“Great-Power Rivalry” Is Back

A carrier strike group is an enormous investment in ships, money, and manpower.  Its chief aim is sea control and power projection.  As its name suggests, it’s primarily an offensive force. (US Navy illustration)

W.J. Astore

Should we have a Department of Offense in place of a Department of Defense (DoD)?  Wouldn’t “Offense” be more accurate?  Perhaps in more ways than one?

Consider the revival of “great-power rivalry,” meaning China and Russia as America’s main rivals.  (Terrorists may be trouble, but you don’t necessarily need nuclear-powered carriers and stealth bombers to neutralize them.)  The new “cold war” is all the rage within the DoD, even though China and Russia are regional land powers, having little of the arsenal of global power projection in which the U.S. takes so much pride.

On this subject, the following snippet on Russia’s navy, courtesy of FP: Foreign Policy, is eye-opening:

The Russian military is considering decommissioning its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, a Soviet era ship that has been beset by maintenance problems and whose reliability is so questionable that a tug boat follows it around on deployments.”

A sputtering and antiquated aircraft carrier that needs tugboats to get around: not much to fear there, America.

Like Russia, China has a single aircraft carrier, though there are plans to build one or two more.  Even if China does, the U.S. will still maintain an enormous lead on its “great-power” rivals.  Some rivalry!

The U.S. Navy currently has eleven fleet aircraft carriers, with two new ones under construction and a further two on order.  Indeed, to make space for all these new carriers, the Navy has plans to retire CVN-75, Harry S Truman, 20 years early, an idea even Congress finds silly.

But give the Navy credit.  They knew Congress would balk at early retirement for the Truman, which doesn’t mean they’re backing off on new carrier orders.  Instead, the Navy wants it all: two new carriers and a refurbished and refueled Truman.

Consider the following exchange between a senator and an admiral:

“If we were to give you more money, you’d keep the Truman in place, wouldn’t you? Would that be your druthers?” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked.

“Our druthers would be to not surrender a carrier that has 50-percent of its life remaining, but we would like to not do that at the expense of moving out on these other technologies that every assessment has told us” the Navy will need in the future, [said] Vice Adm. Bill Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems.

“So basically we should consider giving you more money, right?” Hirono asked.

Replied Merz, “yes, ma’am.”

You just have to love these admirals and generals.  The answer is always more money!

U.S. “defense” experts have always been most expert at getting the biggest slice of the federal budgetary pie.  That, and threat inflation.  Hence the appeal to a new cold war with China (primarily an economic juggernaut) and Russia (an energy giant with lots of nukes), even though the U.S. military clearly outclasses both countries in global dominance and “defense” spending.

The world of “defense” is just getting too absurd for me.  What next?  A U.S. carrier strike group deployed off the coast to defend our border with Mexico?  Our president did say we’re being invaded.  You heard it here first.

16 thoughts on ““Great-Power Rivalry” Is Back

  1. Good excuse for a bigger littoral fleet adapted to the Rio Grande, maybe even a new airboat fleet for the very shallow Rio Grande (or just let more water out up stream). Time to buy stocks in shallow-draft boats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Second thought, maybe mini-me-nukes for the shallow draft boats to blast out beaver dams. Defend against rabid beaver attacks (or rabbits?). Defending the money.


  2. Rem. as I said previously The U.S. will never be outgunned– period.Don’t forget France Carrier Charles de Gaulle, and Brazil SaoPaulo… I think France is commissioning a second carrier for its fleet by now…Plus I heard the service life of a carrier is 50 years. I rem. when we were given a Tour of the “Big John” CV67 U.S.S. John F. Kennedy–since decommissioned when in Boston. Didn’t have to stand in the miles long line due to being Police & Firefighter’s went to the front. The only time our Carrier groups were severely challenged was in W.W. 11… I hear the first Ques. asked by the President in any International crisis is “Where is the nearest carrier?”


  3. This is what you get when you combine a Congress whose primary foreign policy reading material was – and may still be – Tom Clancy’s books with the “Ronald Reagan 1946 World View” that’s held sway in D.C. since the 1980 presidential campaign and its “Who knows what the military needs better than the military?” approach to funding/appropriations.


  4. I remember when the Department of Defense was called The Department of War…..just sayin’….

    I also remember the shock when a ship of the line named (I think it was) Sheffield was sunk with one little missile. That ship was a long way from home port, wasn’t it.

    It’s in my memory that a professor I knew once said that among the reasons Hitler militarily lost World War II was that he focused on getting ready to fight WWI all over again.

    Now, you don’t suppose that we…..naaa! We couldn’t be THAT foolish, could we?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Know what kills carriers dead?

    Submarines. Aircraft come close, but subs have gotten much more powerful relative to carriers.


    For the threat from the air, cruise missiles cost a million or two $ at a pop, and now typically have longer ranges than US carrier-based aircraft. It is cheaper to send 5,000 cruise missiles at each carrier group (which can muster, at most, maybe 1,000 SAM/AAMs to counter) than it is to build and maintain one in the first place.

    Using the old “Harpoon” simulator, I’ve destroyed I dunno how many US carrier groups with swarms of anti-ship missiles and/or submarines. Law of modern warfare: if you can detect it, you can kill it. And supercarriers, well, even civilian-level satellite systems can detect them with ease.

    The US military is structured as an offensive force, and “Defense” is clearly a misnomer.


    1. When I served in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club (a.k.a., the United States Navy) we had an unofficial acronym for aircraft carriers: namely, VLTs, or Very Large Targets. Somewhat in that irreverent vein, I saw the following comment on the Vineyard of the Saker blog:

      ” … warfare now is about missiles, not fighting on the ground. Who has the highest value targets in the Middle East theater? The US Navy, the CENTCOM, the IDF and Israel itself. The target rich environment for Kalibre missiles from Russia, hypersonic missiles from Russia, missiles of all sizes from Iran, and rockets and missiles from Hezbollah mean the most static targets of the US and Israel will be pulverized.

      I don’t see this war happening. It does not mean it won’t. But the costs are beyond imagination.

      Pygmies kill elephants with blow darts. Let that be a lesson. Missiles are the main means of warfare of the future, especially any war against Russia and Iran in the ME. Reciprocal firepower will devastate the US assets and Israel will be vastly diminished if they start a war against the Resistance in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Iraq.”

      As a matter of historical fact, the advent of nuclear weapons in 1945 rendered conventional military forces obsolete and irrelevant. That the U.S. military has insisted — for over seventy years and at a cost of millions of lives and trillions of dollars — upon its ludicrous fantasies of fighting WWII all over again … and again … and again … against one weak third world country after another — and still losing — testifies to a level of bureaucratic stupidity almost beyond description. As we used to say in the computer programming trade: “When a man makes a mistake, he makes a mistake. When a machine makes a mistake … makes a mistake … makes a mistake … makes a ….” At least in the U.S. military and among its parasitic political and corporate camp followers, the defective Rube Goldberg machine-mind has clearly displaced active human intelligence, with little hope that “START: GO TO START” will not encapsulate — in a single line of BASIC code — whatever passes for the “future” in store for life on planet earth.

      And anyway, throw Julian Assange and Bradley/Chelsea Manning in jail to silence them and who in the US/UK/EU would ever know anything truthful about the murderous maniacs threatening all life with imminent extinction? Just two little nobodies. Hush them up and who in the Global Corporate Oligarchy need ever worry about a dozen rusting, radioactive VLTs littering the ocean floors, marking the watery graves of thirty thousand drowned U.S. sailors? And that only describes the first hour (if that) of any real war against any “rival” with a relative handful of hypersonic missiles.

      Yet the Moronic American Military Machine continues to make a mistake … make a mistake … make a mistake … The engineers call this Murphy’s Law: “Whatever CAN go wrong WILL go wrong.” When I worked in the aerospace industry, my engineering colleagues used to say: “Murphy was an optimist.” This does not look good at all.


  6. Yes, there is a desire for empire and yes the military has an interest in expanding everywhere it can.

    However, I think the way to understand why Uncle Sam does what he does is to see where the money fueled lobbies stand because they, not we, control Congress and Congress directs spending.

    The military contractors lobby = unlimited funding for the military with no accountability regardless of a professed concern with the national debt. No audit is possible say auditors and the result is a demand to get the billing straight but a big yawn and on it goes.

    Billions are guaranteed annually for Israel, a country that needs no foreign aid at all while many other countries are destitute, 75%+ of this “aid” must be spent right back here in the states with military contractors. Disagree with this spending? Then the Israel lobby will have members of Congress ready to label you an anti-semite.

    Want research on gun violence? No, says Congress, the spokesman for the NRA.

    Big Pharma and Big Insurance = Obamacare tailored to the two with Obama himself ruling out the public option. We hear the constant cry from members of Congress that Medicare for all will cost too much and we absolutely MUST look at the national debt is not seen as contradictory to the unlimited military spending mentioned above.

    Higher education lobbing = a law passed to prevent student debtors from escaping through bankruptcy.

    Big oil = not a finger lifted to address global warming despite all the evidence that something needs to be done about CO2 production.

    On and on it goes if you examine each area of government spending/lawmaking. Profit is protected above all in our democracy of lobbies.

    The fact is that not just nukes are unusable, but so are all our big weapons systems in any contest with China or Russia. Use it or lose it is not limited to ICBMs. Everyone knows that any commitment of a carrier group or just a single B52 to strike at Russia or China would mean instant escalation. This means not just aircraft carrier funding is a waste, so also is funding for all weapons systems that would “take the fight to the enemy” including the system that is supposed to deliver a conventional or nuclear warhead anywhere in the world with a one hour flight time or less and any “Star Wars” systems in space. We dare not use these against any country whose own weaponry makes them worthy of our own gold-plated capabilities. We are endlessly preparing for an impossibility.

    We pile more and more weaponry on a tripwire. The only use we have for all our military might is far from the defending our country. We use it only to pound on people/places that are lack even rudimentary military capabilities to counter it. Even so we can thank our “defense” department from stimulating the ingenuity that has brought forth simple, essentially free to make but effective things such as the IED and suicide bombings.

    In short, we have the wealth and the lobbies to direct where it goes. It’s a simple as following the money interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup. Yup.

      That’s the D.C. political economy in a nutshell. And why I believe the only way out is probably a Constitutional Convention – run by the States, not Congress.

      D.C. is a captured institution. A parasite on America. Too much concentrated power, used to redistribute wealth into the hands of the elites.

      Break it up at the federal level, I say. Give the Pacific, West, Plains, Great Lakes, Atlantic, and Gulf Coast regions their own federal system and the right to interpret the Constitution to suit the local electorate.

      Support for Trump is starkly regional:

      This is a nation beginning to divide as its Empire falls apart.


  7. All the comments here are great. Cliff has wrapped it up and what stands out is – Must be the Money. The whole system centers on the Warrior Cult in terms of Defense. The ostentatious and hyper displays of Nationalism are everywhere. Yesterday, I went to my 7 year old Grandson’s baseball game. Before his game the National Anthem was played, over a loudspeaker.

    The National Anthem IMHO is a beautiful song of a point in time, when victory or defeat was up for grabs so to speak. It should be IMHO reserved for the special occasions. Instead it has become a meaningless, mantra of words, played so often it becomes devoid of the thoughts and reflection the song should engender.

    I will not go into the attacks on the Medicare For All plans, except to say the Empire of Insurance Companies and Big Pharma are seeking out their puppets and stooges to sabotage with lies and subterfuge the growing support for Universal – Single Payer Health Care.


    1. Wow. The National Anthem at a baseball game for 7-year-olds?

      I agree. ML. The anthem should be reserved for special occasions. Instead, it’s become routine — a routine with little meaning because it’s repeated so often.


      1. I grew up with the daily (forced) Pledge of Allegiance recitation in school. Always felt there was something very wrong with that, even in those days when I was a Christian and still believed in the America my grandfather and father served.

        The Constitution is the soul of the U.S.A., not a piece of dyed cloth, but the nation got eaten by the State.


      2. Today, a 4-star general, the Army vice chief of staff, threw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game. He’s apparently running the Boston marathon tomorrow. He appeared in uniform on TV at the pre-game show.

        What the hell was he doing in uniform? And can’t the Red Sox find some kid to throw out the first pitch? There are so many young boys and girls who would love the chance — and savor it as a lifetime memory.


        1. I should add that paratroopers from the 101st Airborne also jumped into Fenway Park before the game.

          I went to a baseball game and a military demonstration and recruitment pitch broke out …


  8. For sure we must have secrecy, in our military or foreign policy, the exception is flamboyant, gaudy or flashy displays of Nationalism, flyovers or as noted above the 101st AB jumping into Fenway Park.

    An interesting article today in Counterpunch – Washington’s Biggest Fairy Tale: “Truth Will Out”. A good article on the subterfuge the government engages in to hide the “Truth, the Whole Truth” from the American People. The people in politics and the McMega-Media chattering away for the scalp of Julian Assange ignore all the lies and deceptions told to us by the Government. Of course Bush the Younger and Hillary walk away to a comfortable life. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/04/17/washingtons-biggest-fairy-tale-truth-will-out/


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