Saturday, August 7, 2010

Navies, are They Worth It?

1 Trillion Dollars X 7= Cost of protecting Oil Supplies 1976-2007?

Dong Feng 21D

South China Sea

U.S. Navy

The lazy days of August has spread to the blogs as several announce taking a break from the daily flurry of posts that challenge the most proflic reader to keep abreast of all that is happening and discussed in our hyper-connected world.

That said, the slower pace allows for a deeper review of some of the more significant posts and allows time to gin up a few comments. I was drawn a post over at information dissemination where the daily absence of founder Galhran's pen is missed. Fortunately, there is a valuable stable of co-posters who have kept the site a daily must read for anyone interested in naval centric topics.

Bryan McGrath who blogs as The Conservative Wahoo, posted this excellent piece of brain food about the real cost of protecting our oil supplies. He outlines his argument with these relevent points.
1. We are dependent on oil and will be for decades to come. Continuing to invest in robust naval power designed at least in part to ensure the free flow of oil to world markets is a critical national security interest.
2. In the pursuit of defending that flow, we are beholden to many countries with views of modern America that are at best, dubious, and at worst, hostile.
3. Our addiction to foreign oil fattens regimes who are with one hand, accepting our cash, and with the other, funding the world-wide Islamic Jihad.
4. (Here's where things take a course change--stay with me) Continuing to beat the American public over the head with the science of climate change is not going to drive people to change their habits. Too many people are aware that the dinosaurs lived in a warmer world than we, and that there have been ice ages. They believe that CLIMATE CHANGES whether humans contribute or not--irrespective of the evidence. As a behavioral change model, CLIMATE CHANGE is a loser and it will not result in the policy aims it is put forward to support.
5. National Security however, is an effective model for behavioral change. Effective leadership in this country would talk about our dependence on oil as a NATIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGE--citing the bad actors on the other end of the transaction, their stated aims, and their ideological bent. Might we have spent $7.3 trillion on defending the flow of oil from 1976-2007? Maybe--who knows? But we all know we're spending SOMETHING to do that, and we all know it must be a considerable sum.
Read the whole post.
On the Cost of Protecting Oil Supplies

Before we all begin to march on Washington, let's take a step back and examine the cost of not defending the life blood of what built our nation and in turn the modern world.

History is complete with examples of the role and importance of having a strong naval presence. Walking backward, we come to Alfred Thayer Mahan and his seminal book, The Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660-1783.  For people versed in American and naval history this is old school and Mahan's theories have been saturated into their sub-concious minds when discussing modern naval strategy. But the lesson is golden to all novices, when held up against the past.

Looking back further in history we find Spain, enriched with the treasures of the New World and faced with the challenge of transporting them back to the seat of power in Madrid. Spain had a great fleet of Galleons, but were soon plagued by an upstart island nation, who sent forth corsairs like Sir Francis Drake to prey on Spanish shipping. Spain countered by building up their navy to the point that they attempted an invasion of England by the Spanish Armada to try and halt the threat to their sea lanes.

As noted, Spain was defeated and rapidly began to lose the ability to defend the sea lanes and the security of the safe transit of the riches of their far flung colonies. She began to shrivel as a super power and shuffled off into economic collapse, never to regain her once held position in the world.

England, as noted in Mahan's book went on to build the strongest navy the world had ever seen and used it to ensure that the sea lanes would for three centuries, remain almost as safe from brigands as a channel crossing.

The War in the Pacific, was launched by Japan, who must have been reading Mahan's book, because as an island nation their life blood of oil must be brought from across the sea. Japan built a vast navy that in time would challenge the navies of the United States, Great Britain and Holland for the control of the Western Pacific and the seas of Asia. They lost, partly because of a generation of men produced by a naval academy that prayed at the alter of Alfred Thayer Mahan's theories and took them to heart in the decades before Pearl Harbor.

Today, the entire world acknowledged or not, relies on the power of the United States to make sure that the flow of resources and goods has only Mother Nature’s wrath to contend with, as vessels laden with all manner of product criss-cross the planet. Only recently, in the age of political correctness, has piracy used the PC shield to prey on shipping in parts of the world. One thing is certain, a shoot on sight rule and the crushing of pirate lairs would put an end to most piracy, just as it did two hundred years ago.

Is our dominance assured now that we continue to posess a navy that has the ability to defeat any navy or combination of navies in the world today? or as this next post asks, are we beginning to see a new challenge to our dominance that may result in our going the way of other great powers?

This post from the Steeljawscribe and posted on the USNI Blog. illustrates a choke point where naval dominance and careful navigation of both the kenitic and diplomatic skills are needed. Steeljaw writes as only one who has sailed these waters can describe.
At its root it is all about resources — protein to supplement meager domestic harvests and oil to drive economies that governments push to unnatural and unsustainable annual growth. It is about an emergent regional power, poised on the brink of asserting itself as something more, flexing new found muscle in new domains and deepening suspicion of others in the region. . . “It” is a body of water, bounded to the west by Indochina, to the south by Indonesia and the east by the Philippine Islands. A marginal sea, it is the largest body of water after the world’s five oceans, measuring some 3.5 million square kilometers. Bordered by nearby home for over 270 million people.
Through its passages at Malacca and Taiwan, pass great streams of commerce — more than half the world’s supertankers and almost half of the world’s tonnage by most counts. Outward-bound to distant lands with finished products, inbound with the raw wealth drilled, mined, scraped and otherwise pulled from the earth, grist for the shore-bound industries. From crowded, stinking cities and wave-swept shore, fishermen set to sea to bring its bounty back to a waiting family, village or hungry nation. They set sail in everything from small boat to vast maritime industrial fleets, so efficient at harvesting but with so little thought of sustainment. At day’s end, visitor and native alike pause to consider the marvels of a watercolor sky, brushed in deep shades of vermilion and azure from above met by molten gold and dark sapphire from below – merging on the horizon.
Marvelous beauty, marvelous bounty – but alas, one that has seen mighty conflict in its time. From the early days of vessels powered by muscles and fear, to sail and later, plied by great grey hulking beasts that sought out like kind for battle or hurl anger ashore, it has seen war in all its stark, naked rage.
The South China Sea. Nán Hǎi. Dagat Timog Tsina. Laut China Selatan. Biển Đông.
Read more:
Competition in the South China Sea

Now for the up-start who is carefully building their own navy to ensure that the resources that will protect their lifelines will be protected and safe from any nation whom would threaten to cut off their life blood. This next post from the Associated Press, reveals something that sent strategist and tacticians scrambling to analize.

Nothing projects U.S. global air and sea power more vividly than supercarriers. Bristling with fighter jets that can reach deep into even landlocked trouble zones, America's virtually invincible carrier fleet has long enforced its dominance of the high seas.
China may soon put an end to that.
U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China — an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defences of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometres (900 miles).

Read the whole piece.
Chinese 'carrier-killer' missile raises concerns of Pacific power shift

Now all this should be enough to provoke one grab a few cold ones and think about the weight of the cost of defending oil supplies against the cost of not defending it and perhaps see ourselves held hostage to the decade of the 70's and the oil embargos.

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