Key point: The will to prepare is as important as the will to win, yet for too long, the United States has neglected a focused and disciplined approach to properly resourcing the U.S. Navy's fleet.
The recent oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman reinforce the need to reestablish a highly visible U.S. naval deterrent in the Middle East. For eight months last year, no aircraft carrier strike group plied the region, the longest such interruption this millennium. With the United States needing a more robust posture against Iran and confronting renewed challenges in Asia and Europe, several immediate measures and concerted longer-term efforts are critical to ensure America has the carriers it needs.
The requirement to maintain carrier presence in the Middle East is a critical part of a broader national security strategy, in which U.S. global security interests necessitate a worldwide force presence. Indeed, the Navy's mission demands remain as high as those of the Cold War, calling on ships to be everywhere seemingly at once, but today's fleet is less than half the size it was 30 years ago.
During the Obama administration, a “rebalance” supposedly allowed the Pentagon to focus on Asia and Europe while washing its hands of the Middle East. In reality, we never effectively rebalanced forces in the Indo-Pacific, and the situation on the ground forced us to remain deeply involved in the Middle East. Now with a growing Iranian threat, it would be imprudent to suddenly abandon the region, even as we face renewed challenges in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean.