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The projection of Power
4/27/2012 7:38:10 PM
This week I visited a US Aircraft Carrier...
This week gone by, I was fortunate enough to be invited on a VIP tour of the US aircraft carrier Carl Vincent at Fremantle, here in Australia. My first career was that of Radio Officer in the Merchant Navy, and so I was very enthused by the prospect of touring this enormous vessel and seeing its military capability close up. I was not disappointed, but seeing such a powerful vessel so far from its home did cause me to suffer some philosophical dissonance. In the first instance though, I would like to acknowledge and thank the officers and crew of the Carl Vincent for their very great courtesy; wherever these people go I am sure they leave a superb impression of the United States which fosters friendship and cooperation.
Anyway, one can only be impressed with the firepower of this ship which hosts four squadrons of F-18 jets, AWACS aircraft, H-16 squadrons and much, much more. The tour encompassed the vast maintenance hanger, the bridge (one of them!) and the flight deck.
I've always thought that one of the great ironies generated by a combination of human genius and physics, or the natural world, is the sheer aesthetic appeal of many weapons of war. A war plane may be terrifying, it may well house the power to destroy entire cities and clean the skies of enemy aircraft with its missiles, but to me, it is above all irresistibly beautiful. To see and hear one of these jets scorching the skies with the power of its jet engines is an experience that might be termed war pornography, and flying one must be akin to sex, although I doubt many pilots would admit this viewpoint!
But this week, reality stepped in as I heard one of the guests asking a pilot what one of these aircraft costs. The staggering answer was eighty million dollars! So with four squadrons of these aboard just one US carrier, we have two point five billion dollars!
Don't jump to conclusions here - I am NOT about to decry this as waste or take any cheap-trick swipes at the US here. But I was simply staggered!
My initial reaction remains valid: that politicians do indeed live in another domain, a domain where money has no meaning. Let's put it this way: how many average working Americans will it take to pay for just one of these aircraft in a year? Let's assume an average salary of $50,000 and taxes at 20%. This means that it takes eight thousand average Americans to pay for one F-18 in a year.
Now I tend to view things from the smaller perspective, and so I ask what I would buy a village of eight thousand people with eighty million dollars - you see what I mean? Maybe not, because what I am getting to is the viewpoint that we are better off with small states that view things from a more human viewpoint. I mean no offense whatsoever to any American or Australian when I say that I would love the US, Australia and all other federally based countries to de-federate and revert to smaller nation states that could not afford these monster weapons systems and hyper-expensive wars.
The other thing that crossed my mind was: very nice - what are they doing here? The obvious answer of course, is containing China. The hard question is - why?! Our (much discredited and despised - but that's another story) Prime Minister has just invited the US to station thousands of US marines in Australia over the next few years, also to contain China. Again I must ask, why? Is it just naked fear of China's rise? It all seems so philosophically old-fashioned, even obsolete to me. China's rise is driven by industry, even as US industry crumples and the US has debts it can never ever realistically pay. This is not China's doing or fault - every nation's fate is in its own hands. As for Australia, it is firmly embedded in Asia and dependent on China and Asia for its economic well-being. So becoming a US military base makes no sense at all. I m marvel at this and conclude that politicians are even more dislocated from reality than an eighty million dollar war plane suggests.
Anyway, to end this blog, I'll just reinforce my best wishes to the US forces here. They are fine people and great ambassadors.
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The projection of Power - Friday, April 27, 2012
Free Speech and measured response - Friday, October 10, 2008
Obama - a man of his time - Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Age of Big Brother Has Arrived - Sunday, April 27, 2008
What's become of America? - Thursday, April 24, 2008
Billary Clinton - Sunday, April 20, 2008
Greed - Sunday, April 06, 2008
How I wish there was a God! - Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The South African Mining Indaba - Tuesday, February 05, 2008
A Writer's Clarity of Vision - Thursday, January 10, 2008
It's a strange place! - Friday, November 30, 2007
Government Competitiveness Agency - Thursday, October 25, 2007
We will be free! - Tuesday, October 23, 2007
A missive from Brazil - Sunday, September 16, 2007
A South African View - Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Another Crime and More Incompetence - Monday, August 20, 2007
I Can't Stop!! - Wednesday, August 15, 2007