5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Shocking December 11, 2010
First off, let me preface this my saying that my knowledge of the American military was practically nil before reading this book so I found it all the more engaging and eye-opening especially because the American Navy is generally thought of as the best in the world, I know that was the impression I was under until I read Lessons Not Learned. The American Navy is the largest sea power in the world and the most expensive and depictions of it in movies all lead us to believe that we can rest easy knowing that there would never be any chance of the Americans losing in a conflict against any other nation in the world. Unfortunately, that simply seems to not be the case, Lessons Not Learned points out a number of flaws in many, if not all, aspects of the American Navy. More frustratingly, it seems that many of these flaws could actually be fixed but are not. The system of hierarchy and promotion, along with a stubborn way of thinking and far too much pride not only limits the capabilities of the Navy but also puts those nations that rely or expect support and candidacy from it in danger.
The system of hierarchy in the Navy and the promotion system enforces and ensures that the officers put in charge are ones that care more for their careers than for the candidacy and for the state of the American Navy. The Navy itself encourages an “up or out” system which ensures that only officers who are willing to regurgitate prepared statistics, facts and speeches are ever able to ascend in rank. This is particularly disconcerting because we are taught, shown, and the military takes every opportunity to depict a strict and rigid code of conduct and honor. Yet, in the very institution itself, an officer cannot hope to achieve a rank or status if he was to actually adhere to that code and image the American Navy works so hard to sell. Knowing this, is it really any wonder that the Navy is as poorly trained and prepared for war at sea as is illustrated in the book? Most officers of any distinguishing rank have already been lying, falsifying, and putting all of their effort into convincing the world at large that the American Navy is the best in the world instead of actually endeavoring to make it so.
No matter how well funded and well equipped a Navy is, it is only as good as its people. Poor standards and training is the reason wars are either won or lost. This point is detailed in the book when, with testimony from both American and Japanese officers, the battle at Midway, among others, was won simply because the Japanese officers did not capitalize on their opportunities and did not engage the Americans to the best of their ability. It is hard to believe that the American forces have grown any more adept since then with the way enlisted sailors are treated, educated and are recruited. Low education standards, poor quality of life, and training programs that never see any scrutiny all prevent the American Navy from being the best in the world, a claim which it makes at every opportunity.
American pride is famous throughout the world and history and it can often be detrimental to a country’s image as any one who has traveled to any other part of the world can attest to. Assuming that the promotion system were changed, the largest barrier stopping the American Navy from actually living up to the reputation it works so hard to generate is its pride. There is no other explanation for the refusal to admit that there are problems, to learn from other countries, to build submarines that are non-nuclear, and to fix and cheat at war and naval exercises. It seems that the Navy, once making a decision, never admits it being a mistake or, in addition, every even changing it. Aircraft carriers are given as an example in the book – despite having been proven time and time again in exercises that these carriers do not function to their best capabilities without other escorts and other vehicles used in consort the Navy still pumps most of its funding into them. In addition, their pride prevents them from learning from the practices of the other navies of the world despite having to learn the lesson during previous wartimes and, in particular, having to do with submarines. Exercises are not available to most and impossible to critical over if the American Navy is involved, the Navy rarely admits to a mistake or changes because of one and even goes to far as to falsify and strong-arm reports that cast it in a less-than-pleasant light.
All these problems are tied together of course; at the heart of it all is the pride that has gotten the United States of America into hot water in international affairs. Having traveled and lived in America itself for a short, as well as having traveled to South America, Europe, Japan, China, and South Korea, I can confidently say that a vast portion of the world has strong feelings accrued for American pride already. The larger issue is that other countries rely on America for support, aid and its military power on a global scale. Living in South Korea at present, a country that relies on America for military aid and support, I find it extremely disconcerting that the American Navy is actually poorly equipped, inadequately trained, and deceitful. In an age where antisubmarine can mean the difference between life and death, I can only hope that the American Navy will actually heed the advice presented in this book. There is a large responsibility on the United States, being the superpower that it is, to live up to the standards it has set for itself. It seems all of its issues stem from this underlying cause and, once cured, many solutions would be naturally implemented.