Academic journal article Parameters

Toward a New Maritime Strategy: American Naval Thinking in the Post-Cold War Era

Academic journal article Parameters

Toward a New Maritime Strategy: American Naval Thinking in the Post-Cold War Era

Article excerpt

Toward a New Maritime Strategy: American Naval Thinking in the Post-Cold War Era

By Peter D. Haynes

Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2015

304 pages.



It is asserted frequently, particularly in naval circles, that America is a "maritime nation." This is, at the very least, questionable. The reason it falls short of being a maritime nation, and therefore a maritime power, is the question this authoritative and meticulously written book seeks to answer.

Haynes makes three main points: the US Navy's ability to write strategy is fundamentally flawed and, as a result, the strategies it has pursued since the end of the Cold War have, with a single exception, been as flawed as the process that made them.

Haynes' research provides the reader with an extraordinary history of the intellectual thinking, political pressure, bureaucratic infighting, personalities and budgetary constraints that have shaped strategy making in the Department of the Navy over this time. Colin Gray is correct when he writes in his endorsement that "it will make uncomfortable reading to many, but read it they must."

From Haynes' analysis three particularly disturbing trends stand out. First, naval strategy, as it is practiced by the US Navy, consists of day-to-day policy and program choices. This may have delivered sufficient superiority during the long years of Soviet containment but, when that ended, the Navy found itself bereft of the strategic skills to plot a new course and justify it to its administrative and legislative masters.

Secondly, the pursuit of jointness and the restrictions this has placed on the ability of all the individual service chiefs to influence strategy. The consequences for the Navy, for which centralized command never came naturally, have been particularly acute.

During the Cold War the US focused on military threats and the very American use of technology to solve them. In that warfare-dominated environment, the persistent application of pressure with which naval force has traditionally achieved effect was dismissed repeatedly as too slow to play any worthwhile role in defeating Soviet power. Consequently, the Navy retreated to a position where it was contingent operationally, which it achieved by ensuring it was forward deployed and offensively-minded.

The collapse of Soviet power did not usher in new strategic thinking that measured up to the momentousness of the moment. The Navy's first post-Cold War strategic vision statement, "...From the Sea" issued in 1992, continued to explain the Navy's existence as being "to provide the regional CINCs with a breadth of capabilities, none more important than striking targets ashore on exceptionally short notice." (86) The Navy effectively acquiesced to the prevailing patterns of US military thought which, following the first Gulf War, were about jointness, warfighting, and "revolutionary" precision strike. This ordering of priorities and the Navy's willingness to accept them revealed the degree to which the Navy had lost sight of the distinction between a naval and a maritime strategy. …

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