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The Atlantic Maps Out Navy's 'Conventional' War Strategy

May 01, 1987|BILL STEIGERWALD

Suppose the Soviet Union invaded Western Europe. Suppose the global war that was triggered remained merely "conventional."

Few can imagine the Soviets actually doing such a thing, yet the U.S. Navy has a daring new plan in place for fighting a global conventional war with the Soviet Union. It's called "The Maritime Strategy," and it's designed to both deter the Soviets from attacking Europe and defeat them if they do.

The only trouble is, as Jack Beatty discusses at length in the Atlantic, some liberal and conservative military thinkers say the Navy plan is reckless, too expensive, unnecessary and unrealistically optimistic. They also worry that the strategy would quickly escalate a conventional war into a nuclear one.

Simply put, at the outbreak of a conventional war with the U.S.S.R., the Navy plan would safeguard Europe's sea lanes not by defending convoys but by using its carrier-based planes to quickly destroy Soviet submarines in their home bases in northern Russia. Simultaneous naval and amphibious attacks on the edges of the Soviet land mass would pin down its land forces and reduce troops available to fight in Europe.

Beatty ably explains the plan's many military complexities and presents the Navy's case. But he and experts such as conservative strategist Edward Luttwak fire torpedo after torpedo into the Navy's premises, making a strong case that the maritime strategy makes neither military nor political sense.

Beatty concludes that the maritime strategy was used to help justify the Navy's request for a 600-ship fleet that includes 15 aircraft carriers. But such a fleet, Beatty says, can't deter the Soviets in peacetime and can't defeat them in war. It's really "an intervention fleet," he claims, that will allow the United States to project its power into every corner of the globe and give teeth to the Reagan Doctrine of aiding anti-communist guerrilla movements in the Third World.

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