The efficacy of aircraft carriers, especially the large nuclear-powered ones operated by the U.S. Navy, is one of those evergreen topics that partisans for and against are always eager to debate in our pages. Arguments against include high cost and, as Dr. Andrew Erickson and David Yang pointed out in our May issue, vulnerability to potential new weapon systems such as China's DF-21 antiship ballistic missile. This month's naval aviation coverage kicks off with Rear Admiral Terry Kraft coming to the flattops' defense. He reminds us of the many advantages these vessels possess over stationary land bases. They provide not only persistence and presence but, as recent negotiations over the use of airbases overseas have shown, carriers don't need host-country permission to operate. And so the debate begins anew. . . .
In past years we have devoted a number of issues to spotlighting developments in military medicine. With this year's Defense Forum Washington approaching (16 September), we felt it was time to revisit this important topic. Cosponsored with the Military Officers Association of America, the conference's theme is "Coping with Unseen Injuries: From Battlefield to Homefront." While post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are just beginning to be recognized as major issues among troops returning from combat, behavioral problems that apparently stem from intense combat experiences and multiple combat tours are increasingly coming to the fore. Frequent contributor Art Pine takes a look at the scope of these mental disorders in "Getting Inside their Heads."
In addition, Lieutenant Colonel Glen Butler, a previously published Proceedings author, boldly takes on what he considers to be a noble idea gone a little haywire. He applauds the establishment of a Wounded Warrior Regiment in the Marine Corps, a move emulated by the other services, but says we need to rethink what exactly the term "wounded warrior" means. This is a tough article, and it ruffled a few feathers on our editorial board. I'm sure it will with some of our readers as well.
On the heels of Barrett Tillman's "Fear and Loathing in the Post-Naval Era" in the June issue, Coast Guard Captain R. B. Watts, a previous Proceedings essay contest winner, raises the bar another notch for the Navy's strategic planners. Building on a thesis that we're sure some will say borders on blasphemy, Watts takes on the world strategic view of none other than one of the Sea Services' most revered gurus, Alfred Thayer Mahan. While the turn-of-the-century naval philosopher's outlook might have fit the big-Navy, blue-water approach favored during the Cold War, today's threats and challenges, Watts says, render what was once known as American sea power as a mere shadow of its former self. We'd better gear the force to the threat and leave Mahan's idea of sea power to the history books, he says. Stand by for incoming, Captain Watts.