From the Editor’s Desk
We decided to try a few new things in this year’s International Navies Issue. Long-time readers will recognize “The Commanders Respond” section (pp. 32–48). Every year we ask the chiefs of international navies for their thoughts on a particular issue or question. This year 22 navy chiefs answered the question: What is your Navy and/or Coast Guard doing to monitor and enforce international maritime law and a rules-based order? The responses reflect an emphasis on protecting free seas and exclusive economic zones, stopping illegal fishing, responding to natural disasters and environmental impacts, and saving lives at sea. One change this year is we renamed the section “The International Commanders Respond.”
Several international navy chiefs mentioned the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Admiral Tony Radakin, the United Kingdom’s First Sea Lord, highlighted the publication of Hugo Grotius’ short book Mare Liberum (The Free Sea) in the year 1609 as a foundation for UNCLOS. Grotius saw the high seas as global commons where ships, commerce, and people should be able to move freely. In 2020, at a time when a handful of countries and non-state actors regularly threaten freedom of the seas, protection of the global commons should be a common purpose that unites regional and global navies to work together.
The United States has not ratified UNCLOS—a fact often mentioned by China and Russia to suggest the United States does not respect international law or that it picks and chooses the aspects of international law it wishes to enforce and abide by. Multiple Republican and Democratic administrations have tried to convince the Senate to ratify the treaty, but there remain Senators who feel it undercuts national sovereignty. U.S. Chiefs of Naval Operations have long called for ratification and made sure the Navy abides by the treaty. The country recognizes it as customary international law through National Security Decision Directive 83. I would add my voice to those who advocate ratifying UNCLOS. Actions and words must be synchronized, and the United States should not give its adversaries an easy target for criticism.
We brought back the International Navies Review this year, but in a different format, written by a group of contributors, and distributed throughout the magazine. Last year, several readers expressed dismay that the March issue did not include Eric Wertheim’s annual international review (Eric was unable to write it in 2019). This year, instead of one large section by one author, we asked seven experts to write. Excerpts from four of those experts can be found in the “Need to Know” section (pp.10–11): retired Navy Captain Jim Fanell writes about the Chinese Navy; Navy Captain Tuan Pham about the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force; Jim Holmes about “The Americas,” and Scott Truver the Iranian Navy. Eric Wertheim contributes a NATO update for this month’s Combat Fleets. Retired Indian Navy Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikande’s Indian Ocean overview is an excellent strategic perspective on the region, and Michael Kofman, a Russia expert at the Center for Naval Analyses, provides the latest on Russia’s Navy and its newest platforms and programs.
Finally, congratulations to the winners of our Midshipmen and Cadet Essay Contest. Midshipman 1st Class Benjamin Chiacchia, an NROTC student from Brown University, took first prize. Coast Guard Officer Trainee Daniel Piscoya took second, and Midshipman 1st Class Joshua Hano, an NROTC student at Yale University, took third. These young leaders will be special guests at the Naval Institute’s annual meeting on 30 April, and their essays will appear in Proceedings later this year.
Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Life Member since 1993
Where We Were
March 1920 Proceedings—In his essay “On the Importance of Leadership,” Captain Dudley W. Knox, U.S Navy, wrote: “The principal elements of character are ideals and will power. Those who would build up character . . . must first fix upon the desired ideals, and then exercise or develop the will power necessary to live up to them. Since public opinion has a marked influence upon ideals, it should be utilized if it exists already, or created if it does not exist.”
March 1970 Proceedings—“To honor the oath we have taken,” Captain Robert J. Hanks, U. S. Navy, wrote in “Against All Enemies,” “we must speak for ourselves. If we do so with the same dedication and professionalism that we have so abundantly displayed on wartime battlefields, we shall be equally successful in protecting this nation against those who now endanger it from within. Given the whole picture—not just the slanted and perverse glimpse being broadcast these days—the American people will speak out with the sound and reasoned majority voice which will preserve the United States and its democratic processes.”
March 1995 Proceedings—“In Asia Pacific, there has been no peace dividend;” Commodore Sam Bateman, Royal Australian Navy (Retired) wrote in “Maritime Strategy in Asia Pacific,” “maritime capabilities figure prominently in regional defense budgets. Some navies that previously had only limited coast guard type functions are building enhanced offshore capabilities—highly capable surface combatants and submarines and significant numbers of aircraft for maritime strike and surveillance. The regional sea-control capability is growing markedly and there has been a reemergence of the importance of sea power.”
A. Denis Clift
Golden Life Member