With the "War on Terror" being focused primary now in the landlocked country of Afghanistan (AFG), the question has arisen of "Does The Navy Have A Place In McChrystal’s War?" On one level this question is understandable on a popular level, for night after night people see images of war on their television and wonder: What role could the Navy possibly play in that desert or those mountains?
The writer of the linked blog article (Christopher Albon), goes on to suggest that the Navy can have a more significant role by shifting it's mission from that of a war-fighting arm to a humanitarian organization. The argument goes something like this:
The war is occurring on land...
The Navy is at sea...
The Navy has no place to fight in the land-war...
The Navy should learn to do something other than fight.
Before we start beating those swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, there are a few things to consider:
1. Logistics - Too numerous to list here are the ways in which maritime operations support the battlefield and supply logistics needed in-theater. Equipment and personnel needed for joint force power projection in AFG do not get there by themselves. Transportation and supply streams require unimpeded air and sea ways to reinforce assets subject to depletion. Regardless of how much air and fire support may be scaled back in AFG from USN carriers and cruisers in the Indian Ocean, the Army and USMC's ability to make war on Al Qaeda and Taliban forces will continually be in need of naval support to perform their tasks.
2. Operations - The USN contribution to in-theater combat ops (even on the ground) is also integrated and incalculable. Navy SEALs and intelligence work (at the very least) demonstrate just how "in the fight" the US Navy is, and will continue to be.
3. Preparation - It is grotesquely short sighted to recommend a shift in the USN mission from a war-fighting to humanitarian emphasis (i.e. "spreading good will," setting up clinics, and disaster relief ops) simply because news reports are filled more with sand than water. Earth's oceans account for seventy percent of the planet's surface area. THAT is the vast and wild frontier where power projection is, and will always be, the most necessary. The diverse and far-spread threats to civilization require a strong Navy now more than ever. Several smaller national threats are evident to the public eye (i.e. North Korea, Venezuela and Iran), to say nothing of the larger national powers that continue to warrant strategic deterrent from the West (i.e. China and Russia). Piracy remains a genuine threat to shipping lanes and free maritime trade. US Navy power projection will continue to remain necessary for seventy percent of the world's surface. Only the most reckless of "opinioneers" will fail to envision the perpetual role for the Navy in foreign policy and maritime freedom.
This is not to devalue or marginalize the laudable pursuits of humanitarian aid. Indeed charitable organizations should be far more outfitted and empowered to meet timely needs in countries where they are welcome. Natural disasters certainly will continue to create crises in the developing world. In addition, humanitarian efforts may also be a legitimate ancillary ability of armed forces. However, to suggest that such aid become the greater focus of war machines is the worst kind of folly.
Military forces have a single chief function: to break people and stuff.
What people and whose stuff must be broken is the purview of elected civilian leadership. Preferably those leaders will direct the military to break only that amount of people and stuff that is necessary to reach peaceful equilibrium. In other words, the "breaking" that the military performs must be swift and effective enough to persuade an enemy not to make continued "breaking" necessary. The military is made necessary by the depravity of humankind, and it's propensity to aggressively attack one another. Therefore, the "attacker" must be broken. This is the nature of the world. Aggressors must be militarily "broken" for peace to have its way.
The Navy is a military organization/organism. It can perform many functions, but its chief function is a military one. To forget this is to weaken military protection for seventy percent of the world's area.
(This is a great mystery, but to those with "eyes to see and ears to hear," I have also been talking about the Church. It can perform many functions, but it has a primary function. Losing site of this has weakened the Church (particularly in the West) more than any "attack" from outside could have ever accomplished. Not to start a new blog here; my main rant was regarding the Navy. But if analogies abound, indeed this one is glaring as well.)