Introductory Navy history courses typically begin with lectures on traditions and progress in the service’s purpose: to fight and win our nation’s wars. We then normally learn that the Navy accomplishes this through sea control and power projection, with a long history of accomplishing both. Many quotes from Alfred Thayer Mahan are read, and the Pacific theater in World War II is touted as being a near-perfect example of having to fight your way to the fight by first achieving sea control as a means to power projection.
During the Cold War, because the Soviet Union’s naval capabilities were somewhat comparable to ours, our Fleet was trained and equipped to take on theirs at sea should the need arise. This possibility was taken seriously at all echelons. Since the end of that war, we have arguably had undisputed control of the sea, so naturally we evolved as a force and placed more focus on projecting power. But this was done at the cost of letting our sea-control capabilities atrophy and even eliminating them from the arsenal, in cases such as removing from service the Tomahawk antiship missile while maintaining its land-attack version and removing the Harpoon missile from frigates. We take great pride in our ability to precisely strike inland targets with cruise missiles and carrier-launched aircraft. We send our most important combat system and precious asset, the U.S. sailor, to support land campaigns against terrorism as individual augmentees. Can there be any greater example of projecting Navy power ashore than sending a highly trained sailor to support inland operations?