Pivoting While Stuck On A Reef

2 Feb

USS Guardian Stuck on the Tubbataha ReefHow can the United States “pivot to Asia” when the U.S. Navy can’t avoid running aground on reefs?

So, what’s to be learned? One lesson is that the U.S. military is going to have to be far more diplomatic in the much-ballyhooed “pivot to Asia,” which is going to be heavily dependent on cooperation with allies. President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines has been understandably irate over the Navy’s refusal to give a full accounting of what happened. He says the ship violated Filipino laws and says fines will be forthcoming. Officials say 1,000 square meters of the reef have been destroyed.

Another takeaway is that the Navy’s fleet of 14 Avenger-class anti-mine ships is overextended, largely because of increasing need to counter the Iranian threat in the Persian Gulf. The ships, which went into service in the 1980s and early 1990s, were supposed to be phased out as the new Littoral Combat Ship came online. The $37 billion LCS project, however, is the boondoggle of all boondoggles. The only two ships built so far came in as twice their estimated costs; one had a cracked hull and the other corroded near its propulsion system.

Shallow-water capabilities are going to be vital in extending U.S. influence in Indian and Pacific Ocean waters. China is thought to have an enormous stockpile of 100,000 mines; and, as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq demonstrated in 1991, mines can be a cheap and easy way for weaker powers to hamper our sea power. Yet the minesweeping version of the LCS isn’t even scheduled for assessment until next year. In the meantime, the Navy has to rely on helicopters the Avenger-class fleet, now short the Guardian. Unless, of course, the HMS Surprise can be fitted out for duty.

One of the spawn of The Donald is also irate, and so are some of his Twitter followers and local Filipinos, after he disparaged the wrecked reef.

The son of business mogul Donald Trump tweeted a link of a report on the US Navy’s pronouncement of removing the said ship “in sections,” which the group deemed as the best solution that would engender the least damage to the marine sanctuary.

Such process will take around a month, they further said.

“This is how stupid we are! $1/4 bil+ ho hum “@DRUDGE_REPORT: Navy to scrap $277 million ship to avoid scraping reef…http://drudge.tw/XSG79T ,” he posted.

A certain @adamq112 then queried Trump, Jr. if “a boat is more important than a coral reef.”

“not the whole reef but yes a 277mil boat is more important than a 200×50 section of reef that has already been run over,” said Trump, Jr. – a response that apparently attracted more critics than fans locally.

The USS Guardian’s demise on the reef is only the most visible manifestation of deeper problems the United States has in its aspirations to “pivot to Asia”.

I think most Americans, to the extent they do think about pivoting, believe it’s about grand maneuvers to contain the Chinese. The Tubbataha incident reveals just how much of a slog pivoting to Asia will be.


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