April 12, 2009

Pirates on Sunday

My CNAS colleague Bob Kaplan has an op-ed in the New York Times today on -- what else? Aargh! -- pirates. Bob thinks this running fiasco off the Horn of Africa doesn't reflect well on U.S. naval power.

That a relatively small number of pirates from a semi-starving nation can constitute enough of a menace to disrupt major sea routes is another sign of the anarchy that will be characteristic of a multipolar world, in which a great navy like America’s — with a falling number of overall ships — will be in relative, elegant decline, while others will either lack the stomach or the capacity to adequately guard the seas.

I guess there is an argument to be made there. After all, navies are responsible for basically four missions.

  1. Protect seaborne commerce.
  2. Protect movement of armies and their supplies.
  3. Deny enemy trade and commerce.
  4. Deny movement of enemy armies and supplies.

If our navy can't do #1 and #2, then we might need to re-think what we're doing. I would defer, though, to what Old Boy Galrahn has to say about this, as well as to the thoughts of Martin Murphy, pretty much among the world's leading piracy experts. This may present a tactical problem to the U.S. Navy that does not demand a complete re-set of the force structure.

Another invaluable resource these days is the Naval Institute's blog. These nerds are to the high seas what we are to population. Only more nerdish. If that is possible.