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Cold Wars at Sea

2:38 PM, Apr 8, 2008 • By JOHN NOONAN
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Armed Forces Journal reports:

It might be tempting to dismiss the U.S. Navy's potential focus on China as a passing fad - part of the now-familiar phenomena of "China fever." Another perspective holds that this focus can best be explained by a simple case of enemy deprivation syndrome. While there is a kernel of truth in both of these intellectual approaches, facts on, above and especially under the water increasingly belie these conclusions and demand serious attention from American strategists.

China has launched more than 36 new submarines since 1995 - far outpacing U.S. intelligence estimates from a decade ago. Additionally, supersonic indigenous cruise missiles, rumored development of an anti-ship ballistic missile, dynamic mine warfare and amphibious warfare programs, invigorated aerial maritime strike capabilities, as well as a variety of new, sleek and modern surface combatants, suggest a broad front effort by the People's Liberation Army Navy.

This is slowly becoming a dangerous situation.

Not because I think that we'll be at war with China anytime in the near future, but rather that the rapidly shrinking gap between China's military capabilities and our own makes a quick localized war over Taiwan or the Spratley Islands more likely.

This is precisely the reason that we need to retask the Air Force and Navy with their old primary mission as our principle strategic warfighting services. Back during the Cold War, the Air Force's Strategic Air Command had a great motto: Peace is our profession. That eventually blossomed into Reagan's peace through strength (or my favorite, peace through superior firepower), but the message was clear: the power of America's strategic forces assured the world that the Cold War would never go hot.

The same applies to China. The more we weaken our strategic forces, refuse to modernize the Air Force and bolster the size of the Navy, the higher the probability of war in the Far East. The Army and Marines--properly equipped and sized--can handle counterinsurgencies and low-level conflict, while a powerful Air Force and Navy will ensure that America's wars are contained and statistically small.