Naval power is commonly applied near landmasses where the commercial and military links between states are bundled. The great naval battles of history from Salamis to Actium and Lepanto to Trafalgar, Tsushima Strait and Midway occurred near contested positions on land.
The World War II Battle of the Atlantic was fought across the North Atlantic’s wide expanse, but the object of the enemy, by denying the United States the ability to supply its allies with war materiel, was to subjugate all of Europe.
The stakes of naval warfare are fundamentally linked to trade and commerce. Who controls the global seas controls global commerce. The dominance of the United States as a sea power since World War II has protected the untrammeled use of the seas for international commerce.
A foundational element in the gathering Sino-American contest is the United States’ protection of global free trade and the certainty that China, were it to become the superior seapower, would use its primacy as an economic tool against competitors large and small. China would harm US international commerce as its autarkic colleague, Russia, has sought to harm Ukrainian commerce.
Thus, the US Navy is the guardian of America’s preeminence as an international merchant.
But the navy, some critics note, has a technology problem. It fields old weapons on older ships that are far too vulnerable to modern missiles to be survivable in a conflict with China.
Like a corporation whose adaptability is key to its success, the US Navy must transform itself. It must embrace cutting-edge unmanned technologies and decision-centric capabilities to fight in a distributed and lethal manner.
While this criticism has merit, and the list of technologies it identifies as the future of naval combat is supported by evidence, it misses the fundamental point: Structurally speaking, the navy has a fleet that it can modify to fight a modern war.
Read the rest at Asia Times.
Seth Cropsey is the founder and president of Yorktown Institute. He served as a US naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the navy, and is the author of the books Mayday and Seablindness.