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20190120 – Oceans Ventured

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is to describe how American Navy managed to arise from decline and neglect of post WWII when it lost ships, funding and general support from political class. It came to the point when Soviet Navy was becoming capable to challenge American, so naval superiority of USA was not assured any more, at least on the long run. The turn around came with Reagan’s administration aggressive approach that allowed Navy to challenge Soviets in areas where they believed they have complete control and provided significant factor in winning Cold War.

DETAILS:

INTRODUCTION

Author, former Navy secretary, presents here this book as the story of America overcoming serious decline of its Naval force due to president Carter and his party anti-military approach combined with massive successful espionage operation that gave USSR real advantages. It was not only American Navy decline, but also raise of the Soviet fleet that was fed by massive allocation of resources and legal and often illegal technology transfer from the West.

  1. American Naval Strategy and Operations in the Cold War

Author starts this chapter not from the beginning of Cold war, but rather from the end of XIX century and works of Mahan and others who promoted idea of Navy as the critical component of state military power. Only after revisiting Spanish war, WWI, and WWII author moves to the Cold war. Author retell the story of American Navy that was mainly demobilized after WWII, partially resurrected during Korean war, and then bogged down during Vietnam war. Author also provides quite detailed account of inter services fight for resources and how Air force and Army tried to push Navy nearly out of existence die to believe that in Nuclear age it become mainly outdated.

  1. Ocean Venture’ 81: A Bold New Strategic Operation

The next chapter is about Reagan’s initiative to start Ocean Venture 81, massive Navy exercise that was very unusual because Navy moved up North close to Soviet bases and very aggressively used all its assets in order to quickly obtain experience of acting in cold weather and close to Soviets. Author describes assets and their movements that made Soviets very nervous and clearly demonstrated that Carter’s meekness is gone.

  1. Taking a New National Strategy to Sea: Sending a Message

This chapter is about two important developments. The first was public relation offence that used Hollywood and other cultural venues to promote Navy and its value and valor. Another equally important was development of new military technology such as Tomahawks and Los Angeles and Ohio types submarines to achieve technological superiority. Author also briefly discusses events of the time like Hezbollah’s attack and Falklands war.

  1. Soviet Panic: Misreading the Message: The Mobilization of 1983

This chapter is about Soviet reaction to appearance of the new and quit aggressive American Navy and overall policy. Soviets did not take Reagan seriously and believed that his rhetoric was just that, so real actions were a big surprise. On the practical level they started more actively use aviation during American Navy exercises, trying intimidating and/or demonstrating their capabilities. However it was not an easy task, partially because of technological inferiority of Soviet forces. Author discusses problems with the first Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev. Despite this and other problems, Soviet Navy continued to grow exponentially and author reviews various new assets that it acquired during 1970s and 80s.

  1. Gaining Global Velocity, 1983-1985

This chapter describes developments that become possible due to increase of funding and expansion of the Navy. These included expansion of training, new technological developments that among other things allowed finding the rack of Titanic, and also, very important, American support for Chinese Navy, that was considered somewhat of an ally against Soviets. Author also refers to important political developments of the period: reelection of Reagan and Gorbachev’s taking power in USSR.

  1. The Beginning of the End: Northern Wedding, 1886

Here author describes multiple high scale exercises of Navy across the globe from Arctic to Pacific designed to demonstrate and test new equipment and develop corresponding tactic that put Soviet Navy under constant pressure, especially in environment when Gorbachev was looking to save economy at least partially by decreasing military expenses. Author also details a small-scale conflict with Libya where aggressive use of American power finally cut down Kaddafi ambitions and, in process, demonstrated superiority of American equipment over Soviet equipment provided to Libya.

  1. The Soviets (and Others) Get the Message, 1986-1988: The Cold War Hurtles Toward Its End

In this chapter author continue narrative about successful large-scale exercises and ability of American Navy to outplay Soviets. However much more attention is allocated to internal Soviet political developments that greatly decreased power of their military and diplomatic events that not only start decreasing pressure of Cold War, but also indicated that it could end.

  1. The Cold War Ends, 1989: The East European Bloc Disintegrates

The final chapter describes mainly diplomatic and political events that led to dissolution of Soviet block and USSR itself.

Epilogue

The epilogue is mainly about contemporary situation when lessons of Cold war were generally forgotten and once again American politicians let military decline by refusing funding and necessary support. All this happens at the time when Russia and China dramatically increase their efforts to build military and naval power not only capable to challenge American power, but overcome it and win conflict. Author nicely summarizes his attitude by bringing quote from Winston Churchill from 1935: “Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong— these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”

 

MY TAKE ON IT:

It is an interesting history, but I think author overestimate role of American Navy and overall American politics in decline and fall of the Soviet Union. He seems to be missing a point that Soviet Union fall apart not because of pressure of military expense, but actually for opposite reason: the attempt of true believers in socialism and communist ideology such as Gorbachev to deliver high quality of live promised by this ideology. It was impossible task because collectivistic planned economy could not possibly deliver goods and services that people want. However, despite not being a decisive factor, the change in American military posture played its role in convincing enough of Soviet leaders that time when American politicians paid little attention to Soviet military growth and aggression in the third world was ending.

The newly aggressive USA put Soviets before dilemma: either go all the way in confrontation risking war, suppressing all dissent, and forcing further deterioration of wellbeing of population or try to turn to economy and modernized outdated and barely working planned economy into something else.

It is hard to overestimate believes of soviet leaders at the time into superiority of planned economy that led to rejection of militaristic approach. These leaders were educated in Soviet Union on the ideas of superiority of Marxism, were completely ignorant in realities of market economy, had no idea that both theoretically and practically Marxism was completely debunked, and, finally, they were deceived by easily found infinite amount of support in western academia. The result was the absence of any doubt that turn to economic development would quickly put them into superior position to chaotic market economy of the West. They paid for this illusion with complete failure and dissolution of their society.


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