Navy Public Relations, Cont.
By Taylor Marvin
On the theme of American’s ignorance about what the Navy does and doesn’t, in The Diplomat James R. Holmes makes a good point about the word ‘battleship’:
“The op-ed bug bit me in late 2000 after reporters and other opinion makers took to describing the bomb attack on the destroyer Cole as an attack on an American “battleship,” connoting a behemoth comparable to the Wisconsin and her sisters. This was grossly misleading, implying as it did that the assailants in Aden had pierced the foot-plus-thick armor sheathing a dreadnought’s sides. Judging from the reports, they must have struck with uncanny force and resolve to tear a seventeen-foot gash in the Cole’s hull. In fact, American destroyers are lightly armored. The Aden attack was less impressive than many commentators let on. The upshot: battleship is not a generic term like warship.”
If Americans are thinking about their Navy in terms of ‘battleships’ — which the advent of naval airpower made obsolete in the 1940s, though US battleships served in the shore bombardment role until the 1990s — then they have no real idea what the modern Navy’s mission is. In an era of very public debates over the future US defense budget, this is troubling. Americans should be able to question and critically interrogate budgetary arguments from both the Pentagon and advocates of radically cutting defense spending. If the American electorate is ignorant about the military’s missions and capabilities, this debate suffers.
I’m not sure if the upcoming release of Battleship: Based on the Board Game ™ will improve the situation: