USS San Jacinto
Bond of the Sea - The U.S. Navy has always faced unexpected threats
The threat plainly weighs on Capt. Sharpe's mind. A ship like the San Jacinto would have only seconds to track, identify and destroy an incoming missile; in 1988, a mistake by the USS Vincennes led to the downing of an Iranian commercial jet and the killing of nearly 300 passengers. "How do you wield a gun in a knife fight?" Capt. Sharpe asks. Could he launch missiles while simultaneously defending against attacks from small boats? What about mines or submarines (Iran deploys three Russian-made, ultra-quiet, Kilo-class subs)? The Cole was struck, he admits, because "we never expected the enemy to look like that." So what will the enemy look like next?
That question was every bit as relevant in Mr. Brown's Navy days as it is in Capt. Sharpe's. As game theorist Thomas Schelling once observed, the U.S. was surprised at Pearl Harbor because intelligence services were obsessed "with a few dangers that \[were\] familiar rather than likely." Kamikazes--the suicide bombers of their day--were successful at first for similar reasons. By the time the Navy was able to devise effective countermeasures a heavy price had been paid.
It is in the face of these terrors that generations of American sailors, from Capt. Sharpe on the bridge to Seaman Brown in the engine room, have set sail, brought together by what Joseph Conrad famously called, in "Heart of Darkness," "the bond of the sea." That's a bond for which a landlubbing columnist can only feel grateful as he looks out from the bridge toward the Verrazano Narrows under clear skies.
Comment: My three brother-in-laws (Dave, Dan, and Ed) all served in the old Navy (late 50's / earlier 60's). We need to deeply appreciate the men and women who serve our country in the Navy! It's a dangerous world and these are defending us!