Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Flinging Iron Ingots is No Way to Determine Defense Policy.

I'm not sure, but I think an analyst wants us to cast iron ingots into Baltic state beaches to symbolize American's commitment to their defense against the Russian threat. Otherwise, his article makes little sense.

I like historical references as much as the next history major, but what is the point of this?

In 478 BC, formal delegations from all across the Greek world met on the small Aegean island of Delos. They had just repelled an invasion by the greatest threat any of them could recall in their lifetimes – the Persian Empire – and they were determined to cement the coalition that had enabled their victory into a formal, enduring, alliance. After much negotiation about force contributions, yearly meetings, and all the other nuts and bolts of international cooperation, the members gathered at the edge of the sea, and ceremonially cast iron ingots into the greenish-blue surf. The ritual symbolized the intense commitment of the alliance, which would endure until the bars floated to the surface. ...

The US – and NATO – can learn valuable lessons from the example of the Athenians.

Mind you, I can totally see Secretary of State Kerry doing something like this. Was casting James Taylor into France with the gift of song ("You've Got a Friend") any less pointless?

Actually, that rather irrelevant historical reference--fascinating though it was--was to set up a call to defend the Baltic NATO states with American destroyers rather than combat brigades.


Challenging Russian parity – or even possibly superiority – in land and air forces in the Baltics is not, however, the best way to accomplish [deterrence against aggression]. Instead, sound strategy tells us to look to areas where we possess a comparative advantage vis-à-vis our adversary – and when it comes to Russia, that advantage is the US Navy.

Exsqueeze me? The author is conceding air superiority in the Baltics to the Russians yet wants to commit America naval power to operating in the constricted Baltic Sea under conditions of Russian air superiority?

How about another historical reference: the Marianas Turkey Shoot.

Are the Russians really going to be scared witless when our Navy is sailing off shore of newly conquered NATO Estonia, Latvia, and Estonia?


I agree that we can't risk deploying enough combat brigades to hold Estonia and most of Latvia. But this doesn't mean that we abandon all of Latvia and Estonia too by reinforcing NATO's Baltic fleet elements instead of preparing for ground war. Is the author forgetting that our naval efforts in the Cold War were designed gain control of the North Atlantic to get ground divisions to Europe in order to stop the Russians rather than an end in itself?

Even a reinforced Baltic NATO navy won't liberate Russian-occupied Baltic states. Only NATO combat brigades can stem the tide and then counter-attack to drive the Russians out.

I'll also note, comparative advantage-wise, that the American Army is both bigger and better trained than the Russian army.

And the American Air Force is bigger and better than the Russian air force.

To be fair, our Navy is better, too. Much better.

And if it makes you feel better, that post of mine about liberating the Baltic states has a historical reference to World War II in the Baltics rather than a semi-random reference to the Falaise Pocket in France to illustrate the problem of NATO troops being isolated in the Baltics.

I don't mind somebody being a fan of naval power. I'm a fan, too. But not every defense issue is an opportunity to twist reality into one more argument to bolster American naval power.

Flinging iron ingots is no way to determine NATO defense policy.