Putting the Navy Issue in Perspective

Political scientists  Brian Crisher and Mark Souva have studied US naval power and note:

In 1916, the US controlled roughly 11% of the world’s naval power. This is an impressive number that ranks the US third in naval strength behind the UK (34%) and Germany (19%), and just ahead of France (10%). What about the US navy in 2011? In 2011, the US controlled roughly 50% of the world’s naval power putting it in a comfortable lead in naval power ahead of Russia (11%).

I think that should put things in perspective.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    The only relevant metric is number of ships, because that’s the only way for Romney to claim any branch of the military has become “weaker” under Obama and get even the gullible dupes like jan to buy it.

  2. Eric says:

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/carriers-2012.gif

    This is a picture of current active aircraft carriers in the world today, according to Global Security. Also puts things into perspective.

  3. @Eric: Indeed.

  4. Jr says:

    I am really shocked Romney brought up the smaller Navy BS. He had to know Obama was going to pounce on that it was such a softball.

  5. I think that should put things in perspective.

    There you liberals in the lamestream media go again and again with your “science” and “facts”! /sarc

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    A ship five times as powerful as the enemy’s can’t be in five places at once.

    And Al Qaeda wasn’t exactly intimidated by the power of the Navy’s ships — two of them crippled and almost sank a billion-dollar destroyer.

    Gosh, I hope no one else in the world figures out this thing called “asymmetric warfare.”

  7. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “And Al Qaeda wasn’t exactly intimidated by the power of the Navy’s ships — two of them crippled and almost sank a billion-dollar destroyer.”

    So many things wrong here…I can’t even get into it.

    I’ll just say this: The Cole still floats and those suicide bombers are still dead.

    If they were not intimidated by the power of the US Navy……they should have been.

  8. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Gosh, I hope no one else in the world figures out this thing called “asymmetric warfare.”

    Which, of course, underscores why talking about the size of the Navy in the first place was a ridiculous thing to do.

    You are making Obama’s argument. That’s the whole point of the horses and bayonets routine–that warfare and military threats have changed and that we have to invest in different types of military capabilities as a result and that comparisons to past metrics of might aren’t necessarily all that helpful.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    Hmm. I don’t see a great deal of perspective here. If we de-emphasize aircraft carriers in favor of small, more agile craft, we must necessarily add to the number of ships. The number of carriers and total ships in the fleet should be conditioned on the tasks we’re asking them and their crews to perform. Why is that necessarily proportional to how much total naval power we command?

    Just to be clear, I think we should be undertaking far fewer tasks with our military than we are. An undersized (relative to the chores being performed) but overworked Navy does not seem to me to be in the national interest.

    However, all of this is the conversation we should be having rather than the hunt for soundbites, quotable wisecracks, and putdowns which is what the presidential campaign has degenerated into.

  10. JKB says:

    Oh no, the US has such big navy compared to all the declining powers of the past. Of course, we are the only country that can sustain an aerial bombardment to achieve better oil contract terms for France and Britain (and France and Britain were flying from their home bases). We are the only country that can put substantial resources offshore of a disaster area to provide humanitarian relief. We are the only country that can project power into the Mediterranean while simultaneously not neglecting a belligerent China intimidating other countries in Asia.

    When you have to do a lot of things in a lot of different places at near the same time, you need a lot of ships. That we are centered on Obama’s aircraft carriers, means we need even more since ships protecting the carrier group aren’t available for independent duty. And unless you can negotiate with fickle friends for overflight, landing and staging rights, you need hulls in the water to project forces in distant locales.

    BTW, thinking of Obama’s war to destabilize Libya and create a safe haven for Al Qaeda in Mali, what ever happened to RTP (Responsibility to Protect). RTP was the hot justification for the Left to go to war but when it came time to Protect the US ambassador and other, suddenly Obama, Rice and others were going, “It isn’t our responsibility”….they held this line for the whole 6 hours of the attack.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    That we are centered on Obama’s aircraft carriers, means we need even more since ships protecting the carrier group aren’t available for independent duty.

    So much stupid in the use of a single word.

  12. @Dave Schuler:

    I don’t see a great deal of perspective here

    You don’t think that controlling 50% of global naval power doesn’t put Romney’s concerns about US naval power in perspective?

  13. @JKB:

    Oh no, the US has such big navy compared to all the declining powers of the past.

    You are missing the point. The US currently controls 50% of global naval power.

    The comparison to the past was that in the year that Romney thinks is a good year for comparison we only controlled 11%.

    This should not be so hard to understand.

  14. @Steven L. Taylor: Apparently my satirical remark wasn’t too far off the mark of what people would actually say.

    *sigh*

  15. ken anthony says:

    @Herb:

    You forgot to mention 17 American sailors dead, 39 injured.

  16. Dave Schuler says:

    No, it doesn’t. Britain, France, and Germany’s navies are all half the size they were in 1916 while the tasks being undertaken by navies, in aggregate, have grown. Basically, we’re filling the vacuum that has been left by other developed countries. Downsizing our navy without reducing what we expect of our navy does not appear to be a good idea to me.

    To get perspective you need to relate the size of our navy to what we’re expecting it to do. Trying to relate it to the size of other countries’ navies doesn’t do that. It’s irrelevant.

    I’m all for getting the other developed countries to shoulder their share of responsibilities. Just reducing the size of our navy won’t do that.

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    In 2011, the US controlled roughly 50% of the world’s naval power putting it in a comfortable lead in naval power ahead of Russia (11%).

    Not to mention that the US, besides itself bordering on two oceans and several seas, also has naval bases in practically every other ocean and sea on Earth, while Russia’s naval bases are either in cold water ports in the Arctic or behind strategic chokepoints in the Baltic and Black Seas.

  18. @Dave Schuler: Right, because our aircraft carriers have been so taxed over the last decade. Can you tell me what they have done exactly other than operations during the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars? Even during the Iraq War, only five of the United States’ (at the time) ten aircraft carriers were deployed to the Gulf.

  19. mantis says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    What you are saying is true, but the point of Romney’s comment was we have fewer ships than in 1916, therefore we are weaker than in 1916. This is an absurd assertion because a) technology has changed what ships we use and the capabilities of the fleet and b) we are far more powerful than any other country in terms of naval power right now.

    Now, if we want to have a real discussion about what our Navy should do, what we would need to do it, and what we expect of other countries, that’s a different conversation. That’s a good conversation to have, and as you note, a more important one than the conversation about whether or not we are more powerful than we were in 1916.

    If Romney had, rather than making the stupid comment he did, proposed that we rethink our Navy’s role in the world and how we prepare for that role, then there would be no need for Stephen to put the whole “power” question into perspective. But he didn’t, did he?

  20. David M says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    However, all of this is the conversation we should be having rather than the hunt for soundbites, quotable wisecracks, and putdowns which is what the presidential campaign has degenerated into.

    You’re part of the problem if you don’t identify the Romney campaign as the obstacle to serious conversations.

  21. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    is it worth borrowing money from China to boost our dominance of naval power to 75% of world capacity?

  22. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The US currently controls 50% of global naval power.

    I’m sorry, did the Earth somehow shrink over the last century? We control 50% of the naval power with fewer ships. Yet we engage in more global missions than in 1916. We don’t have the luxury of moving almost all resources into one theater as we must deal with multiple simultaneous threats, crisis, and “freedom to navigate” issues.

    We may control 50% of the global naval power but we are doing about 99% of the global naval power projection. So let’s see if we take our 11% from 1916 and add Britain’s 34%, we still only have 45% of the naval power but we’d have a lot more ships.

  23. JKB says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    For almost every ship deployed, another matching capability is undergoing refit and replenishment before it deploys to relieve those on station.

    We’ve maintained carrier groups in the Med, the Atlantic and the Western Pacific to be in place to handle crisis as it emerges.

  24. @Geek, Esq.: While also starting a trade war with China.

  25. David M says:

    @JKB:

    1916!!!

    None of that came close to a coherent point about why we need a larger Navy.

  26. JKB says:

    @Dave Schuler: I’m all for getting the other developed countries to shoulder their share of responsibilities. Just reducing the size of our navy won’t do that.

    I agree. First up, we pull our forces away from Western Europe. We can cut back on ground units as well. Fewer troops and ships, great savings for the US.

    Plus added bonus, we broke the USSR by forcing them to build up their military till their civil society collapsed. We could do the same to the Social democracies in Europe by forcing them to build up their defense. It would be amusing to watch the smug Europeans try to pay for ships and aircraft while trying to keep their welfare states working. I would expect in very short order, collapse.

  27. You know, some of the comments on here are a perfect example of what happens when people sit in the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Matt Drudge/Breitbart.com echo chamber: They repeat the same talking point over and over again without actually thinking a bit about it.

  28. David M says:

    @JKB:

    We could do the same to the Social democracies in Europe by forcing them to build up their defense. It would be amusing to watch the smug Europeans try to pay for ships and aircraft while trying to keep their welfare states working.

    You are a miserable, bad person. You are cheering the idea that Europeans governments would spend more on defense so their people will have worse lives.

    Who looks at people in another friendly country and says “their lives should suck more” for no reason? How is that ever a good thing?

  29. mantis says:

    @David M:

    Who looks at people in another friendly country and says “their lives should suck more” for no reason?

    The same type of person who looks at the poor in this country and says, “their lives should suck more.” A Republican.

  30. Al says:

    @JKB:

    Yeah, because Europe’s economy loosing means ours wins!

    That is the way that works, right?

  31. JKB says:

    @David M: @Al:

    No, I am pointing out that they can live in their socialist paradise only by the good graces of the American taxpayer, and, this should give them concern over Obama, our evil capitalist system.

    If they had to live by their own means, pay for their own security, they would have to grow up and be adults with adult responsibility.

    They may very well have to grow up as our debt crisis is likely to break their plate. We’ll finally give in to what the “intellectual elite” call for, a small America.

  32. @Dave Schuler:

    To get perspective you need to relate the size of our navy to what we’re expecting it to do. Trying to relate it to the size of other countries’ navies doesn’t do that. It’s irrelevant.

    Yes, but that is a real conservation about national security policy. This would be a fantastic conversation to have.

    That is not what Romney was doing, and therefore not what I was responding to here.

  33. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    Plus added bonus, we broke the USSR by forcing them to build up their military till their civil society collapsed.

    Am I the only one who finds it slightly ironic that the above quote was written as part of an argument for the continued growth of the American military?

  34. @mattb:

    Am I the only one who finds it slightly ironic that the above quote was written as part of an argument for the continued growth of the American military?

    But, Comrade, we must be strong! If we are not strong we will be weak!

  35. JKB says:

    @mattb:

    No, that was written as part of an argument to withdraw US forces from the European theater leaving the Europeans, after 67 years, to provide their own defense. I the children of Europe turn out not to be able to play together without supervision, then we nuke Paris, and voila, no more occupation of Paris.

    But since no one wants to make the Europeans be civilized and function without adult supervision, then we need the military capable of dealing with our commitments. And to pay for that, we need to streamline regulation, reign in Steven Taylor’s beloved bureaucrats and let the evil capitalist system generate the national wealth necessary to support such a military.

  36. Ben Wolf says:

    @Geek, Esq.: You don’t really think the Chinese loan us money and then watch us build weapons with it, do you?

  37. @JKB:

    Steven Taylor’s beloved bureaucrats

    Ah yes, my beloved bureaucrats. Remind me again who is arguing for expansion of government in this thread?

    Your lack of self-awareness/understanding what you are arguing in favor of (to go along with mattb‘s observation) is stunning.

  38. @JKB: I’m confused, I thought Romney wanted to put more troops in Europe to stop the Soviet hordes from taking Czechoslovakia.

  39. mattb says:

    @JKB:
    *sigh*

    Perhaps the broader point is that a vote to maintain the current size of the military is essentially a vote to continue to subsidize the protection of Europe you seem to be complaining about.

    The best hope that we have to limit our foreign commitments is to make it difficult to sustain so many commitments.

    If you were truly interested in stopping subsidizing Europe’s protection, then I don’t understand why you are suggesting that our Naval power needs to be increased.

  40. Andre Kenji says:

    The only Brazilian Aircraft carrier should not be counted in this list. It´s a pretty old ship(It´s a French carrier built in 1960). The carrier spends most of her time in a dock in Rio de Janeiro, and several sailors were killed in accidents and fires. It has no practical use.

    http://www.naval.com.br/blog/2011/11/18/fotos-da-chegada-do-porta-avioes-sao-paulo-hoje-ao-porto-de-santos-sp/#axzz2AGze16qp

    http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:Naesopauloa1215442973.jpg

    Take a look at the smoke over the ship.

  41. David M says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    That’s kind of the point of everyone mocking the 1916 comparison. The US Navy is quite large and capable right now, and all the handwringing is about nothing.

    P.S. Cool photos!

  42. mantis says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Take a look at the smoke over the ship.

    They were just having a barbecue.

  43. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    Plus added bonus, we broke the USSR by forcing them to build up their military till their civil society collapsed. We could do the same to the Social democracies in Europe by forcing them to build up their defense.

    Build up their defense against WHAT? The Red Army hordes?

    It would be amusing to watch the smug Europeans try to pay for ships and aircraft while trying to keep their welfare states working. I would expect in very short order, collapse.

    Again, ships and aircrafts for what? No one is attacking Europe. No one is invading Europe. Britain and France are nuclear powers. They don’t need a large military force. It’s the US, on the other hand, which is continuously pressuring the Europeans to maintain a larger military, largely for the America’s benefit, not Europe’s.

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    No, that was written as part of an argument to withdraw US forces from the European theater leaving the Europeans, after 67 years, to provide their own defense.

    Again, their own defense against what? The Soviet Union? The Mongol hordes? The Janissaries of the Ottoman sultan? Who exactly in your fevered mind is attacking Europe?