Sunday, May 8, 2011

Everybody’s Doin’ It

Building aircraft carriers, that is:

ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE – Despite growing controversy about the cost and relevance of aircraft carriers, navies around the world are adding new ones to their inventories at a pace unseen since World War II.

The U.S. — with more carriers than all other nations combined — and established naval powers such as Britain, France and Russia are doing it. So are Brazil, India and China — which with Russia form the BRIC grouping of emerging economic giants.

“The whole idea is about being able to project power,” said Rear Adm. Philippe Coindreau, commander of the French navy task force that has led the air strikes on Libya since March 22.

“An aircraft carrier is perfectly suited to these kinds of conflicts, and this ship demonstrates it every day,” he said in an interview aboard the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has been launching daily raids against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces since the international intervention in the Libyan conflict began March 22.


“All around the world there are major and not-so-major navies now looking into getting into some form of sea-based airpower,” Willett said. “They may not want to be global powers but they certainly want to have some regional power-projection capability.”

The end of American hegemony is clearly visible, and other powers want to be the big kids on their own block after we’ve limped off the scene. Bully for them. We’ll always have a strong enough military to protect ourselves from attack and that’s all we need. Who cares if Brazil dominates South America and France has more ships in the the Mediterranean than we do? If any other country threatens our supposed “interests” abroad (i.e., oil) it won’t be as if we lack the power to stop it.

But all of that’s moot. This will just be another excuse to maintain current levels of military spending, if not increase them. Prior to the Big Bin Laden Death Party Extravaganza, a distinct whiff of sinophobia had begun filling the air. It will be likely to grow if our zeal for fighting Muslim terrorists begins to wane, which just might happen since bin Laden is gone. The Military-Industrial-Complex must be fed, and the unseemly mob that partied like rock stars after hearing about bin Laden’s death will need a new enemy to hate. Cold War with China would be just the thing. TV could be filled with ominous images of Chinese aircraft carriers floating past Taiwan, and ambitious politicians could warn us of an impending “carrier gap.” What fun it would all be.

Regardless, it would enable us to sustain the unsustainable status quo, which, at the end of the day, is all Washington really wants anyway.

A note on the “unseemly mob” I mentioned: Yes, I’m glad bin Laden is dead. I have no use for spoiled rotten millionaires who can’t find anything better to do than kill people, especially in the service of religious fundamentalism. Yes, I think we were probably justified in killing him the way we did. But a truly proud and great nation wouldn’t have turned the event into a frat party. A few moments of solemn, dignified thanks that justice had been done were in order, followed by a sober reappraisal of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Reality TV Nation doesn’t do that. It turns every event into a self-congratulatory spectacle. Forget about the better angels of our nature or Roosevelt’s admonition that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. The emblematic rallying cry of our time is “Look at me, ain’t I great?” The rest of the world has caught on to just how hollow we really are. One of their responses, apparently, is to build more aircraft carriers.

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