The reaction when the U.S. Navy announced that there would not be full-time coverage by an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf this autumn has caused the pundits to declare that the Navy is failing in its job to protect our interests. The problem with the ‘carrier gap’ argument is that, in the Persian Gulf theater, the aircraft carrier is not necessary and is, potentially, at a higher level of risk than when it is operating in the open ocean – away from land. Land-based aircraft and smaller ships can handle the responsibilities that the carrier handles.
No one has ever claimed that a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is an adequate littoral combat ship. Even with the lack of high-tech opponents in the area, an accident or well-orchestrated suicide attack could damage one of the most expensive and prestigious assets in our arsenal. As the size of the fleet continues to dwindle, while the tempo of operations increase, the Navy has to plan for the preservation of its assets. The loss of an aircraft carrier – and it doesn’t have to be a physical loss, even the loss of capabilities – would be crippling to our national strategy.
The Middle East remains volatile. We are still conducting operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Iranians have shown that they are not going to cease violating Freedom of Navigation laws and customs and, at this point, the U.S. Navy needs to rely on allies that are willing to send a significant naval presence to the region. France has recently opened a military base in Abu Dhabi that can supply ships and planes to the area. Peace Camp is located around 150 miles from Iran and is close to the Straits of Hormuz. The French have deployed their carrier, Charles De Gaulle, to the region, although an American carrier was in the area at the same time.
Currently, Britain does not have a functional carrier, but maintains a naval presence in the Persian Gulf. Both of these countries have a strong naval tradition and will continue to support the initiatives in the Gulf. The pace of American deployments, when coupled with the decline of defense spending and naval assets, will turn the Middle East into a secondary theater faster than the fall of the Soviet Union downgraded the North Atlantic Theater’s prestige in the 1990s.
The time is coming when American interests in the Gulf need to be shared with other countries who are dependent on the area for oil. That time will raise a host of difficulties; fortunately, most of them will be political difficulties. Unfortunately, when speaking about the politics of the region, there are very few countries that share our interests and having China, for example, monitoring the area is too much like setting the fox to guard the hen house to make it comfortable for anyone – other than the Chinese, of course.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.