It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and resolve all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln

It has been suggested that the world today is broken down into 30 second sound bites. In such a world, it has been suggested that the Navy needs to find its 30 seconds of fame, or said another way, be able to explain its purpose in 30 seconds. I would suggest that perhaps Vice Admiral John Bird’s recent 30 second sound bite would not win the CNO’s 30 seconds of fame contest.

In fact, I would suggest that this quote is not helpful for the Navy.

“The purpose of the Navy,” Vice Admiral John Bird, commander of the Seventh Fleet, tells me, “is not to fight.” The mere presence of the Navy should suffice, he argues, to dissuade any attack or attempt to destabilize the region.

Wow. Just wow. My first impression after reading this comment makes me want to curse excessively, so I’ll just say nothing for now.

Posted by galrahn in Navy

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  • PK

    from a diplomats point of view he’s right.

    but they have a habit of giving away the things that the boys in uniform have bought with blood.

    guess we should terminate the diplomats with extreme predijuice hmmmmm ???

    don’t salavage out any of the bombs, bullets, etc. until this one’s done.


  • Give the Admiral a break. Here are a few of his other quotes:

    “I am a disciple of Adam Smith,” he says wryly. “Peace can be reached by free trade, but free trade requires that the sea be policed by a strong navy.”

    “We have to project simultaneously our hard power and our soft power..”

    Nothing soft and squishy there. I suspect, G is taking a small quip from a larger statement and running away with it…I mean, the offending passage here is not even an entire quote–so I strongly suspect some nuance got lost in the reporter’s “summation” of the Admiral’s full response. (And given that the reporter somehow missed the protests outside the base…and the 13,000 who protested in the days before the GW arrived, maybe the journalist…might be a wee bit sloppy?)

    That said, deterrence–led by Navy SSBNs–did us pretty well for awhile there…

  • Galrahn, I agree that the Navy does a lot of things that causes one to curse excessively but I dont think the Admiral’s quote is one of them. I am a late convert to this way of thinking but I am now a firm believer that short of an attack or invasion of the U.S. homeland, that we have failed as a nation if we go to war. Moreover, nothing would make me happier to have 13-15 carrier strike groups go an entire career without seeing combat…

  • Byron

    So we should start calling our Navy ships, “US Navy Peace Ships?” Wrong message to send out to a dangerous world full of potential adverseries.

    And Jim, if our military has to go to war, it is not simply a failure of our militaries ability to act as a strong deterent, but more importantly, because their civilian masters screwed the pooch. Case in point: Would Imperial Japan have sent Adm. Yamato halfway across the Pacific to take out the Pacific Fleet in it’s homeport if our Navy and Army been strong, alert, and ready? Sometimes it’s a perceived weakness that starts wars, whether physical or mental.

    Personally, I’m all about letting the latest bully on the block know that I’ll will kick his ass into next week if he messes with me or mine, and not being very quiet about it. THAT’S deterence!

  • RickWilmes

    Assuming the quotes attributed to the Admiral are accurate, I am wondering if he has read Smith’s “The Theory of Moral Sentiments?”

    I am also left wondering if the Admiral is familiar with Jean-Baptiste Say’s “A Treatise on Political Economy” which identifies and deals with some of Adam Smith’s misunderstandings on how wealth is created.

    Adam Smith’s underlying philosophy is not compatible with free trade. The usual suspect, altruism, comes into play so I am not surprised that a disciple of Smith would think that the Navy’s purpose is not to protect our self-interest.

  • doc75

    “That said, deterrence–led by Navy SSBNs–did us pretty well for awhile there…”

    Actually, they are still doing pretty well for us, Springbored. The deterrence mission is still necessary and we’re fooling ourselves to think that throwing it away won’t destabilize the planet. Unfortunately, our new political leadership is already talking about getting rid of the nuclear force.

  • doc75

    More on the disarmament plan:

    Note: I wonder how this plan will work when we, the Russians and the Chinese each have 500 warheads and the Russians and Chinese figure out they can cooperatively target giving themselves a 2:1 advantage in a nuclear exchange.

  • Byron

    Rick, he’d be better served by reading Sun-tzu and Von Clausewitz, with a bit of Mahan and Gorshkov thrown in. The only economy that warfighters are required to take heed of is economy of force.

  • At the very least, he should know better than to give yours truly such fodder! And saying what we all were thinking anyway…

  • RickWilmes

    Byron says,

    “The only economy that warfighters are required to take heed of is economy of force.”

    Byron, maybe you can explain to me how an ethics based on self-sacrifice and selflessness can even begin to consider economy of force?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    ‘“The purpose of the Navy,” Vice Admiral John Bird, commander of the Seventh Fleet, tells me, “is not to fight.” ‘


    One wonders just how much soft power exists without hard power ready to be executed. My guess would be that the Admiral’s intent was captured pretty well by galrahn. It is more of the same of this rather alarming trend of shying away from the mission of the US Navy. Words mean things, as a certain retired USMC general says. These speak volumes.

    And Jim, your assertion that “we have failed as a nation if we go to war” is highly debatable. Chamberlain, Daladier, Robert Taft, all had similar opinions in the 1930s. Not sure the opinion would have been shared by Czechoslovakia or Poland. But your assertion is also irrelevant to the mission of our Armed Forces.

  • Byron

    Rick, maybe if you’d studied war instead of Ann Rand, you’d know the answer. The only time “self-sacrifice” and “selflessness” (which is a truly foolish phrase) even remotely comes into play is when a sailor, Marine, soldier, etc, “falls on the grenade”. When leaders talk about unit cohesion, they’re not talking about submission to a higher goal, they’re talking about becoming a tight knit unit that will still might disagree internally, will externally take all comers as a unit.

  • Byron

    One more, Rick, since you seem to either dont’ understand the term “economy of force” or you are trying to threadjack us into another philosophy discussion, here is the definition as outlined by Claus von Clausewitz:

  • RickWilmes

    Byron, I am well aware of Clausewitz, he is sitting next to Field-Marshal Viscount Slim’s “Defeat into Victory” on one of my bookshelfs. The topic of this thread is a comment made by an Admiral concerning the purpose of the Navy. That is a philosophical question and one poster has already made the claim that the Admiral is a disciple of Adam Smith. So it makes sense to me that Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments” is on topic and should be discussed. In essence, Smith’s ethics is based on altruism, or self-sacrifice.

    Question still stands, has the Admiral read Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments?” If not, how can he claim to be a disciple of Smith, assuming that quote attributed to the Admiral is correct.

  • Marvin

    Sounds like the Vadm is channeling Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a Big Stick.”

    If the fleet appears strong enough,
    it will not get directly challenged,
    unfortunately the Vadm missed the change of command in DC,
    the USA no longer has the will to fight,
    which may invite our enemies to bring the fight to us.

  • Byron

    Heading back to that “morals” stuff again? I seem to remember that the morals discussion didn’t go over too well last time.

    The Admiral appears to be well-read, which is a good thing.

  • Eagle1

    Having grown up as the child of an officer in the Strategic Air Command, where every bomber and base seemed to bear the words, “Peace is our profession” – not much to be concerned about here.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Are you advocating that the US Navy is a strategic deterrent alone? Not sure I can settle on that.

    Deterrence in the post-1945 world has been aimed at those nations with superpower status primarily. The biggest of TR’s big sticks, as it were. But even among those USAF “SAC uber alles” advocates, of which there were many, there was a recognition that wars against smaller opponents, in regional conflicts of interest to the US, were much more likely and prevalent.

    If we find ourselves in the “massive retaliation” mode again, to the exclusion of others, we forfeit the “flexible response” capability that we so painfully learned to be vital to both military and diplomatic options.

  • URR,

    I strongly disagree. Deterring war through an arsenal of democracy combined with the use of other instruments of power in our national security toolbox is a mission of the armed forces of the United States.

    Eagle 1 is right on target as always.

    Byron, I need to clarify: if we go to war it is a failure of the civilian leadership. If we do go to war, may it be with the most lethal force known to man.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Deterring war through an arsenal of democracy combined with the use of other instruments of power in our national security toolbox is a mission of the armed forces of the United States.”

    True, but all of it, every last bit, is based on the National Security Strategy, of which the Armed Forces are executors. We must be ready to execute any mission decided upon by our civilian leadership, irrespective of the tools in the toolbox that are chosen.

    We are the “admixture of other means”. We are not the ones who decide what tools to use.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Yeah, I can see Curt saying, “The purpose of the Air Force is not to fight.” This is the kind of statement that invites the enemy to think we are morally weak, not to deter them by our preparation for war.

  • Fouled Anchor

    I certainly would like the benefit of having the admiral’s entire comments, not a just a line taken out of context by a reporter. That said, I would be more comfortable if the admiral’s quote was more like “the purpose of the Navy is not ONLY to fight.” And while the mere presence of the world’s strongest navy should be enough, that is a logical conclusion in an illogical world.

  • Byron

    Like I always say, “Nevah, EVAH, argue with the Chief” 😉

    The Chief nails it dead without all the philisophical arguements.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Byron, your first statement is absolutely true. The others can debate your second statement.

  • Larry Schumacher

    A lesson from the old west: “When you pull a gun Kill a man” was the accepted practice. A thoughtful person knew that a gun was not a magic wand. They cared for their weapons, maintained proficiency with them and kept them well supplied with ammo. People acted in a way(read diplomacy) which kept the guns in their holsters. Our military needs to be a creditable weapon so that our diplomacy can do its job.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Hey Chief,

    Apparently you haven’t spent any time on the Joint Obfuscation and Groupspeak Staff. Well said.

    Ditto Larry. The willingness to use the hammer is just as important as having it.

  • Fouled Anchor

    URR, I’ve spent enough time working with the joint side to be the lone outcast at most meetings. Many of the joing military and civilians hate seeing Navy Chiefs walk into a meeting…I never made a lot of friends at those meetings.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Chief, that should make you eligible for some sort of award!

  • Fouled Anchor

    I think that was taken into consideration for the EOT awards. And the ultimate reward was (usually) being right and just seeing the looks on their faces.

  • I certainly allow that the quote is taken out of context, but I note the reporter added context with the next sentence, which I also quoted. Peace through strength is not the fundamental idea being expressed when it is being suggested the “purpose of the Navy is not to fight.”

    Jim Dolbow and I see things different on this issue. The maritime strategy states, bluntly, the role of the Navy is to win the nations wars. While it could be suggested it is a failure of political policy to prevent war, when political policy fails to prevent war it is the purpose of the Navy to win the wars that are set forward as national policy. The Navy does not set policy, it executes policy established by our national political leadership.

    My intent was not to throw the Admiral under the bus, the quote is out there in a number of places. With the quote being widely circulated, it only makes sense that it be discussed here.

  • sid

    Perfectly reasonable statement…For an exeutive administering his division of an “Employer of Choice” from aboard his “cushy ride.”

  • sid

    The mere presence of the Navy should suffice, he argues, to dissuade any attack or attempt to destabilize the region.

    Hmm, that idea seems to have some caveats

  • sid

    Having grown up as the child of an officer in the Strategic Air Command, where every bomber and base seemed to bear the words, “Peace is our profession” – not much to be concerned about here.

    Eagle, while its existence may have staved off nuclear oblivion (that speech in Prague just gave the chances of that happening new legs IMHO-but I digress), SAC never accomplished “Peace”.

    And in the spectrum of conflict short of all out nuclear war, it proved an unwieldly operational and tactical force.

  • R. M. Hayball

    “The gentlemen cry “Peace, Peace”, but there is no peace.”

    “There will be wars, and rumors of wars.”

    Two additional things my Grandfather, G. D. Hayball Sr., took some pains to teach his grandsons:

    1. “A lock can only keep an honest man honest.

    2. “Most of the world’s trouble is explained by the continuing shortage of horse’s heads.”

    The Navy exists to be continually ready for prompt, sustained, victorious combat, at sea, and in support of the other armed forces ashore, for the defense of the republic and the protection of its citizens, and to provide humane assistance where and as able to do so. That accomplished, deterrance works, more often than not, but it still fails, sooner or later (see the wisdom of my Grandfather, above).

    Sea power, or the lack thereof, always influences history (there’s the sound bite line).

    Or more generally, “If you wish for peace, be prepared for war.”

    It just turned out that the best way to do nuclear deterrance is from an SSBN.

  • Mike


    You say you don’t want to throw the Admiral under the bus, but that’s exactly what you did. You started your post with the ever cliche Lincoln quote (can you be more unoriginal?). Then you follow it up with a sarcastic “wow” and a desire for excessive cursing. If you want to discuss this issue in this forum, why not just post the quote and the link, and then give a bit of non-sarcastic commentary. Offer it up to the readers for commentary based on reason, not emotion. Poor form, my friend.

    Now for my commentary. The Navy lives and breathes on every rung of the hard power-soft power ladder. They’re out there each day on the theater engagement level communicating and operating with other nations’ forces – allied and otherwise – in pursuit of common security goals (RIMPAC, CTF-151, counter-drug ops, etc). At the same time, they stand ready to deliver lethal precision striking force anywhere in the world.

    John Bird knows the maritime strategy says that “our commitment to protecting the homeland and winning our Nation’s wars is matched by a corresponding commitment to preventing war.” Do the man a favor and put his quote in context. It’s clear he’s saying that his presence alone, and the presence of the USS George Washington, is the single most stabilizing force in the entire region. And he’s right.

    Maybe right now the 7th Fleet’s job isn’t to fight. It’s to make sure that the PLA is unsuccessful at their continuous attempts to bully their neighbors with ridiculous territorial claims, have their “interior ministry” harrass ships 100 miles in to international waters, and proliferate anti-access weapons with the clear intention of pushing the U.S., Japan, and other stakeholder nations out of interntional waters. That being said, at the drop of a hat …

    Maybe the comment fired you up, and that’s ok. If nothing else, you got people thinking. I find it to be revealing of the scope of power that the Seventh Fleet projects – and completely in line with US strategy.


  • RickWilmes

    R. M. Hayball says,

    “Sea power, or the lack thereof, always influences history (there’s the sound bite line).”

    How does seamanship and navigation influence Sea Power?

    In particular I am interested in Mahan’s seamanship and navigation. Here is some context concerning Mahan’s time on the Chicago the best command of the New Navy in 1893.

    “The cruise began with Mahan’s usual lack of aplomb at the conn. While maneuvering the vessel into dry dock at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn on May 27, he managed to collide with the USS Bancroft, the Naval Academy training ship, damaging her slightly. Fortunately, the Chicago was not injured. But the incident served to unnerve Mahan, keeping intact as it did his record for having grounded, collided, or otherwise embarrassed every ship(save the Iroquois) he ever commanded. As one of his shipmates in the Chicago later wrote, “Mahan had one navigational obsession-fear of collision.” (Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Man and His Letters by Robert Seager II, p. 257)

    Sea Power does not influence history, ideas do and Mahan’s rationalistic theory of the Influence of Sea Power on History is one of the worst. Just as Mahan ran his ships into the ground so have the countries that have taken his ideas seriously ran their countries into the ground.

  • Eagle1

    Never thought I would have to defend SAC’s motto. My point was that it has been a long-standing thought in the military that strength, not weakness, deters attack.

    Many of us who grew up during the Cold War thought we knew that it was the idea that any attack would and could be met with a massive counter-strike helped to keep the peace and prevent any misunderstanding that could lead to all out war.

    The irony of the SAC motto was that it justified massive bomber wings, high levels of readiness and a degree of professionalism constant readiness to go to war on a moment’s notice that we seem to have lost. “Peace” was my Dad’s profession – because he and his crews were fully ready to go to fly off when the klaxon sounded. SAC was on a constant war footing, with bombers and command posts in the air and deep underground. Was it necessary? Who knows? In retrospect, some seem to assume otherwise, though I am not among that crowd.

    At the time, however, there were thousands of men ready to go to war. That SAC was not a suitable tool for non-nuclear war seems to me to miss the point. Its mission was nuclear war and its hope was to prevent one by assured mutual destruction.

    The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines are, in many ways, the ultimate deterrent force and have long been acknowledged as such. Would you argue that because they are poor substitutes for fast attack boats they don’t serve well their intended purpose and their deterrent mission?

    I cannot read the Admiral’s mind, but I suspect that he meant that strategic (and tactical) deterrence is the most important Navy mission- though, like most professional military men, he hopes like the B-36 bomber, never to have to fire a shot in anger.
    I don’t read him as saying that all it takes is some sort of “Potemkin” force that is a hollow shell – deterrence only works if your guns do, too.

  • What?! Navy blog defending SAC’s motto? Goodness…Imagine if Curtis LeMay had lived to see such a thing!

    Just mulling over the metrics here…Wasn’t the USS Chung Hoon, when it went in to escort the USNS Impeccable, operating under the 7th Fleet? Under VADM John Bird? I’d say that speaks a bit louder than a one-off quote!

    And as Deputy Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet since ’06, I suspect the VADM done plenty to convince folks on that side of the earth he–and the US Navy–ain’t no patsy. Heck, I remember a rather hasty deployment of a whole lotta PacFleet (and 7th Fleet) metal off Taiwan back in early-mid March ’08…

    You know, actions louder than words and all…

    Hmm…How’d that Lincoln quote go again?

  • Which part of the article, which is linked, did I not post that I should have for the “additional context” missing?

    The context, according to the article, is that he went on to argue the specific point that presence is sufficient to maintain peace. I QUOTED THAT PART ABOVE!

    I guess I am missing something. If the quoted comments are out of context, show me where the missing context is.

    For years there have been articles written, in Proceedings and all over other periodicals, blogs, and news reports where people are specifically citing a peacetime culture and mentality in Navy leadership. All of a sudden we see a quote from an Admiral that expresses, if not confirms, precisely the frustrations many have expressed regarding the peacetime Navy culture, and the reaction is to say I’m wrong for taking what looks to be the entire context of an idea being forwarded in a news article, and quoting it for discussion?

    Hell yea I say Wow! I find the idea that “presence is enough” to be potentially dangerous. The purpose of the State Department is not to fight wars. The purpose of the Department of Defense, including the Navy, is to fight wars.

    If Admiral Bird is as well versed in the US Navy’s Maritime Strategic Concept as you are suggesting Mike, then why didn’t he quote one of the six strategic imperatives?

    1) Limit regional conflict with forward deployed, decisive maritime power.
    2) Deter major power war.
    3) Win our Nation’s wars.
    4) Contribute to homeland defense in depth.
    5) Foster and sustain cooperative relationships with more international partners.
    6 )Prevent or contain local disruptions before they impact the global system.

    I’ve read the US Navy Strategic Concept a number of times, and nowhere in the document does the idea “The purpose of the Navy is not to fight” come up, nor does the idea that presence of the Navy should suffice” give me any encouragement regarding what some are calling “the missing context.”

    I’m willing to buy he was thrown under the bus by the reporter, but it looks to me like he tried to sell the reporter his vision of the US Navy as a peacetime force during a time our nation is fighting two wars. Forgive me if I see that as unproductive, and reflective if not specific conformation of a number of complaints that have been directed at the US Navy leadership. His comments are not in line with the US Navy’s maritime strategy, nor are they reflective of the purpose or intent behind the taxpayer money that funds the US Navy.

    If Bird was a LCDR instead of a Vice Admiral, would the reaction be different? For my part, I want to believe Vice Admirals don’t really mean these things, and I want to believe he is being taken out of context. Unfortunately, my hope in that regard is counter to what is being specifically reported.

  • R. M. Hayball

    RickWilmes says “Sea Power does not influence history, ideas do.”

    Half right. I am in awe of such a Vast Intellect…well, half vast. Guess we’re just doomed to disagree.

  • Byron

    Hey, Rick, come on down to the base and show me how “ideas” can keep the Navy haze grey and underway”. Amazing how there could be so many points of congruency that all point right back to one book by Mahan. You get a bad grade in school studying that book? You sure seem obsessed by it, damn sure keeps popping up.

  • R. M. Hayball


    I trust you will take it as support of your basic position if I suggest a minor shift in emphasis to “win wars” vice “fight wars”.

    I don’t wish to channel Douglas MacArthur, but rather to agree with Churchhill that neglecting training and readiness while seeking appeasement and delaying confrontation of self declared threats which have demonstrated lethal capablity and intent, until combat is both unavoidable and unwinnable, is the worst possible course of action.

    Strength, skill and resolve provide long term stability and safety. Don’t take my word for it, go ask the Swiss, or the Swedes.

  • @ Galrahn–Did Admiral Bird run over your dog or something? Is Bird not enough of a China hawk? What’s the deal?

    At face value, you’ve made a rhetorical molehill into a mountain. VADM Bird’s vigorous action with USS Chung Hoon and elsewhere, in other commands, should offer ample evidence that the man is no shrinking violet. Taking the VADM to an Internet Mast over a one-off quote is thin gruel given the entirety of the Admiral’s record.

    The reporter made some fundamental factual errors in his essay. It is not much of a stretch to wonder if he erred in his interpretation of VADM Bird’s subsequent comments and context–if not the quote itself (taking it out of context, shaping it, what have you). I say this in jest, but that passage sure ain’t the ammo you want to use if you’re taking up the somewhat perilous pass-time of Admiral-hunting!

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Hey Spring,

    “At face value, you’ve made a rhetorical molehill into a mountain.”

    Quite the contrary. The good Admiral is trying to make the mountain (warfighting) into a molehill (mere presence).

    Hayball’s channeling of Churchill is appropriate. With quotes such as the Admiral’s, which are completely in context according to the rest of the read, we should christen the next DDG-51 the USS Neville Chamberlain. And we can keep the weapon systems on the pier.

    Patton’s quote “Compared to war, all other human endeavor shrinks to insignificance” is applicable here. If the USN understands its mission is to fight and win our nation’s wars, all the ancillary missions are possible, and will be conducted in a way that will not detract from warfighting capability.

  • Springboard,

    Your hyperbole and sensationalism in the comments exceeds anything I am doing. I am not hunting Admirals, seeking revenge for my dog, pushing a China agenda, nor dealing cards.

    I have no idea what point you are trying to make with the USS Chung Hoon analogy, but if you are somehow suggesting that adding the presence of a destroyer escort is somehow counter to the exact quoted citation, you failed reading. What are you trying to suggest, VADM Bird sent the destroyer to shoot up China’s fishery boats, or cause another incident? I guess I fail to see what your example proves.

    I think the VADM may have said something stupid, I don’t think the VADM is stupid. The distinction matters.

    I also think you are out of bounds if you are suggesting this is somehow about me, as if I am taking the VADM to an Internet Mast over his comment because I posted it on the blog. Don’t like the message, so now blaming the messenger Springboard? Hmm.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “I think the VADM may have said something stupid”

    Agreed, gal. But my concern is that neither he nor the BIG Navy thinks it’s stupid. It falls frighteningly into line with the erosion of a warfighting focus that manifests itself with attitudes and actions across the Navy.

    Some of the comments on this very site to posted blogs are included.

    There remains no greater test of the value of an American military force than its ability to succeed in combat, and win its nation’s wars. Assertions to the contrary are absurdly naive.

  • sid

    The mere presence of the Navy should suffice, he argues, to dissuade any attack or attempt to destabilize the region.

    Downright vexing when the foe exercises his right to shape the fight

    The Maersk Alabama was at least the sixth commercial ship commandeered by pirates this week off the Horn of Africa, one of the most notoriously lawless zones on the high seas, where pirates have been operating with near impunity despite efforts by many nations, including the United States, to intimidate them with naval warship patrols.

  • Byron

    Only one form of deterrence works: no pirates returning home, or ever being heard from again. Hang ’em high.

  • sid

    Only one form of deterrence works: no pirates returning home, or ever being heard from again. Hang ‘em high.

    There was a time when the problem was addressed in just that manner

  • Byron

    Worked right well, as I recall. Kindler, gentler Navy. Wouldn’t want the media to get upset now…

  • Hayball

    Isn’t it just terrible when evil men, not even enemies of the republic, just the common enemy of all mankind, don’t act the way we expect? How can there be pirates in the 21st century!

    Why how can one possibly save funds on shipbuilding by tailoring the design to the threats we deem most likely? How can you possibly ensure low cost efficient defense budgeting if you can’t predict the future accurately? It’s just CHAOS!

    Don’t they understand our national priorities require cutting back on military expenditures. It’s just impossible to understand the thinking behind such actions!

    (Disclaimer – Hayball is being sarcastic again- sarcasm warning.)

  • Former Submariner

    A fun and somewhat interesting intellectual debate and the original post and subsequent comments seem to be mostly about promoting individual biases and agendas as well as showcasing the poster’s intellectual dilletanism. Fun stuff I’m sure, but in no way an accurate portrayal of the Admiral or the state of US Naval readiness.

    Having been gone from the Navy since the mid 90’s I can’t accurately comment on the current state of readiness. Frankly, I doubt that anyone else posting here can accurately comment either. I can, however, comment on the capabilities of Vice Admiral John Bird.

    I served and worked closely with him for several years. I found him to be perhaps the most versatile and STRATEGIC leaders I ever met. He was well read, open minded, but absolutely willing to decisively lead from the front.

    Rest assured, John Bird gets what the military’s role is. It’s comforting to believe that the role of the military is just to fight wars, but the world is much more complex and US foreign policy requires a combination of a velvet glove and a strong fist applied appropriately. The US military has always been and continues to be an important tool for projecting power and influencing “political” outcomes and nothing in his quote leads me to believe that he doesn’t understand that.

    Put simply, why fight a war if you can influence the outcome by your presence.

  • GrievousAngel

    I can see this is a pretty old thread but I am dismayed by the comments I see here, particularly because I assume everyone here either has a background with the Navy or an interest in its history and purpose. With that said, there is either a fundamental lack of understanding at work concerning Navy strategy and practice, or an inability to comprehend the VADM’s wise words.

    Obfuscation of the matter may lead some to confuse “purpose” with “capability,” or to prefer the active, but intermittent, role of “fighting,” over the passive but enduring, and continuous, necessity for protection and pressure (particularly pressure). It is pressure, above all, that the VADM is emphasizing and is what Navies throughout history were designed to do do, 90% of the time. The other 10% absolutely concerned fighting, and defeating, maritime forces of the enemy. However, at no point did the VADM intimate that Navy’s should not be fully capable of defeating maritime foes at any place and time. Such a superficial understanding of his comments perhaps betrays an uncertainty in American society over what role a Navy has in peacetime and what it’s relationship is to economy and commerce.

    If you build a Navy only to fight with it, then you will fail, with guarantee, to achieve the higher purpose of the Navy which is to support the protection and stabilization of commerce throughout the SLOCs, in peacetime, through mere presence, that is, PRESSURE. Without that stability war is pretty much guaranteed, and regardless of the strength of your Navy, you are destined to lose.