Amphibian Amnesia

Geopolitical realities continue inexorably regardless of this regime’s defiant ignorance. The disconnect between those realities and American preparations continues to widen at an alarming rate. William Lind at least corrects Robert Kaplan’s navalist hyperbole in November’s Atlantic Monthly. Lind observes:

Sure, but can it perform brown water missions that we need?

We do not need naval supremacy because, as Kaplan writes, “’Regular wars’ between major states could be as frequent in the 21st century as they were in the 20th.” If states are so foolish as to fight “regular wars,” they will find most are won by non-state, Fourth Generation elements as defeated (and sometimes victorious) states disintegrate.

Rather, we need naval supremacy because in a world where the state is weakening, water, and transport by water, grow in importance. People today think of land uniting and water dividing, but that became true only recently, with the rise of the state and the development of railways (which can only function in the safety and order created by states). From the dawn of river and sea-faring until the mid-19th century, water united and land divided. It was easier, safer, cheaper and faster to move goods and people by water than by land.

So it will be again in a 21st century dominated by Fourth Generation war and declining or disappearing states. Already, in places such as the Congo, the only way to move is on the rivers. A country that can control waterways anywhere in the world will have a great strategic advantage. Given our maritime geography and our long and proud naval tradition, that country should be the United States.

Unfortunately, we are not developing the naval capabilities we need to do that. The reason shows once again the importance of military theory. The U.S. Navy has to choose between two naval theorists, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett, and it has chosen wrongly.

Lind goes on to explain why Kaplan misreads Corbertt while noting correctly in passing “Kaplan gets Mahan right, but not Corbett. Mahan in essence wrote naval theory for children; I was much impressed by The Influence of Sea Power on History when I was fifteen.” Certainly, waiting for the ‘decisive battle’ did not help the Imperial Navy. One minor quibble with Lind is his seeming assertion that sea transport will grow back as the cheapest form of transportation. It’s always been the cheapest. When the Soviets had the Trans Siberian railway they still found it cheaper to use sea lanes to supply the East.

It’s also easy to misunderstand the geopolitical essence of Great Powers. Great Britain was never an Amphibious Power. What Corbertt wrote about naval theory emphasized indirection, suasion and a host of sophisticated naval applications for a maritime State. This marked all of her successes through the early 1900s. When Great Britain forgot her essential maritime nature and tried to become an Amphibian Power, the result was the Somme, and all that came after up to September 3rd, 1939 and beyond.

By contrast, the United States remains uniquely an Amphibian Power — a continental geopolitical entity capable of sustained power projection to secure key resources and objectives along the Eurasian littoral and Africa. The Rummy OSD’s pushing of the ‘expeditionary’ concept had merit refocusing thinking away from static WW II era forward deployments. Apart from the wastage and destructive impact on our Force and budget (and impact on Iraqi civilians), Iraq is not a clear cut violation of our essential Amphibian Nature. More disturbing are the regime’s reckless commitments and infrastructure gaming across Central Asia. This new Great Game locks us into a deadly contest with the two anchors of the Eurasian World Island, Putin’s now radicalized Russia and increasingly confident China. Both are in their natural element. Such a continental game is beyond an Amphibian Power and we can not win in the long run. Extrication will exact heavy costs — in real or symbolic terms.

I’m just waiting on a friend


Kaplan’s mission is to carry water for the Threat Inflaters in and out of government. With procurement wars on the horizon among the services, the elusive ‘peer competitor’ is to justify each services’ pet weapons platforms. For the Navy that remains recognizable descendants essentially from WW II. We can attest to Lind’s description of the Navy’s disdain for a ‘brown water’ presence. We had a very brief interaction via a defense analyst with some senior flag rank Navy types in 2004 discussing the now problem-wracked Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). These small, modular ships (their capabilities could be swapped out like changing a hard disk drive) are intended to perform the mission Lind underscores. The overall Navy despises these ships. The Navy’s self image is still defined by ‘Jedi Knights’ sitting in expensive targets taking off from even bigger targets, the floating runways.

The Israelis are interested in the LCS as platforms but will likely vastly upgrade the armament.


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    The CBO currently estimates LCS shipbuilding costs at around $30.2 billion, a figure that seems likely to rise as the program moves forward. Mission modules would be bought separately at about $100 million per module. This contrasts with the original hope of $22 billion at $400 million per ship, which included just $220 million for construction, and 3 mission modules at $60 million each. A FY 2006 budget provision created a cost cap of $220 million, but by the FY 2010 defense appropriations bill, that had been watered down to $480 million per ship, with some costs excluded from the cap, and full cap waiver provisions for the Secretary of the Navy.

    How the US Navy arrived at that plan is a very tangled, but very instructive, story of goals not met, budgets changed or not spent, and an acquisition plan that has now been changed several times.

    The LCS program’s budget mess has reflected their yo-yoing underlying program structure. LCS budgets are not even suitable for inclusion as a table, because the program’s structure has changed repeatedly. For several of those years, program turmoil was so great that it prevented budgeted funds from being spent. As such, each year’s budget can only be understood in light of the program’s shifting plans.

  2. says

    I’m just hoping that the USS New York, an amphibious assault ship built with scrap steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center will continue our strong naval tradition.


  3. anonymous says

    Cheney might be thinking much longer term than most realize:


    “[…] The Air Force’s ubiquitous argument against the efficacy of Navy ships operating in restricted hostile waters is that they offer relatively little striking power in return for the vulnerability they present. This is particularly true in the Persian Gulf where Iran’s naval forces enjoy significant asymmetric advantages over ours. If I’m planning a surgical strike on Iran and want to maximize force protection, I get the Navy out of the Gulf. Operating from the North Arabian Sea limits the set of targets in Iran that carrier based jets can reach, but I suspect the Air Force has plenty of manned aircraft available for missions requiring air breathing pilots, and the Navy’s cruise missiles, only having to go one way on each mission, have a sufficient un-refueled combat radius to hit whatever they have to hit.

    If I’m the Navy, of course, I’m not wild about leaving the Gulf because it will look like I ran away from the fight (because, in essence, I will have.) What’s more, once I leave the Gulf and the fight starts, it may be a long time, if ever, before I can get back in, and then how will I ever justify my share of the defense budget again?

    Fortunately or unfortunately for the Navy, it will probably stay in the Gulf to serve as a casus belli. A torpedo in the side of an amphibious ship carrying Marines or a destroyer losing its bow to a mine or an anti-ship cruise missile cooking off in a carrier’s hangar bay will give the Cheney gang all the justification it needs to unilaterally declare general war against Iran

    You’d like to think the administration wouldn’t sacrifice an armed service that way just to enable a Dick Cheney foreign policy initiative. But look at what they did with the Army and Marine Corps in Iraq. […]”

    If centralization of power is the goal isn’t the Air Force the armed service of choice?

  4. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Brown Water Navy —

    Seems we’re doing the mission despite ourselves — two destroyers now entering Somali waters chasing pirates attacking a Japanese chemical tanker. There is something akin to historical irony that one of them was the ‘Arleigh Burke’ for a couple of reasons. One is that Burke, after helping sink the Imperial Japanese Navy was instrumental in its post war resurrection. Another is that Burke likely would not embrace ‘brown water’ missions. The final is that he was such a hard chargin s.o.b. that chasing the bad guys in Somali waters, if that’s what it took, he would do.

  5. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Armchair qualifies:

    Excellent points and well taken. Anachronisms abound and a more integrated or ‘holistic’ p.o.v. for a contested U.S. littoral entry helpful. Tarawa and Okinawa are certainly deeds of the past.

    The Air Force indeed has other agendas than a super-sized military airlift command (MAC) such as the F-22, even to the point of forcing the F-117s into retirement this year to free up moneys for the dubious Raptor. ‘Jointness’ remains more a theoretical concept than reality although we’ve come a long way in a short time.

    Let’s for discussion purposes here accept that we are talking about an operational level activity — i.e., one in scale beyond inserting SOCOM teams or other limited deployments. One of the key issues is sustainability of a vertical deployment beyond initial insertion, i.e. avoiding the ‘Market Garden’ scenario writ large.

    Let’s also discuss two kinds of situations. One is if a deployment/insertion is actually an envelopment — i.e., part of an existing and overall operational attack (as Market Garden was); it’s purpose and logistical needs can be structured accordingly. Presumably the plan is for the inserted forces to link up with or otherwise become part of the other operational maneuver units — and presumably the American effort would not depend on a single narrow road easily interdicted (ala 1944) for that link up. The so-called airborne insertion portions of the ‘Left Hook’ from Desert Storm are another example of this.

    Another scenario is the vertical insertion as the solo or primary operational pivot. One can see immediately the logistical and military risk calculation equation changes. The need to be absolutely sure that the U.S. is capable of ‘flowing the force’ becomes predominant. Not only above assumed rates of attrition (combat and otherwise) but for the operational and tactical flexibility on the ground to win the war.

    Even assuming some kinetic substitute for artillery and/or mbts, there still will be substantial petroleum, oil and lubricant (POL) needs, ammunition, food, the mentioned follow-on force deployment, etc. as well as substantial heavy equipment for engineers to build out or update existing runways for C-17s et al. to use, as well as other infrastructure needs such as fuel blister storage, etc.

    It is true that in the latter case, even assuming we have a robust air capability or move equivalent assets to the Marines (or somewhat less likely the Army) if the U.S. has sufficient air superiority to guarantee that kind of ‘airbridge’ and its freedom from interdiction then almost by definition it will have the capacity to maintain/create a SLOC for a maritime route (or overland from existing littoral bases).

    Nonetheless, the capability to engage in operational deployment from continental depth would give the U.S. enormous flexibilities. Not all of our future opponents will be so accommodating and give us 5 months to preposition our troops in theater.

    For those and other reasons, agree with you that the next doctrinal steps likely will see the Marines move even farther from their traditional iconographic role towards an even more mixed vertical/horizontal entry force. At the moment, the U.S. obsession with directing kinetic fire is coloring much of its global thinking. As the aliens told Jodie Foster in the movie ‘Contact’ perhaps we will have to make due with “baby steps”.

  6. armchair qualifies says

    very interesting reading.

    some thoughts or qualifiers:

    re logistics and materiel flows: i was under the impression that the reason that they needed sea lanes had to do with exactly how much _stuff_ they needed to get to a target area. hence the heavy weapons angle. you take artillery and mbts out of it and you get big savings was my thinking. but i don’t really know the actual logistical needs for the kind of multi-layered combined arms units we were pondering. hence the ‘lots of’ c-17s, plus commandeered civilian planes for the fleshies, leaving the 17’s for actual cargo when possible. my understanding of the budget allocation process combined with restrictions (no fixed-wing aircraft for the army) leaves the airforce vetoing logistical investments because they aren’t sexy to their particular agenda; a horrible situation for the total pic. given transports enough and fuel enough… but i don’t know the numbers. however, i wonder about those super-bases in the iraqi desert. i suspect that they are practice-lillypads, & some of them are mostly (entirely?) re-stocked by air. but i accept the notion that sea-lanes are still a necessity for the time being. (not an contradiction of the redundancy of carriers)–> also: demonstrating logistical necessity for sea-lane resupply as vs. air-lane is not the same as demonstrating tactical necessity for amphib assault/beachhead vs. airborne assault/lillypad(sounds better than ‘airhead’).
    crude analysis of current amphib doctrine brings me to the following rough conclusion: it consists of an insanely vulnerable (as with the carriers) troopship element, an anachronistic and highly highly dubious actual amphib element (swimming tanks anyone? landing craft?) and (lo and behold) a troopship-based airborne element that enables the Marines to choose their ‘beachhead’ at some interior point from the 2d coastline. Current amphib practice is an airborne(technically ‘air-assault’ because vtol) element embedded in a worthless and anachronistic amphib element. So…, i think even they(Marines) have tacitly conceded at the very least deep down in their souls, that the actual amphib element of their doctrine is history, and that they ought to be permitted to adjust doctrine and budget to reflect this. given their creativity, guessing that the result would entail lots of c-17s, re-fuelers and maybe ships (but if so, just for aircraft!, even if it were something specifically littoral ie a river delta, the vtol option is most sane;; v-22 or a successor to be developed)
    again, sea-lanes may still be needed for full logistics, contingent upon through-put needs and carrier capacity, but this is does not imply that amphib warfare(whatever it’s become) is viable today, nor that the marines ought to be held constrained and subject to arbitrary historical forms.
    i would expect more advanced (and safe) versions of the v-22, ultimately with range-speed combinations negating the need for ship basing.

    interesting comments about ‘suasion. it reminds me again that this purely mechanical analysis is grossly distorting of the total picture,… and even so, just scratching the surface of that dimension by itself.

    i think a utilitarian and holistic projection via the contemporary paradigm of air-transport/air-highway would be more persuasive than the anachronistic port-calls and capital-ship theatrics, especially if executed with appropriate form, in the variety of relevant dimensions.
    leading into a whole new thread.

    time! i should’ve chosen the music thread, this stuff is too referentially complex.

  7. Comment says

    How about a nice humanitarian bombing campaign? The other night Charles Ferguson was on Brian Lamb discussing his Doc about the Iraq War – no end in sight. In the process of attacking warlord and regime incompetancy – berating and ridiculing the neocons (letting Benchpresser off the hook) – he mentioned that he too supported taking military action against Sadddam – JUST NOT WHAT BUSH DID!! – It has always amazed Comment how these liberals think they can get away with their ridiculous arguments about the war – They all knew who was President – But then they pull this crap about humanitarian intervention etc – Forgetting that wars are evil and used only to wipe your enemies out.

  8. DrLeoStrauss says


    Agree with you that the American public is *not* ready for a contested projection exercise. Moreover, the destruction of an iconic symbol (albeit obsolete in reality) of American power such as an aircraft carrier would have psychological parallels to the twin towers coming down. This latter point not lost on the more astute of our enemies.

    On the other hand, for that last reason, should Iran either pre-empt (and give Cheney causus belli) or otherwise sink a carrier, etc. the rain of U.S. destructive firepower unleashed in retribution does stagger the imagination. This regime screwed the pooch in Iraq; the U.S. military is nonetheless without peer in breaking things.

    At the moment, the scenarios as understood for Iran are essentially a version of 1998’s Desert Fox air campaign against Saddam on steroids — and with even less intel. Iran would have to consider the implications of viewing an air campaign as (i) a declaration of war and responding per say the 2002 war game; or (ii) (as we suspect is likely) understand that a 3 day or 6 day air campaign will accomplish in the end very little and present hardliners in Iran an enormous psychological, diplomatic and strategic victory (particularly if they complicate oil passage) over the U.S. and the Realm.

    If, otoh, we are talking about the U.S. going ashore in 2015-2020 time frame, then all bets are off.

    Here’s a pretty good summary that shows what happened during Millennium Challenge is often par for the course, particularly when strong ideologies are involved. For example, the Soviets wargamed a German invasion before Barbarossa and Stalin overruled the results because the Germans were too successful (Zhukov in command). Not mentioned in the article is the German wargaming of the Russian campaign, which also caused controversy inside the German Army but overlooked for political/ideological reasons. Before Midway, the Japanese wargamed it and their side lost carriers, etc. They, like during MC, were simply resurrected and the game script enforced for Japanese victory. And so on.

    The Marines’ ability to use wargames to invent amphibious warfare indeed gets too little recognition. The Navy also deserves some credit for recognizing that its Plan Orange required updating via gaming and simulations. So wargaming is not without merit. Newport and the Naval War College are still at the forefront of wargaming. In fact, sometime back in 2004/05 (we forget) the War College ran a game based on Thomas P. M. Barnett’s enthusiasms.

  9. anonymous says

    Dr. Strauss – In the discussions of possible Iranian retaliation to a US or Israeli attack the vulnerability of our warships in the Gulf is never mentioned. This article is typical: Center Occasional Paper #10

    Given the utterly catastrophic results of the Millennium Challenge excercise this is puzzling.

    You posit the destruction of stand-off ASM capability by air. The record is not encouraging. We failed to destroy a single scud launcher in the first Gulf War, as I understand it, and the Israeli efforts to eliminate Hezbollah’s capabilities last summer were a textbook case of failue.

    If Hezbollah in six years dug in sufficiently to be virtually unaffected by the efforts the IAF or the IDF why in the world would we assume that the Iranians in nineteen years haven’t done at least as well?

    This is not about the theory of force projection. This is about carrier battle groups “in a closed sea space without room for maneuver…a potential killzone” now.

    If this article is anywhere near accurate:

    “Obsolete Weapons, Unconventional Tactics, and Martyrdom Zeal: How Iran Would Apply its Asymmetric Naval Warfare Doctrine in a Future Conflict
    Date: April 2007
    Author: Jahangir Arasli”


    then we are in deep deep trouble.

    Am I wrong in thinking that American casualties in the first few days of an attack on Iran could match the American casualties in Iraq to date? Van Ripper ‘sank’ 16 ships, including an aircraft carrier and two Marine Corps helicopter carriers, in 48 hous. And it seems most of his ‘unorthodox’ methods are precisely what has been Iranian doctrine for years.

    Further, he did so in part by striking first, having decided he was going to be attacked regardless of what he did. The Iranians might come to think the same.

    The American public does not understand this. Vague talk about oil prices, and Shia unrest don’t get to the point.

    Are the American people really ready for the images of a sinking aircraft carrier?

    Cheny knows all this. One wonders what it is that he has in mind.

  10. Aldershot says

    “Lang thinks something of you. Leaving out my foolish autobiography, the questions I posed are valid.”


  11. Comment says

    People like Tweety and Pat like to blame the neocons for all of Bush’s wars – The liberals like the blame the foaming Preachers and dispensational sensationalists – But people are doing this to – they subconciosly excuse Bush and Bush knows this and he always games his policies this way – Think of his set up of Petraeus. What Pat and Twety et al don’t grok is people blame Gee Dubs – eventually Gee Dubs would do a better job dumping on his aides – if he thought he had to.

  12. Comment says

    On Slate we are heartened to see a link referral to Foreign Policy Magazine that says it’s time to stop blaming the neocons for the Iraq war. We think that’s great – it’s about time elite media liberals put aside their mindsets and direct blame at Bush and Cheney. But we soon learn that it not what they had in mind – Rather, they blame “you” for failing to offer national sacrifice – You got that Doc, just like the Peanut Farmer – they blame the people for the mistakes of the elite.

  13. A Random Quote says

    “In supporting legislation [Kyl-Lieberman] that seeks to exert diplomatic pressure on Iran, Senator Clinton is standing up to the Bush administration, which has recklessly refused to talk to Iran about its clandestine nuclear program. In voting for a non-binding resolution that urges the administration to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, she is forcing the Bush administration to apply diplomatic pressure.”
    ~Gen. Wesley Clark
    (not attempting satire)

  14. Comment says

    Laura looks fetching in a burqa; as a non-sequitor Boston just clinched it in the 8th of tonight’s game. It’s all over imo.

  15. Comment says

    Doc – we appreciate the discussion (re SLOCs) and your expertise. China in ten years – a big deal indeed.

  16. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Laura in burqa

    It’s funny how the meme network works. Little Green Footballs (a wing nut site) gets agitated about it. Then Weekly Standard takes the photos and the stoy and runs. Then, Tammy Bruce on the Imperial City wing nut Talk Radio channel tonight has the LGF guy on for 20 minutes. That’s an eternity in Talk Radio land.

  17. DrLeoStrauss says


    By all means feel welcome. The questions you posed indeed are relevant. (It’s flattering that Col. Lang may think well of us; certainly reciprocated).

    re the two Navies, targets and dolphins

    We’ve also encountered the point of view you describe so well. There’s a reason for it beyond culture. American submarines devastated Japanese shipping and sea lines of communications (SLOCs) 1941-45. Literally tore the guts out of the Japanese in a way the Germans could only have dreamed about.

    The U-boat story in the Atlantic is better known. Even so, a handful of U boats almost replicated the U.S. feat before convoying, air cover (B-24s and from baby flatops), better airborne radar *and* Bletchley intercepts finally turned the tide in 1943. That’s a fairly stacked deck, especially the latter. (German efforts in WWI seemingly forgotten in only 20 years).

    Today, we agree with the dolphins that the best weapon to kill a submarine remains another submarine. Our biggest peer competitor, the Soviet submarine fleet, is largely moribund. (Although despite U.S. propogandists/nationalists, objectively in some ways Soviet submarine engineering eclisped the U.S. efforts such as the Los Angeles class. Their Alpha is but one example. U.S. bureaucratic squabbling resulted in inferior and delayed design choices; we see little sign that U.S. design has returned to its previous excellence).

    Diesel subs being sold or launched by on-the-horizon rivals such as India and China are perfect for littoral defence/port of entry denial and scenarios such as in the South African/NATO story. Should the U.S. seek a new amphibious presence anywhere along the World Island, neutralizing an opposing submarine fleet would be of the utmost priority. Otherwise, the viability of the venture would have to be called into question.

    Probably the most cost effective way to deny U.S. access would be mines. Our anti-mine capability is almost non-existent. No glamour there.

    re ASM/Stand off weapons

    They represent a threat largely ignored by the non-specialist media. Today their range is limited largely proximate to the littoral itself — either as a land based missile or via aircraft.

    An exception – Russian Bears would carry a Kitchen. F-14s on patrol with an extra 100 mile range of the Phoenix offered some intercept margin comfort. Some Soviet submarines also carried a variety of ASM, too.

    Iranian Silkworms in a closed sea space without room for maneuver create a potential killzone; Chinese ASMs in 10 years using their commercial digital/electronic manufacturing base? A possible Sword of Damocles. Millenium Challenge redux.

    There are countermeasures, of course, besides the Phalanx system. But ultimately, the best response is pre-emptive destruction — by either shore bombardment or in the case of aircraft, achieving air superiority.

    No question that diffusion of technology complicates U.S. power projection. This is especially true for “new market entrants” who can deploy commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies in innovative ways contra hidebound U.S. thinking and molasses-slow procurements.

    It’s for that very reason that Rumsfeld and others tried to implement the U.S. transformation agenda and why the services tried so hard to get Rumsfeld fired before Sept. 2001. A bitter irony is that Rumsfeld et al. tried to ram transformation onto OIF (with the outcome we see today). All he accomplished? The discredit of the entire transformation agenda.

    Net net? We agree with you that depending when and where, the U.S. should not assume SLOC or ease of littoral access, let alone subsequent success.

  18. A Random Quote says

    “I like Henry [Kissinger] very much, and respect him, – though I cannot rid myself of the fear that he says one sort of thing to me and another sort of thing to, say, Bill Buckley.”
    ~Arthur Schlesinger
    Journals 1952-2000

  19. DrLeoStrauss says

    re armchair w.,

    Interesting concepts and ones we largely agree with. Just to make sure, hope you do not believe the Stiftung would assume a more reactionary doctrinal p.o.v. As you probably know, the Soviets were far ahead in exploring the use of combined arms air assault at the operational level than the West was in the 1930-45 time frame. Two reasons the Eastern Front saw limited airborne deployments (among others) (i) the 1937-39 purges killed off those most capable and trained in the doctrine; and (ii) technological limitations. Still, the Soviets saw this as essentially an echelon penetration (second or third) rather than a theater-wide concept (later to be known as TVDs).

    Market Garden remained a small exercise by comparison. The airborne component at Normandy also. For all the reasons you noted well. But the evolutionary trend is there.

    There’s a lot to recommend in re-thinking along the lines you proposed. We should all be on guard, however, against falling into the technological fantasies peddled usually by the Air Force and its surrogates — i.e., that kinetic fire by itself can determine war winning outcomes. You noted this as well. The hyperbolic folly of the EBO/RDO hubris in large measure shares responsibility for the initial failures in Iraq. And an even larger responsibility for the Israeli failure 2006 in Lebanon (parts of which the Stiftung believes were war crimes).

    At the end of the day, a war winning victory scenario still almost always depends on an 18 year old kid with a rifle standing on the ground. It would be nice if he spoke more than one language. Or had AI/technological assists in that regard. Airborne or space-based kinetic fires (one interesting concept dating back to the 1980s is a space based hypersonic dead weight ‘telephone pole’ — in simulations they blew the Kirov 20 feet out of the water) can ease entry or through ‘jointness’ be integrated to maintain a presence. Even so, an embryonic operational level presence could be deployed via air from CONUS today, sans the reconfigurations you mention. That is the simple progression from the Russian and Allied baby steps noted earlier.

    But, and this is the big but, it would be premature for the foreseeable future to plan for or anticipate that an amphibious presence on the World Island littoral, let alone deep in continent, can be sustain by an airbridge — or as this regime liked to call them, lillipads. Logistics, follow force flow through, all of that is far cheaper and in fact only achievable with a secure sea lane. That still remains the sine-qua-non of a geopolitical Amphibian. That’s especially the case if forced entry is needed/the littoral be closed. Moreover, our conversation extrapolates out existing disparities in U.S. air and space-based capabilities with potential competitors. It would be unwise in practice. Andy Marshall would need to concede that there are asymmetric responses to degrade U.S. assets at an alarming cost-effectiveness ratio. Especially regards to air/space-based manned deployments.

    Finally, part of the naval theory Lind referred to includes things like suasion: the overt, visible deployment of naval assets for political signaling, etc. The most recent notable example might be the 1996 CBGs steaming the straits of Taiwan. Before this regime, the presence or re-direction of a CBG was noted and discussed in world capitals. Putin’s recent reference to Cuba and the blockade another. There is value to a navy outside immediate fire for effect.

    Having said all of the above, however, in the Stiftung’s opinion, the Navy remains the most stubbornly retro-orthodox in its mindset. To the detriment of the service and Nation.

  20. anonymous says

    ‘Doctor Strauss’ – I have the awful feeling of the new kid in the High School cafeteria on a rainy day. I sat in the wrong place. Are the comments here about the substance of the posts? It seems not. Lang thinks something of you. Leaving out my foolish autobiography, the questions I posed are valid. But not relevant in this context I fear. Why?

  21. Anon says

    What Dean Barnett was hoping for was to contribute to this:
    But like we said – it was not a good enough fake anecodote – It was worse than “prosciutto.” The email genre is fascinating and we note the above line forgot to mention that the Oliver North emails first began by replacing Abu Nidal with Osama Bin Laden – In fact, when we corrected a Democratic woman on the facts after she fell for the email (right after 9-11) she became angry . She wanted to believe it.

  22. Comment says

    Having Kerry say “do you know who I am” is a pretty low level of humor – Very sub snl. It’s sort of interesting that he put that in Standard, because they usually make up better things. This may seem like small beer – but like the “what’s prosciutto?” claim – it shows something larger. The only possible circumstance the Kerry would say that would be a failed attempt at humor – like the Bush is stuck in Iraq thing.

  23. Anon says

    Dean Barnett’s use of the word “would” would probably be his grammer weasel excuse if he was busted for inventing an anecdote – But it shows sloppiness that the WS has to resort to dishonest tricks to mock Kerry – a man with many easy to spot weak points – It’s also an attempt to link Kerry with a GOP scandal – so as to dilute it or muddy the waters. But it’s a bad anecdote choice.
    Just as Schoenfeld would have been better off having the Agency guy say “what’s gargonzola?” – Barnett would have been wiser to have Kerry be conspicuously faux-humble.

  24. Anon says

    Prosciutto alert! Dean Barnett invents a fake Kerry anecdote to make a boring point. Not only did Kerry not say “do you know who I am” (notice Bartnett unsources it), but Barnett fails to understand the true nature of Kerry arrogance – Kerry would rather be conspicously humble in a restaurant — Indeed, we know of a time when Kerry showed up at a restaurant and insisted – in almost no sequitor fashion – that he not given a jump on the line.

  25. armchair wanker says

    veamphibious warfare is obsolete. the marines ought to be turned into an airborne/airlifted corps to compete directly with the army’s airborne units, hopefully to some dynamic effect.
    the reason (more or less) that airborne wasn’t effective in the 20th century had to do with the pre-eminence of heavy weapons, ie tanks and artillery, that could not be airlifted in sufficient volumes to compete against a resident force. by contrast, these days it would appear (as per israel’s experience in lebanon with their mbt vs. modern anti-tank weapons) that tanks and artillery are somewhat obsolete against precision weapons; a rudimentary thought experiment involves dropping an infantry division into central asia; even with air-superiority, in 1945-1985 they would have been toast against an encroaching armored division; in contrast the contemporary situation with(ie)apache-longbows(airliftable) it is a situation reversed: the encroaching armor is toast, the supposedly vulnerable infantry proceeds as is. the difference between the two epochs is the precion weapons, in volume. and the ecological dynamic will now favor the units with greater speed and situational awareness and sensory synthesis. so why do the navy/marines still operate amphib + carriers (which are by the way redundant[in an age of global refuelling, global airbase reach, and eventually transorbital strike] and absurdly vulnerable to precision missles in precisely the same way as the mbt on land)? cultural inertia and the interservice rivalries and restrictions i’m guessing.
    john keegan said(back in the 80’s i think) that in the 21st century surface warfare on water will be over simply because everything there is too vulnerable to detection and destruction by guided-missle. he said that all the properly naval action will take place under water, with the subs and robots. i think he was right to some degree, but that overall the entire thing has shifted to a profound degree to favor land based aircraft and satelites, augmented by submarine actions oriented towards the maintenence of friendly sensor networks, and the destruction of enemy networks, ie sosus.
    in conclusion, invest in (lots of) c-17s, but also invest in civilian air-industry in a semi-public way; the excess capacity of a subsidized civilian air-transport industry could be siphoned off as needed to ferry large numbers of troops in very small amounts of time. the doctrine of speed and shock is certainly not dead in spite of implemenation failures.
    in a specifically naval (as in oceanic superiority) sense, kill the carrier groups and invest in satelites and big radar planes, plus subs and the n.g. of sosus type stuff.
    littorally i think it’s going to be a bad idea to attempt to rely on anything that rides on top of the water, but try explaining that to someone who has emotional investment in the manifestations the past, and has not internalized sufficiently the ultimate lesson of historical forms, that it’s all (been)(and will continue to be) contingent.

    final note: this is just the mechanical side of it, the holistic view implies that languages, media, and developmental perspectives are at least as strategically crucial as the pure-force perspectives, as repeated on this site again and again. it isn’t outlandish to expect every infantryman to speak a foreign language fluently for example. synthetic immersives + the age/plasticity factor make it easy-feasisble, discounting the bureaucratic dimensions; and in some sense (though it raises serious challenges) the shift to a mercenary economy would yield a greater diversity of approaches, innovation, and strategic options.

  26. Comment says

    “Navy’s self image is still defined by ‘Jedi Knights’ sitting in expensive targets taking off from even bigger targets, the floating runways.”
    In other words — You’re saying their self image is basically to be Duke Cuningham – as played by Tom Cruise. That could be a problem.

  27. Comment says

    We happened to catch a few seconds of a silly interview Cheney had with L. Kudlow – In the backround, in his office you could see a model battleship – Interesting that a Vietnam draft dodger like Cheney would feature a model battleship in his office to convey, to show, to display, his whatever. He would not have a model submarine – fearful of the Carter allusion.

  28. anonymous says

    In 1969 I was living with friends on and refitting a Baltic schooner in Palma Harbor. American sailors were in town often, but would have nothing to do with the bunch of hippies that I guess we were. The submariners though were a different sort. Good friends, who were generous with their supplies. We in return got them back to their boats via Nimbus flatbed sidecar motorcycle when they collapsed on our figurative doorstep.

    They did not think much of the surface sailors or their ships. Two kinds of ships in the Navy they said – submarines, and targets.

    Regarding that idea:,,2-7-1442_2177085,00.html

    Lord Nelson’s navy did not contend with submarines, or the proliferation of ASM’s. The submarines haven’t had a chance lately to show their stuff in actual combat, but the ASMs on the few occasions they have been used, in small numbers, haven’t seemed to miss.

    Then there is the unsound General Paul van Ripper, and the 2002 war games.

    So how is it exactly one ‘controls’ the sea?

    If you poke around at Air Power Australia, as for instance here:

    and keeping in mind NATO’s submarine embarrassment, then “…sustained power projection to secure key resources and objectives along the Eurasian littoral and Africa” looks a little dicey.

  29. Comment says

    How about the mercenary business returning to the high seas with a vengence – Blackwater type navies etc

  30. Comment says

    Compare Britain’s glorious naval history with her ignoble involvment rn Ireland – or her more bloody land involvments elsewhere. Her naval strength added strength, while her land involvement were mostly draining. The Somme was dramatic bloody fiasco – but look around at the world’s bloodiest borders and you often end up looking at Britain’s history.

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