Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Death Knell of the Panama Canal?

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Death Knell of the Panama Canal?

Article excerpt

Evans, G. Russell. Death Knell of the Panama Canal?. Fairfax, Va.: National Security Center, 1997. 237pp. $4.95 (paperback)

On 31 December 1999 the Panama Canal and all its installations are scheduled to revert to the Republic of Panama, in accordance with the 1977 treaty between the United States and Panama. This book, published by the National Security Center, was written by G. Russell Evans, a retired United States Coast Guard captain who is a student of the U.S.-Panama interplay on the canal. Evans argues for a treaty revision and a partnership of mutual benefit for both countries to take the place of what he calls the present "illegal" treaty. That the introduction was written by the greatly respected Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requires that Evans's arguments be heard and considered.

The book undeniably raises an alarm about a strategic issue of vital security to the United States-the canal's future. Unfortunately, the author's presentation of the events leading to the approval of the canal treaty and of its subsequent governmental examinations is offered in parochial, passionate, and inflammatory language that mars the often laudable critiques offered.

The canal's completion in 1914 was in the interest of every seagoing nation, providing easy passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The canal was also smack in the middle of every military logistician's calculations on strategy. There it has remained, although with the passage of time and the concurrent changes in military technology, estimates of the canal's utility to the United States and its vulnerability to terrorism have waxed and waned. Regrettably, these issues have been assessed in a cavalier and erroneous manner by many U.S. strategists, whose thinking has been befuddled by the issues of aircraft carriers too wide to make passage, the threat of long-range offensive missiles, and the possibility that locks could be disabled by explosives.

The reality is that the canal could be defended against missiles by U.S. Army Patriot missiles or the impending Navy theater missile defense system. Surveillance techniques, now well practiced, could counter the transportable explosives threat. …

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