Power at Sea - Vol. 3
Power at Sea - Vol. 3
In the sixty-one years since the end of World War II, American sea power has been both an irresistible force and a defining factor in world affairs. During this period of "violent peace" (a term coined twenty years ago by Chief of Naval Operations James Watkins), the United States Navy participated in four major wars and numerous lesser conflicts, confronted and eventually faced down an increasingly formidable Soviet fleet, transformed itself from an industrial to a nuclear armed force, and spearheaded a national social revolution by actively recruiting and promoting minority populations, all the while maintaining freedom of the seas for everyone.
Each of these achievements came at a heavy price. Combat in the waters off and skies above Korea and Vietnam was almost invariably frustrating and inconclusive; riverine warfare on the Mekong and its tributaries was worse. The two Gulf wars imposed their own particular strains and challenges, while the Soviet threat was always exhausting and often demoralizing. The incessant advances in ship, aircraft, ordnance, and communications technologies were destabilizing; the adjustments in race and gender relations intensified ancient animosities and created new ones. And over all, for forty-five years loomed the cold war with its daily possibilities that a single miscalculation, one false move, could bring about nuclear and thermonuclear Armageddon.
The sudden decline and fall of the Soviet Union brought little respite. The year 1991 proved a particularly frustrating one for America's sailors who were largely marginalized during the first, brief, victorious Gulf War, then humiliated shortly thereafter by scandal at an annual aviators' convention that revealed the ugly side of naval life. Yet through it all, the service continued to fill its many mission responsibilities as best it could. When 9/11 provided an overeager George W. Bush and his "neoconservative" followers with the pretext to proclaim a global imperium, the United States Navy stood ready to enforce it with an unmatched integrated sea-air-amphibious capability honed over many years.