Non sibi sed patriae

Our Navy continues to shrink, reflecting the incorrect assumption that the end of the Soviet Union in 1989 ushered in an era of eternal peace and tranquility. Mark Helprin, in the Wall Street Journal reminds us of the dangers of such neglect.

Back in the day when I was at the War College, talk of a 600-ship Navy was heavy in the air, with an emphasis on deploying as many as 19 carrier battle groups. Now, even allowing for the fact that this was at the height of the Cold War, we’ve abandoned that dream, and have settled for a too-diminished Navy.

Mr Helprin writes

…the fleet has been made to wither even in time of war. We have the smallest navy in almost a century, declining in the past 50 years to 286 from 1,000 principal combatants. Apologists may cite typical postwar diminutions, but the ongoing 17% reduction from 1998 to the present applies to a navy that unlike its wartime predecessors was not previously built up. These are reductions upon reductions. Nor can there be comfort in the fact that modern ships are more capable, for so are the ships of potential opponents. And even if the capacity of a whole navy could be packed into a small number of super ships, they could be in only a limited number of places at a time, and the loss of just a few of them would be catastrophic.

This is not a matter of having a huge Navy because of national pride. This is a matter of being able to project force around the globe when and where we choose. And not be held hostage by any tin-pot dictator (like Qaddafi) or Somali pirates. Or, for that matter, need to cede to waves to tyrannical would-be great powers such as China.

We have grave budget and deficit problems. Perhaps we should start treating our national defense as a higher priority than useless vanities such as high-speed rail. Perhaps, if we had serious leadership, as our highest priority.

Non sibi sed patriae; not self but country.

Note on the flag: Not just for the Tea Party, this is the first Navy jack, first deployed in 1777,

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