Navy moves to meals on SEALS strategy

Christian Science Monitor:

The US Navy is trying to set a new course, embracing a shift in strategy that focuses heavily on administering humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and other forms of so-called soft power to woo allies to help the United States fight global terrorism.

The Navy's new maritime strategy, unveiled this fall and shared by the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, is a shift in tone that reflects a broader change in the Pentagon's approach as it organizes itself for what many military officials refer to as a "generational conflict" against extremism. It's a move away from the go-it-alone stance of the Bush White House and toward a new emphasis on building partnerships abroad and finding common interests.

Critics say that while the Navy's new approach is noble, the sea service should stick to meeting more conventional threats to US security from countries like China and build more ships that can be used to flex America's naval muscle.

While the Navy says it will maintain its ability to use the "hard power" for which it's known, the new focus represents an important change – the first major rewrite of strategy in more than 20 years. It puts greater emphasis on humanitarian aid, disaster relief, "partnering" with foreign navies also working to combat piracy, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"We can't do things unilaterally, we recognize that," says Donald Winter, the Navy secretary. "Not all things, not all places."

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This is more of the show the flag diplomatic aspect of Naval power. It is unlikely that the Navy will face a real threat on a ship to ship basis in the near future. In terms of hard power it needs to focus on troops support and an expanded role in missile defense. Naval missile defense has important potential because it is harder for the enemy to target and it has the ability to be on station where it can use a launch phase system which destroys the missile before it can deploy its warheads and dummies. Navy and Marine Corps air assets give us significant abilities to project sea power over the horizon in places like Afghanistan in the early phase of the war.

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