Where are the Carriers?

By lex, on March 10th, 2011

That was the question that once used to spring unbidden to presidential lips when an international crisis bubbled up. It wasn’t that the sheer destructive power of the carrier’s air wing and her escorts were immediately put to use, so much as the weight of all that firepower rested heavily on tempestuous brows: An aircraft carrier strike group tends to alter the calculus.

So it’s with interest we read in Bill Gertz’ Inside the Ring that, with Libya burning and the tyrant starting to gradually throttle the nascent rebellion that President Obama has not shifted anyone anywhere:

The chief of naval operations told a Senate hearing Tuesday that the Obama administration has not ordered the U.S. military to move an aircraft carrier close to Libya, usually one of the first U.S. reactions to a regional crisis like the civil war in the oil-rich North African state.

Under questioning from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Gary Roughead was asked during a committee hearing about U.S. capabilities for using electronic warfare against the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Adm. Roughead said U.S. Navy EA-6Bs, deployed on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier strike group currently in the Red Sea, would be needed to jam Soviet-era Libyan air defenses.

“Are there plans to move it?” Mr. McCain asked.

“At the present time, the plans are for her to remain in this central command area of operations, sir,” Adm. Roughead said. “There is no order issued to do that, no, sir.”

No, CENTCOM now has a “2.0″ carrier commitment for 9 months of the year, and the George Washington, well: She’s a WESTPAC ship. Which means that for 9 months of the year anyway, given our rotational capabilities with only 11 big decks, the Mediterranean is less a destination than a throughway.

Once she’s already forward deployed, it’s an almost trivial thing to shift a carrier between the 5th and 6th fleet OPCON lines. Doing so can send a message. So can not doing so: The tyrant who our president has said “has to go”? Has a free hand.

The rebels who stood against him? None of our concern.

If we really cared about the humanitarian element of this crisis, we’d come right out and say that. Having the rebels know that there is no NATO or “international community” cavalry coming to the rescue might save a lot of lives in the long run by suppressing false hopes.

But that might make us look weak.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Navy

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