Trump’s New Navy: Does the US Need 350 Warships?
Trump’s New Navy: Does the US Really Need 350 Warships?While we cannot be certain about anything when it comes to Donald Trump’s future defense policies, U.S. defense hawks — in particular advocates for a larger U.S. Navy – have quickly embraced Trump’s victory as a means to expand U.S. military power through a Reaganesque defense spending spree.
U.S. naval power advocates are enthusiastic about Trump’s reported commitment to build a 350-ship Navy (up from 272 ships in service today). Defense hawks are also pleased that Randy Forbes, an advocate for a 350-ship navy and $20 billion annual shipbuilding programs, is allegedly being considered for secretary of the navy – the Department of the Navy’s top civilian job.
Indeed, “[t]he 350-ship navy, cruiser modernization – those naval planks [in Donald Trump’s policies] are lifted from Randy Forbes,” a source familiar with Trump’s national security team told USNI News. Forbes is without a doubt a qualified candidate for the position and will do very well.
However, if analysts are blinded by growing tonnage statistics, it will also mean that we once more will not have a serious discussion about the underpinning of our naval strategy and the overall role that the U.S. Navy should play in the world, beyond the usual Department of Defense boiler plates offered in public documents.
I have written about Randy Forbes and his acolytes on multiple occasions (See: “What Hawks Have to Say About the US Navy’s New Maritime Strategy”) and I came up with a rather convoluted definition for individuals like Forbes, calling them strategic hedgehog-tactical fox hybrid analysts under the influence of the so-called Gathering Storm Syndrome.
Policymakers affected by the Gathering Storm Syndrome have embraced Churchill’s dictum laid out in the first volume of his history of World War II, called The Gathering Storm, as a universal principle applicable at all times under any circumstances and against any adversary: Appeasement (i.e. disarmament paired with political compromise) makes the aggressor only more aggressive; and restraint in international politics is more often than not a mistake to be paid for at a later stage with “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”