What Need One?

by Mario Loyola

Patrick, your post about our dwindling force of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf reminds me of the awful scene in King Lear (II.iv) where his two eldest daughters are talking him out of keeping any men for his personal bodyguard. They press for just 50, then 25, then ten, or even five, and finally Regan asks him, “What need one?” 

It’s my view that we might as well have none there. For all the impression those aircraft carriers are making, they may as well be transporting chickens. We’ve had two carriers there on a regular basis for several years, which we increased from one apparently as a show of force to ramp up pressure on Iran. But Iran knows that we’re not going to do anything anytime soon, or ever, and they’ve known that for years. Despite the rote pabulum about all options remaining on the table, the U.S. has been totally clear that force is off the table in the near term. That implication is inherent in our diplomatic strategy going back to 2003.

If we’re telegraphing that we’re not going to use force in the near term, not even to rattle the mullahs a tiny little bit, it’s almost better not to have any aircraft carriers there at all. At least we wouldn’t have to suffer the Iranians laughing at us while the pride of our fleet plies their coast. 

There used to be a time when the appearance of a single American aircraft carrier was more than enough to concentrate the attention of an adversary. Nowadays one is the same as none, just a lot more expensive. 

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