Carrier Forces Remain Free to Act
The recent stand-off between the United States and Iraq illuminated an enduring truth: Sea power means not having to ask permission.
As has happened innumerable times since World War II, the President asked: "Where are the carriers?" One moved quickly to the Gulf and another arrived shortly thereafter, and Tomahawk-armed surface combatants gathered, in case it became necessary to strike Iraq.
What surprised some was that these forces were the only ones truly free to act, even though it seemed that several friendly countries were involved. U.S. forces have been deployed to the region since 1990, after all, to protect countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Why couldn't we simply have deployed more F-15s to Saudi Arabia? In every fight between Air Force and Navy, the Air Force's argument has been that, once the investment in bases has been made, it is less expensive simply to fly fighters to some distant region. Only recently, retired General William Odom, writing in Foreign Affairs, said that with tactical airplanes that can range more than 300 miles, surely we can dispense with all those costly gray ships.