10.29.13

The Ship

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:39 pm by George Smith

When a kid I read C. S. Forester’s The Ship, a novel about a Royal Navy light cruiser seeing action in WWII in the Mediterranean. The name of the ship is the Artemis and it’s on convoy escort, part of a force that fights a pitched battle with heavier units of the Italian Navy.

It was a novel of men working together, an oiled human machine, often many of whom didn’t have much to do until action was joined.

How does one relate that to the US’s giant destroyer, the Zumwalt?

Destroyers were light ships, used in anti-submarine warfare and as torpedo-launching platforms in squadrons screening heavy capital warships.

If you read The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour by James Hornfischer, you can thrilled by the actual history of destroyer-men fighting off the Yamato, the biggest battleship ever built, and its Japanese escort of heavy cruisers, in the battle of Samar.

But the Zumwalt is a capital warship, a heavy unit. It makes a hash of the old meaning of the word “destroyer.” (Truthfully, the US Navy trashed the definition of destroyer as a light ship a long time ago.)

In, say, 2017, what will it be like to be on the Zumwalt, sailing the world?

What job will it have when every other navy has given up even slightly competing with the US military because it’s a stupid waste.

Yes, Globalsecurity.Org tells me the British are making an aircraft carrier, and the Japanese want a helicopter carrier, the first big ship in their navy since WWII, and the Chinese have the old Soviet Union/Russian thing they’ve refurbished as their own big ship.

But no one compares with the US Navy. Everyone else is 20 years behind with no hope of rivaling it in heavy combat units. The age of capital ships is gone except for the Department of Defense.

So as the Zumwalt sails the world, a big capital unit with no enemies to fight, what does it do? What’s its function? (Well, honestly, it kept a lot of people in work making it.)

Are the locals impressed by the Zumwalt in ports-of-call? Or do they wonder why the US military has such large and dangerous-looking combat units when a third or half its working population is in poverty?

By 2017 I bet they’ll no longer wonder. They’ll see the scary-looking Zumwalt, something that might occasionally be called upon to shoot a volley of missiles into a very poor and desperate place at midnight. It will be strange, big heavy metal, but standard behavior from a country that’s no longer the center of the world.

The Zumwalt will be a nice thing in the Singapores of the globe, where the navy or the host government can helicopter out wealthy rulers for a show-off ride-along.

When the crew is at home in port, they will be thankful they have a job and a long-term career, if they want to have it. The Zumwalt, even with a crew reduced by automation, is their floating town for the world.

As the US decays in a way unique unto itself, the Zumwalt will be around for awhile, a ship that will always look impressive. While not fourteen thousand tons of diplomacy, it will be entirely capable of fooling many into thinking America’s still king. But only for a moment.

And then the smartphones come on again, and everyone will be able to read the latest bad news from the hinterland or what the next party of extremists is planning to do to everyone else, or something about Wall Street, the Silicon Valley, or other special people.

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