It is a sad state of affairs when a four-star Admiral of the United States Navy publishes a book on the geopolitics of sea power that is filled with sloppy research, non-sequiturs, serious omissions, and platitudes. That the book has apparently been praised by the likes of Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Senator John McCain is further discomfiting. It is inconceivable that these men would be so effusive in their praise if they indeed read the book.
HOW IDEOLOGY CAN GET IN THE WAY OF CLEAR THINKING
Stavridis, an appointee of President Obama to lead NATO, is an obvious globalist (he now works for the most globalist of globalist NGO’s the Rockefeller Foundation). Stavridis’ globalist ethos is his business but he – or his editor, assuming he employed one – should have been sufficiently disciplined to save it for another time or another tome. As a result, his personal views get in the way of a substantive discussion on the geopolitics of the sea: 1) Guantanamo Bay (return it to the Cubans, he says, despite the fact that it has strategic value to the U.S. and that it was won as a spoil of war); 2) the Cuban embargo, (end it, states Stavridis, without mentioning the need for democratic reforms in return and despite the fact that 190 nations trade with the communist regime); 3) walls don’t work (incredibly, he likens a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to the Maginot Line a stretch of fortifications between France and Germany during World War II that saw French troops cower before the German advance and which in the end was outflanked by the Germans via Belgium); 4) support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (despite its deleterious impact on American blue-collar workers); 5) continued support for NATO (with nary a word on how the Germans have welched on their financial obligations to the organization, or on the cowardly inaction of the organization when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 despite the fact that both Turkey and Greece had been NATO members since 1952. To this day, Turkish naval aggression in the eastern Aegean meant to intimidate both Greece and Cyprus continues with hardly a peep from NATO. A former NATO commander should have had more to say on this subject.); 6) a rambling discussion on climate change “…some observers saying that sea levels are rising twice as fast as in the past.” (“which” observers were referencing “what” geological timeframe?) 7) The USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 – not Flight 688 as the Admiral claims – after repeated warnings on both military and civilian radio frequencies. The current flight from Tehran to Dubai is not Flight 688, as the Admiral romanticizes “as a memorial to the victims” but Flight 658.
THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
Stavridis’ errors of omission are hardly excusable for a presumed naval scholar. Examples abound: 1) the crucial difference in why the English prevailed in the face of the Spanish Armada was due to the fact that “… the English ships were smaller, lighter, more maneuverable, and expert sailors manned them.” That Sir Francis Drake launched a pre-emptive strike on the port of Cadiz destroying thirty-seven Spanish vessels and 1,700 tons of barrel staves sufficient to make barrels capable of storing at least 25,000 tons of water and provisions gets no mention; 2) the Spanish-American War saw a “few naval engagements in and around Cuban waters.” This, despite the fact that the battle of Santiago de Cuba at the southeastern end of the island, July, 1898, witnessed four Spanish cruisers and two destroyers sunk and nearly 500 Spanish sailors killed at the hands of the U.S. Navy; 3) according to Stavridis the USS Maine was sunk not by Spanish saboteurs but by an accidental internal explosion. A serious scholar would add that the latter explanation has never been proved conclusively. 4) “Up the coast of Central America you sail past the most dangerous countries in the world – after Panama (whatever “after” means) comes Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Mexico.” The fact is that El Salvador has roughly five times the number of homicides per one hundred thousand population as either Panama or Costa Rica. Honduras, for its part, has four times the number of homicides as does Panama or Costa Rica; 5) “The United States did all that it could to undermine the Cuban regime, most notably with the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.” Stavridis makes no mention of the fact that both Eisenhower and Kennedy approved of the plan to forestall the communist incursion on an island so close to our shores. In the end, Kennedy ignominiously cancelled all air support leaving 1,400 Cuban patriots stranded and at the mercy of the Castro regime. Worse, a Navy squadron consisting of 12 destroyers, a submarine, and two aircraft carriers 25 miles offshore, which had they been engaged would clearly have tipped the battle in our favor, was sent home when Kennedy wilted under political pressure. Clearly, the Cuban missile crisis would never have come to pass had the Bay of Pigs invasion been successful; 6) Less weightily, Stavridis claims Christopher Columbus was not Spanish but Italian that he was born in Genoa. Actually, Columbus never claimed to have been born in Genoa but in the Republic of Genoa. There is a vast amount of evidence that suggests Columbus was born on the Greek island of Chios which at the time was part of the Genoese republic. Again, a careful scholar would have hedged his bets and stated the evidence was not conclusive in this regard.
GEOPOLITICS OR POLITICS?
For a book presumably dealing with geopolitics little mention is made of the fact, that U.S. naval supremacy is in decline. It is clear that the Navy is undersized, ill-equipped, lacking in training, riddled by management indiscipline, and infected by progressive policies that have eroded its military readiness. Admiral Stavridis could have mentioned, if only in passing, why it seems that our vessels seem unable to sail in the South China Sea without colliding with tankers and containerships; what our failures were that led to the terrorist attack on the USS Cole which cost the lives of seventeen sailors; what measures might have prevented the arson aboard the nuclear submarine USS Miami, and the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard both of which had to be scrapped due to the extensive damage they suffered. Embarrassingly, when Stavridis does mention the Bonhomme Richard it is to point out that John Paul Jones commanded a ship by that name in the 1780’s! And, no mention is made of Naval Academy Lieutenant David Nartker’s groveling before his Iranian captors in 2016 when the two boats under his command sailed off course into Iranian waters due to his incompetence. “The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here and we thank you very much for your hospitality and assistance.”
Unfortunately, the book by Admiral Stavridis is a fitting metaphor for the decline of the United States Navy.