Strong opinions, weakly held

More on aircraft carriers

In last night’s debate, Paul Ryan asserted that under the Obama administration, America will have its smallest navy since before World War I. That brought me back to my post about aircraft carriers. Here’s a breakdown of all of the operational aircraft carriers in the world:

As we know, China’s aircraft carrier is unusable.

Are we really worried about the United States’ naval capabilities?

(via Conor Friedersdorf)


  1. Ha, it tickles me that someone else out there is thinking the same thing as me (at the same time).

    Also, how awesome is it that Thailand (of all countries) has an aircraft carrier? Funny story about that: my girlfriend was stranded on Ko Pha Ngan during a week long storm (March 2011) that shut down all external boat contact with the island. It got so bad that they eventually sent in their one aircraft carrier to help evacuate people: http://www.scandasia.com/viewNews.php?coun_code=dk&news_id=8598

    I was in Chiang Mai (and later Bangkok) at the time, secretly hoping that she’d get a ride on an aircraft carrier. Alas, the storm finally abated, she was able to get a boat to Koh Samui, and catch a flight to Bangkok.

  2. I actually would be concerned about our naval capability in a full-on war, but not due to its size. Aircraft carriers are enormous floating targets, and they’re basically indefensible. One nuclear-equipped cruise missile would likely take out a carrier and half its escort craft, and even an intense volley of conventional-explosive cruise missiles would be likely to do serious damage.

    And that’s just above the water! Throw subs (particularly with nuclear-armed torpedoes) into the fray and your carrier group has very little chance to survive. Guess what China’s spent most of its naval funds developing? They know how to optimize return on investment.

  3. Between WWI and 1992, the US fought against some very powerful foreign enemies, all of whom had powerful navies of their own. They had many ships, so we needed many ships to fight them. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we no longer had a large enemy to oppose. Therefore, it would make perfect sense for us to reduce the size of our military, wouldn’t it? Ryan makes it sound like reducing the size of our fleet is a bad thing, but it is actually the acceptance of the fact that we won!

    Besides, the people we fight today are unlikely to oppose us conventionally. Whether they are terrorists or enemy nations, they will not seek to fight the US militarily, because the US is the undisputed master in that arena. Instead, they will find other ways, like low-tech terrorism and cyber warfare, which cost infinitely less but can be just as effective when used intelligently. After all, it only cost Al Qaeda about $500,000 and less than 100 people to orchestrate 9/11. The US has spent orders of magnitude more trying to counter it, and lost thousands of people in the process.

    Military might is like antibiotics. It can be very effective when used wisely and infrequently. But if you overuse it, your enemies will adapt and become immune to it. And if you don’t have other ways to oppose them, they will tear you apart (or in our case, they will trick us into tearing ourselves apart).

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