U.S. Navy, 2010).
[5] Center for A New American Security, Contested Commons: The Future of American Power in a Multipolar World, (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 2010).
[6]Jane's Intelligence Review, "Making Waves- Naval Power Evolves for the 21st Century," Jane's Intelligence Review, Nov 12, 2009, American Military University Electronic Library (accessed Oct 11, 2010).
[7] Frank Hoffman, From Preponderance to Partnership: American Maritme Power in the 21st Century, (Washington, DC: Center for A New American Security, 2010); Andrew Krepinevich, Why AirSea Battle?, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (Washington, DC: CSBA, 2010).
[8] Ralph Peters, "Waters of Wealth and War: The Crucial Indian Ocean," in Wars of Blood and Faith: The Conflicts That Will Shape the 21st Century, 293=301 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007); CNAS, Contested Commons.