Bryan McGrath over at Information Dissemination has an absolutely superb piece on the overlay of a peacetime mentality on what might suddenly and shockingly be a wartime Navy.
You see, the heavy influence of the PEACETIME NAVY was at work. We over-analyzed, over-plotted, over-targeted and over-thought every single engagement, driven in no small measure by the fear of hitting “white shipping”, or the clueless merchant who meanders into a hot war zone during the scenario. Never mind that the flight path of the missile avoided the merchant by hundreds of yards. Never mind that its seeker head wasn’t active when it CPA’d the merchant. Never mind that the height of the missile at that part of its flight path would have flown over most of the merchants in the world at that time. Never mind that merchants don’t have AAW radars and missiles.
No, invariably we would hold off on the shot to allow for “adequate” separation, or as some unfortunate watch teams found, take the shot and then suffer the ignominy of some OS Chief who couldn’t sit watch supervisor on your watch team tell you that you had failed to account for white shipping.
Letting the bad guy get in the first punch at sea is as dangerous and foolhardy as doing so on land. And, when you behave as if the battlefield must be antiseptic out of the fear of being blamed for collateral damage, you set yourself up for just such an eventuality. And those who constantly rub their hands in worry and obsess over “lawfare” concerns have the effect of taking a grinding wheel to the sharp edge of our combat forces. They see risk as being blamed, not getting killed. Shame on all of them. You play the way you practice. War is a place where the decision cycle must be as rapid and unencumbered as possible. The difference between winning and losing most often hangs in the balance of faster tempo and seizing the initiative.
Definitely worth the read. McGrath shows again why he is among the most insightful of the voices about maritime strategy and naval policy. Oh, and he does tout Andrew Gordon’s book on Jutland and the Royal Navy, which I am eagerly anticipating plowing into as soon as I am finished this current project. (A re-assessment of Manstein’s Lost Victories, if you must know.)