We need to build up our Navy

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By John Barnhart

Once again, I find myself having to agree with a "Democrat." Not the one on the opposite side of this page from me. I'm talking about Senator James Webb.

Webb told Seapower Magazine that the erosion of our industrial base threatens national security. Seapower is a monthly magazine published by the Navy League of the United States. According to its Web site www. navyleague.org/sea_power/, it's a non-profit organization and one of its purposes is to educate citizens about the importance of sea power to American national security. Webb served as Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. He's also a Naval Academy graduate and served as a Marine officer in Vietnam.

A summary of the article appeared on WorldNetDaily's Web site in late March. The original appeared in the March, 2008 edition of the magazine but the operating system and browser on the Macintosh computers here are old and the Web site, which requires newer versions, won't open.

According to this summary, Webb stated that American sea power is being threatened by the erosion of our industrial base. This is putting our ability to build warships in a precarious state.

"I've often said to people who haven't been around the military, 'Go down and watch them build an aircraft carrier, and you'll understand why we're the only country that is really able to do this.' It has taken generations of handing down the skills to do that, and it's very difficult to regrow those skills after you lose them," Webb stated according to this summary.

Webb is concerned that, even if there is a revival of the political will to rebuild our Navy, the shipbuilding industry necessary to do so is endangered.

He is correct. Naval power has been one of the keys to America's status as a superpower. Seapower gives us the military flexibility to do things, when military action is needed, that no other country can do. Part of the force that struck the Taliban in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, after 9/11, was based on ships in the Indian Ocean.

Seapower is critical to our national security. While infantry forces are the centerpiece of the counter-insurgency wars we are currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy has a role in the Persian Gulf area.

The Navy also has a major role globally as not all of our potential adversaries are shaggy men living in caves in Pakistan. China is an example of this. As I noted in my April 2 column, China is not our buddy. It is not some big, lovable panda bear. China has, under its Communist Party management, shown a willingness to be militarily aggressive. In the last 50 years, it invaded and conquered one neighbor (Tibet) and invaded another (Vietnam). It also fought an inconclusive border war with India. China's leaders won't hesitate to use military force to further their national goals if they think they can get away with it and that makes China a potentially dangerous foreign competitor.

China has been modernizing its armed forces and this has included a naval build-up that has both increased the size and quality of its navy. At present, the Chinese Navy's ability to project power beyond China's coastal waters is limited, but that will change. They now have some nuclear powered submarines (China can build its own) and it may not be long before they develop their own large-deck aircraft carrier. In the near future, the Chinese Navy could be able to go toe to toe with the United States Navy in the Pacific.

It would be good for our government to find a way to stop the erosion of our industrial base, to which Webb referred. It would also be nice if Webb is able to sound a wake-up call to the leaders of his political party on the need to rebuild our Navy. Our opposition to Chinese oppression in Tibet is reminiscent of our opposition to Japanese aggression in China, in the 1930s, and we all know what that led to.