Friday, October 27, 2006

Tonkin II

Could happen. Commander Huber thinks about it:


Say you're in command of a U.S. Navy missile destroyer steaming in international waters off the coast of Iran or North Korea or wherever conducting blockade operations. Tensions between the U.S. and the target country are high. It's the middle of the night. You have no fixed wing or helicopter air cover. A group of three surface contacts in formation pop up on the edge of your radar horizon, coming from the direction of a known enemy port that harbors patrol boats and steaming straight toward you at flank speed. Given that innocent merchant ships don't leave port in formation at flank speed, you know these three ships have to be military patrol boats. Given the range of modern surface-to-surface weapons, you know you're already within range of theirs. You can also reasonably assume it's a given that they have you targeted; otherwise they wouldn't be steaming straight toward you at flank speed. And given the capabilities of modern surface-to-surface missiles versus your missile defense systems, it's a given that if they shoot off a volley of six or more missiles at your ship, one or more of them will hit it.

How long do you wait before you decide it's "necessary" to do it to them before they do it to you, and your ship, and the 200 plus members of your crew?

And what measure of "proportionality" does it take to do what's necessary short of whacking the patrol boats with your own surface-to-surface missiles?


And then you've got war with Iran.

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