#Reviewing Naval Cooperation

The U.S. Naval Institute on Naval Cooperation. Sam J. Tangredi, ed. Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 2015.

The U.S. Naval Institute on Naval Cooperationedited by Sam J. Tangredi, a retired Captain from the U.S. Navy who served as the founding Director of the Strategic Planning and Business Development Directorate of the Navy International Programs Officeis described as a “wheel book.” For the non-navalists out there, the wheel book was once a notebook (usually a green government issued memorandum book) carried by sailors with notes, ideas, and points of wisdom they gleaned from experienced sailors.

Throughout much of history, the world’s oceans and seas belonged to no one, yet everyone. For that reason, nations that depend on the sea for trade, as a source of food, and more recently, as a source of minerals, have cooperated to some extent. Hugo Grotius, in his book Mare Liberum published in 1609, established that under “the Law of Nations the sea is common to all.” More recently, the United Nations’ Convention of the Law of the Sea has attempted to codify the territorial and economic limits of nations and their contiguous seabed.

Naval Cooperation is a compilation of USNI Proceedings articles written over the last ten years discussing a range of topics related to cooperation. The chapters range from non-combatant operations, humanitarian missions during natural disasters, to sailors’ conduct ashore, and law-enforcement activities similar to those conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard. Each article, whether written by a U.S. officer or not, provides a glimpse into the issues surrounding naval operations.

One subject in particular that is an issue throughout the book is economic exploitation and smuggling in Africa. Nigerian Navy Commander Adeniyi Adejimi Osinowo, who served as the deputy commander of the Africa Partnership Station on the USS Gunston Hall, discusses this issue at length in the chapter entitled “Africa Partnership Station Helps All Sides.” Commander Osinowo points out the American-led Africa Partnership Station as a stage for Africa to “…help itself by sharing resources and working with foreign powers.” The missions that he discusses–drug trafficking, oil smuggling, illegal fishing, and environmental issues like oil spills–relate more to the missions of coast guard or law enforcement units than they do to traditional navies.

U.S. naval cooperation has a long history dating back to the defeat of the Barbary Coast pirates in the early days of the nation. Rear Admiral Michael Smith, in his chapter titled "Strategic Cooperation: Everybody Wins," argues that with the major economic challenges facing both the U.S. and its allies, we should take a pragmatic look at both cooperation and collaboration. He suggests that a new approach should include “the ability to discriminate between truly mutual strategic interests (at the bilateral, multinational, or even global levels) and those that are strictly national; and secondly sufficient willpower to co-manage risks with our partners and allies.”

To accomplish this, Smith suggests U.S. strategic thinking must move to get rid of the old idea of competition and focus on cooperation, considering our allies as partners. Instead of viewing U.S. strategic interests as a “single undifferentiated pool, we must acknowledge that the sharing of responsibility is either more or less feasible…” Smith points out that many issues are considered vital to U.S. interests but are also vital to other nations or are international interests.

Synchronizing such efforts, would allow for deeper integration, not just division of labor.

A navy’s strength is often measured quantitatively by the number of ships in its fleet. However, former U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen shared his idea of a “1,000 Ship Navy” by sharing common missions with nations willing to contribute. A perfect example of this is the numerous task forces organized to counter the pirate threat, which has plagued the waters off Somalia.

Rear Admiral Terrance McKnight, the first commander of Task Force 151 responsible for conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, authored an insightful chapter arguing “Cold War naval collaborations under NATO auspices presents a clear, guiding example of deep and ongoing integration of force allocation and operational planning….” A particular point that McKnight makes is that coalitions are often framed in the context of a coalition of the willing, however, often some nations are not willing to participate without constraints. For example, some nations may restrict their navy to rescue missions and not allow their ships to participate in operations that may “eradicate” the threat. To eradicate the threat McKnight argues, a coalition of the willing must be prepared to deploy “significant combat troops for an extended period to stabilize the many lawless cities that exist along [Somalia's] coast.”

One short article, “Performance Ashore Matters,” seems a bit out of place in this compilation, arguing that sailors’ performance ashore should mirror updates in U.S. strategy. Like all deployed forces, naval personnel ashore in foreign ports are ambassadors of the U.S., but the recommendation to over-manage port visits is reminiscent of the former Soviet Navy and not the U.S. Navy.

The first-hand experiences of many of the authors in this anthology are useful in demonstrating their positions. One theme that comes across in many of the articles is the need for the U.S. to accept other nations’ status as partners and acknowledge that their interests may not necessarily mirror directly those of the U.S. Additionally, as partners, the U.S. must be willing to share information and technology to create a true partnership and sense of cooperation. Strategists and policy makers are discussing the future strategic role of the Navy, however strategic policy is implemented by the sailors manning the ships. Naval Cooperation should be read by naval leaders as well as naval strategists who need to understand the many facets of cooperation that occur after a ship leaves its homeport.

Dave Mattingly is a writer and national security consultant. He retired from the U.S. Navy with over thirty years of service. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild, NETGALLEY Challenge 2015, and a NETGALLEY Professional Reader. This article represents the private views and opinions of the author and do not reflect those of the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, of the U.S. Government.

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