ROMNEY: Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me.
I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947. We've changed for the first time since FDR — since FDR we had the — we've always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we're changing to one conflict. Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the President of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people.
And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a combination of the budget cuts the president has, as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is making — is making our future less certain and less secure.
OBAMA: Bob, I just need to comment on this.
First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.
The budget that we are talking about is not reducing our military spending. It is maintaining it.
But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
OBAMA: And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips (sic). It's what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.I suggest that it is the President who does not know how the military works. He says of the Secretary of the Navy (a political appointee of his) and the Joint Chiefs “we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.”
Note that he did not say that the Secretary and the Chiefs agree with downsizing our Navy to 200 ships. And some of the Chiefs might have: the Air Force would love to get more money for airplanes, air bases and their club system at the Navy’s expense and the Army needs tanks to replace those that have had hard use in the past 8 years. The Marine Corps, on the other hand, does not want a cut in ships because the Navy will drop amphibious shipping first.
(And can someone explain to me why the only place to find money for veterans is in the defense budget or tax increases? How about we cut the money for the free loaders first, eh? Start with the Department of Education--tens of thousands of bureaucrats who educate not one child.)
The President does not realize that if we have only 200 ships, that means that about 60 are actually deployed at any given time. Sixty more, having just returned from lengthy deployments, are being repaired (ships constantly at sea take a horrible beating), replenished, modernized, receiving replacement crews, and preparing for workup. Another 60 are in workup to replace the 60 deployed, shaking down and getting the real at sea training that no simulator can truly replicate. The remaining 20 are in the yard for major repair or modernization, being prepared for decommissioning, or are otherwise not immediately available.
Sixty ships to cover three fifths of the earth’s surface. Sixty ships to do something that only ships can do: force projection. I can guarantee you that the Air Force cannot deploy a constant meaningful force off the coast of a hostile nation for 90 days, 24/7. Unless the Army has learned to walk on water, it has no real force projection capability. Sixty ships?
A carrier battle group requires 6 to 8 ships, and we have a minimum of three at sea at any one time. Let’s say that that is 22 of the 60. We have a number of submarines—attack boats, boomers, and special operations boats—at sea at any one time. The exact number is, obviously, classified, but let’s say 20. We are now at 42. Each battle group requires logistics support—oilers and fleet replenishment ships. That is a minimum of 9. That leaves 9 ships for intelligence support, amphibious shipping, and training.
That is simply not enough. And Governor Romney pointed out that the Emperor was wearing no clothes.
The President’s snappy, snippy, snotty comeback, the one everyone is having so much fun with, was
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.That points to the President’s shallow other-worldly thinking about defense.
Yeah, we have aircraft carriers and the Air Force, too. But history reveals that air power, no matter how loud and how often the airedales shout it, has never won a war. Made victory possible? Sure. Done it bravely? No doubt. But win it? Nevah hatchee, GI.
Submarines are great. They deter with the nuclear missles, they support with cruise missles, they sink shipping, if required. (Think ANS Belgrano and the South Korean coastal gunboat, for modern examples.) But win the war? Nope.
A war is won in just one way. Some steely-eyed 18 year old grunt, with rifle in hand and bayonet fixed, has to stand on the objective and say “Give up, asshole?” Until then, the issue is in doubt.
A couple of final thoughts.
Somebody is sure to point to Hiroshima and Nagasaki as examples of how “air power alone” won a war. Somebody is either ill-educated or a charlatan. Air power had reduced the 70 largest cities in Japan to ashes using dumb bombs and incendiaries in the Spring of 1945, killing 5 to 10 times as many people as the two a-bombs did, and the Japanese fought on. If the Jap military had been able to convince the emperor to fight on after Nagasaki, we were out of a-bombs and the invasion of Japan would have still been needed. And we still needed to occupy Japan with the good old American GI.
Horses. Yeah, we are not big on horse cavalry right now, although we did send in some of the first troops to enter Afghanistan on horseback. And maybe, if Obama really does what his cronies want, slash our armed forces, we ought to get more horses. A survivor of Bataan reported that horses were more useful than tanks. “When the food ran out, we ate the horses. Tanks are tougher to cook.”
Bayonets. Until one has seen cold steel in the hands of a trained killer, it is hard to imagine the effect a little knife on the end of a rifle can have. Most people have never been shot. They know intellectually that being shot is bad, but it is unreal to them. Most people have been cut at one time or another. They know what a knife or bayonet can do and it makes them hesitate. Hesitation, in combat, gets you dead.
And if the ammo supply runs short (and ammo is not high on the minds of Congressmen and Senators—not enough cash to spread around to the district), a bayonet changes a modern rifle from a plastic club into a lethal weapon of a different sort.
Finally, the sound of hundreds of bayonets being locked into place, echoing in the night, is chilling. I’ve heard it. On “that night,” our Skipper ordered “Fix bayonets.” Our Marines did, to the ultimate regret of not a few NVA.
So the President got it all wrong, but only those who have been there realize it.