In a recent issue of Proceedings the monthly magazine from the Naval Institute, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Navy’s current CNO (Chief of Naval Operations, and for those unfamiliar with the military and the Navy in particular, he is *our* equivalent to a CEO in the civilian world.) pens an interesting article on his vision for the 21st century Navy.
To the Admirals credit, he recognizes the need for a strong, flexible, multi- platformed Navy. The demands of “today’s world” will call on the maritime services to not only project power, but, as with his example of the Navy’s response to the tsunami which devastated so much of the Indian Ocean coastal communities, be a key player in providing humanitarian aid/relief as well.
They will be expected to understand and foster cooperation in cultures far different from our own. They will be ambassadors, educators, health care providers, mentors, and friends to a diverse cross-section of the global community. They must, therefore, be equipped with the tools and skills to meet these challenges and to develop as leaders.
Despite the pc speak sprinkled throughout the above statement. This is really nothing new. From at least the early 70’s (and, I am quite sure, well before that) upon entering a foreign port Sailors were constantly reminded they were “America’s cultural ambassadors”. For many of the people we would meet, we would be their first real contact with “An American”. And most took that to heart. Fact is, Sailors were as curious about the country they were visiting as the foreign nationals were about us.
In short, you take the buzz words and pc speak out…..and most of this article could have been written 20 to 30 years ago. It is really nothing new. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. (Boring perhaps, but not bad.) It is, after all, a puff piece viewed primarily by those who are either presently in, have since separated/retired from the Navy, or interested parties in other agencies both governmental and civilian.
The only real exception I have toward the article. Is Admiral Mueller’s desire to allow the Navy to be part of a “world Navy of 1000 ships”.
As we build on existing alliances and cooperative efforts like the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Regional Maritime Security Initiative, we find that every nation has a stake in global security and stability, and a distinct, unique capability, as well as a great desire, to contribute. Our goal is to extend the peace through an inter-connected community of maritime nations-a proverbial world navy of 1,000 ships — comprised of all freedom-loving nations, standing watch over the seas.
I respectfully suggest the Admiral take his cues (as he claims he has done for so many of the articles points he posits) from what has transpired around the world in the past five to ten years. Further, he needs to really focus on the actions of our supposed allies after the onset September 11th. A number of those we considered friends at the least or “staunch allies” at the most, were not to be seen when it came time to act. Does the CNO really expect we will have a pool of fellow travelers on the global stage ready at any moment to take part in any action? And this “global navy” is to be activity directed/helmed by whom? The US Navy (or current US administration at that time)? Or are we to believe the US military, in this case the Navy and or Marine Corps will be potentially ordered into battle under a foreign command (reciprocal agreements he alludes to being just that).
Having FLEETEX (Fleet Exercises) with other allies/friendly nations is a good thing. And I would agree there will be times when our objectives may be mutually agreeable. So having some sort of integration experience to draw from is of value (conversely if said “friendly nation” becomes an “ex friendly”, having some understanding of how they execute their battle plans never hurts.) But again, to go beyond this toward some sort of *homogenised armada* is not only a pipe dream, it is (owing to human nature and the oft time cross purposes of nations/governments) a dangerous one as well. It lends itself to a false sense of security where one may not really exist.
There are other issues which when viewed with other then pc or rose colored corrective lenses, will be addressed here at a later date. Stay tuned shipmates.