August 10, 2006

Global Force Projection

As I mentioned yesterday, the U.S. has over 80% of the world's aircraft carrier capacity, as measured in naval warplanes.

So, why isn't the rest of the world terribly interested in aircraft carriers? (Various countries have plans underway to build one or two aircraft carriers, but there doesn't appear to be any intention anywhere to challenge U.S. global supremacy in aircraft carriers, and that includes China, which owns an aircraft carrier it bought from Russia, but doesn't have it out at sea.)

Some readers have cited the vulnerability of aircraft carriers to atomic weapons, but they've been vulnerable since 1949. That hasn't fazed the US Navy. The last of the Nimitz-class supercarriers, the George H. W. Bush is under construction. And, construction is scheduled to begin on the first of the new CVN-21 generation of supercarriers next year, for delivery in 2015, at a cost of $8 billion, plus $5 billion in R&D, with two more currently planned after that. And aircraft carriers require many support ships such as Aegis-equipped guided missile cruisers. So, each U.S. aircraft carrier plus its support ships costs somewhere around $20 billion.

I think the bigger reason, along with the huge U.S. lead in this colossally expensive form of warfare is this: The aircraft carrier is the penultimate weapon of global force projection, trailing only the nuclear ICBM. And intercontinental force projection is simply something that not many countries feel that much of a need for anymore.

The ancient roiling of the world that went into high gear with the outward explosion of the European race after 1492 has been slowing down. Europeans succeeded in conquering some continents permanently (unless they continue their feckless refusal to patrol their borders) and have been expelled from other continents.

It turned out that while it was enormously profitable to colonize an entire mostly empty continent like North America or Australia, it was much less profitable to imperialize an already highly-inhabited continent. Lots of the world, including most of Africa without mineral motherlodes, couldn't generate enough wealth to be worth the costs. Some areas, like India could turn a profit, but once the Indians started to develop their own sense of nationalism, they couldn't be held in thrall profitably without resorting to mass slaughter, which Western Europeans had less of a stomach for as time progressed. Today, even if we were stealing every penny of the oil being pumped out of Iraq, the $50 billion per year wouldn't pay our occupation costs -- and that's at record high oil prices. Probably Kuwait is the only country worth conquering these days.

As the most educated members of the ruled races came to historical consciousness, typically in schools provided by their European overlords, they began to find rule by another race to be an intolerable insult. Political control of the world is now much more homogenous at the continental level than a century ago, when Europeans ruled most countries on other continents. (I'm defining "continental" not in the technical geographic definition, but more in the Huntingtonian civilizational manner, where, for example, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa or East Asia and South Asia are separate continents.)

European settler enclaves on non-European continents, such as French Algeria, Rhodesia, and South Africa have been ground down, in the first two cases utterly, and South Africa is probably just a matter of time. Russia has lost control of Central Asia. (Latin America is a quasi-exception -- it has settled into an intermittent low-intensity twilight struggle among partly blended races.)

Today, almost all countries on earth are now ruled by elements relatively indigenous to their continent. Granted, there are many local divergences such as the minority Alawites running Sunni Syria, and a few medium-scale ones, such as the Chinese running Singapore, and occasionally, the descendents of Indian migratory laborers run far-flung small states like Fiji. (Madagascar, which is run by Southeast Asians who landed off the coast of Africa a couple of thousand years ago, is sui generis.)

But the most famous exception to this historical pattern of European settlers either taking over an entire continent politically and demographically, such as Australia or North America, or losing political and demographic control of every country in an entire continent is Israel.

This helps explain the inordinate excitement and loathing Israel arouses among its neighbors. It's a reminder of the European superiority that they were once personally subjected to. It also suggests the perilous uphill task America took on in Iraq.

And that helps explain why not many countries are all that interested in using aircraft carriers to project power across oceans anymore. They don't have the heart to do what it takes to rule a people on the other side of the ocean.

In the 1990s (a.k.a., the Good Old Days), they were pleased to delegate to America the task of policing the sea lanes and leading the occasional coalition to punish international rule-breakers like Saddam or the Taliban. But since we've gotten bogged down in occupying Iraq long term, our role becomes more questionable to the rest of the world.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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