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Power at Sea, Volume 3: A Violent Peace, 1946-2006 Paperback – December 30, 2006
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A nonacademic narrative about the major navies of the world during the past century, this volume and its two companion volumes divide into periods symbolized by dominant ships: the battleship, aircraft carrier, and nuclear submarine.Rose, an author of specialty naval histories who served in the U.S. Navy in the 1950s, instills clarity about a tension that animates any modern navy, that between its national strategy and the ships necessary to effect that strategy. Since ships inherently fix a strategy for years into the future, contentious theorizing erupts over the optimal vessels to construct. Rose reprises this intranaval conflict in each tome, incorporating a nation's domestic interests, which are inevitably involved because of the great expense of navies. He debuts with 1890s American theorist Alfred Thayer Mahan, the von Clausewitz of naval strategy who profoundly influenced the pre-World War I admirals of Britain and Germany. Their fixation on fleets of dreadnoughts, which echoes in contemporary popular interest (Castles of Steel, by Robert Massie, 2003), was proved by events to be misplaced: the Battle of Jutland was indecisive, whereas the prosaic blockade strangled Germany. However, the demise of big-gunned leviathans was resisted by their naval champions of the interwar years until experience of the first years of World War II relegated those not sunk by airpower to supporting roles. Discussing postwar debates about the aircraft carrier's power and vulnerability, Rose maintains his theme of strategy's continual interplay with technology's relentless advance amid his attention to key parameters of naval effectiveness, such as maintenance and crew morale. An ambitious opus, Rose's set rewards explorers of sea power's instrumentality in international affairs and conflict. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"The undeniable but little understood impact of sea power on the modern history of the world is the essence of Lisle Rose's masterful Power at Sea; thought-provoking and a good read."—Edward J. Marolda, Senior Historian, Naval Historical Center
“Lisle Rose writes with a verve that few historians possess. Here are three books on a magisterial subject, each done with the éclat it deserves. No other writer about sea power in the machine age has managed such an achievement.”—Robert H. Ferrell
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I was particularly interested in learning that the U.S. Navy fought the Vietnam War with mostly World War II ships and in learning that for a time, before the fall of the Soviet empire, our navy might well have lost a major confrontation with the Soviet Navy had it occurred.
There is much more to fascinate the reader as the U.S. Navy, inherently conservative, is forced to deal with a changing world, admit female sailors to its ranks, cope with modern youth, and search for a mission in a world that may never fight a major sea battle again. Anyone who has read the last two books of the series will definitely want to get this one.
Dr. Rose has excellent insights into the evolution of the nuclear submarine as the post-modern capital ship. His analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis is spot-on, as is his review of social-cultural conflicts within the fleet's personnel, ship-and-shore-based alike, in view of radically altering late 20th century social changes and the climate of "political correctness" which now seems to permeate every aspect of the American military culture.
I do somewhat take issue with Rose's not-so-subliminal assertion that the USN would have been hard-pressed in a head-to-head confrontation with the Soviet navy of the 1970s and 1980s. Certainly the Soviet navy had large numbers of surface vessels and a clear superiority in numbers of both conventional and nuclear-powered submarines, but American boats were, and are, always far quieter and stealthier, which typified the overwhelming U.S. technological superiority throughout the Cold War (otherwise, why were the Societs always trying to steal our secrets, rather than vice-versa?). Then too, Soviet naval doctrine in the Cold War era was virtually the opposite of that of the USN. Gorshkov's fleet was mostly defensive in nature--even the Soviets' big missile "boomers" were kept close to home ports both to defend the homeland and to remain out of harm's way of U.S. Los Angeles-class attack subs. Conversely the USN, particularly during the 1981-87 Reagan-Lehman buildup toward the 600-ship Navy, was offensive in nature and espoused blue-water power projection as opposed to the Soviets' maintenance of the "fleet in being" concept--almost to the point of emulating the strategy of the German High Seas Fleet that rarely ventured out of port during the war of 1914-18.