U.S. Navy mishaps in Asia-Pacific theater making allies nervous – Forward Observer Shop

U.S. Navy mishaps in Asia-Pacific theater making allies nervous

One of the least-discussed aspects of the series of collisions and other mishaps between U.S. Navy warships in the 7th Fleet and commercial vessels is the cumulative effect they are having on the confidence among America’s Asia-Pacific allies that the nation’s sea service is up to the task of providing promised security.

Among the topics of discussion in a recent hearing in the House of Representatives as to why so many accidents had occurred in such a short time was the fact that U.S. Navy warships and crews are so heavily tasked — especially in the Asia-Pacific Theater — that training and overall readiness have suffered greatly. Before the hearing published reports noted that at least one-third of all 7th Fleet vessels and crews were operating without certification or under expired training.

While experts caution against reading too much into those facts and to refrain from underestimating the 7th Fleet’s capabilities, regional allies and competitors have taken notice. Government-sponsored and regulated Chinese newspapers, for instance, ran a series of political cartoons mocking U.S. naval competence without any regard for the loss of life, no doubt as a way to further undermine allies’ confidence while exploiting the accidents for geopolitical gain.

“But while the Seventh Fleet may have taken a public blow to its operating credibility, its ships are still the most experienced in the U.S. Navy, operating its most arduous waters, and should not be underestimated,” said one report. [source]

Fair enough. But so often perception is the reality, and right now, competitors and allies alike in and around the South China Sea are under the perception that the U.S. Navy is far from infallible. Too many more accidents may make allies reluctant to trust Washington will come (competently) to their aid or make competitors like China test U.S. resolve.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 2: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-China conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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