While Obama wafts around Asia in an attempt to calm, console and reassure our allies there – especially as they see American weakness in the face of Putin’s belligerence — our own head of the U.S. Pacific Command believes America doesn’t have the resources to conduct amphibious assaults in the wake of a crisis, as it did during World War II.
In his Life of Reason, George Santanaya wrote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It was just five short years after the cessation of hostile combat actions in the Pacific theater of World War II that the conflagration on the Korean peninsula began. General Douglas MacArthur endeavored to conduct a behind-the-lines amphibious operation at a place called Inchon. The operation had to be delayed due to a lack of amphibious capability, Marines and necessary craft. And it here we are all over again in the same region.
According to Adm. Samuel Locklear III, “To get Marines around effectively, they require all types of lift. They require the big amphibious ships, but they also require connectors (meaning landing craft and other amphibious vehicles). The lift is the enabler that makes that happen, so we wouldn’t be able to [successfully carry out a contested amphibious assault without additional resources],” as Stars and Stripes reported.
The admiral’s comments come only weeks after Capt. James Fannell, the chief of intelligence of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that he believes China is training for war with Japan, according to the Washington Times “[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands] — as some of their academics say,” the captain said in February after witnessing “massive” Chinese military exercises in the Pacific.
For perspective, just look at US Navy warship capability. During the Reagan years, the warship capability of America was at approximately 575 vessels. Currently that capability is around 283, and the Obama administration wants to take it down further towards 230. This is what Admiral Locklear III is referring to with the lift capacity for our maritime combat force, the United States Marines. As far as I know, the oceans haven’t shrunk and in the meantime, the Chinese are building their naval capacity.
However, at USPACOM, it’s not just a concern with the Navy. During a congressional hearing in March, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.N. and U.S. forces in Korea (still an active combat zone under an armistice), also questioned whether U.S. forces would be able to quickly counter a sudden large-scale offensive by North Korea.
So, as we watch President Obama expanding his carbon footprint, you have to ask, what is the end state and goal of his trip across the Asian-Pacific region? The assessments from his military commanders aren’t very reassuring but don’t expect the brilliant strategist Obama to listen to Commanders — after all, he knows everything, and his aura and persona is more than enough to quell any Machiavellian leader. How’s that working out so far?