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Save the Theodore Roosevelt!

By Shlomo Maital

USS Theodore Roosevelt Aircraft Carrier

Many years ago, my son Ronen, then an officer and chief engineer on an Israeli missile boat, and I boarded an American Sea Stallion helicopter at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, and were ferried to the enormous American nuclear aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, anchored a few miles offshore. (The ship was far too big to enter Haifa Port).

This was made possible by my cousin Malcolm, then a nuclear sub commander. Thanks again, Mal!

Ronen and I were astounded.   Eleven decks, 5,000 sailors, nuclear engines meant it could stay on duty for many months, 80 jet aircraft launched from the upper deck, and the ability to launch and receive planes at the same time – and the capability, practiced frequently, of launching and recovering in the dark of night (not done by other nations).


Fast forward. COVID-19. A New York Times article reports: Captain of Aircraft Carrier Pleads for Help as Virus Cases Increase Onboard.     “We are not at war,” the captain of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”         

    The ship  was then in Guam. Hospital facilities there are very very limited.

   In a four-page letter dated Monday, first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday, Capt. Crozier laid out the dire situation unfolding aboard the warship, the Theodore Roosevelt, which has more than 4,000 crew members. He described what he said were the Navy’s failures to provide him with the proper resources to combat the virus by moving sailors off the vessel. “We are not at war,”  Captain Crozier wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

(The Acting Secretary of the Navy has responded that, well, nobody on the ship is really THAT ill… so —   suck it up, guys!)

“Thomas B. Modly, the acting Navy secretary, told CNN in an interview that the Navy was working to move sailors off the ship — but that there were not enough beds in Guam to accommodate the entire crew.”

“We’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create some tent-type facilities there,” Mr. Modly said. “We’re doing it in a very methodical way because it’s not the same as a cruise ship.”

Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. John C. Aquilino, said that “we’re welcoming feedback” regarding the requests outlined by Captain Crozier.   Admiral Aquilino said that crew members would be rotated off the carrier for testing and quarantine before returning aboard. The intent, he said, was to keep the ship ready to carry out its missions. He said that no crew members had been hospitalized thus far, but he declined to specify the number of infections.

“The problem aboard the Roosevelt highlights a central dilemma facing the military: Top officials, who have spent years placing readiness to fight the next war as a top priority, are now finding that maintaining that readiness during a pandemic can endanger the health, and even the lives, of service members. At the same time that Americans are being told to stay at home and practice “social distancing” in public, many service members are instead being told to continue doing their jobs.”

I find this episode infuriating! I’ve served in military reserves and trained hard. Be ready to fight, is the credo. True. But in times of pandemic plague?   Save lives. And soldiers’ lives matter too.

Anyone want to start a Twitter account, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Lives Matter?   Because they do.

Wake up, Defense Secretary Mark Ester. You can save the lives of the sailors on the Theodore Roosevelt. These young men and women, some only 19 years old, spend long months at sea, away from their families. In normal times they defend America, all over the world. But now? It is urgent, top priority, to save their lives.

So – do something! DO SOMETHING! If you do not, their lives are your responsibility. And there will be no forgiveness.

The March of Folly Never Ends: A $1.8 Trillion Travesty

By Shlomo  Maital   


 Barbara Tuchman’s book The March of Folly, about historical stupidity of leaders, starts at Troy and ends at Vietnam.  But the March continues, unabated, ever stronger.

   In 2012, according to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute,  the world spent about $1.8 trillion on weapons and defense spending.   Imagine what we could do with those resources, if the world declared peace instead of war? 

   According to TIME magazine, America’s new Ford class aircraft carriers cost $13.5 billion each!  They are outfitted with F-35 fighters, which each cost….$160 million! 

   And they are probably worthless.

     Because these carriers are built to stand against China.  China has DF-21D missiles that have a range of 1,500 km. and can easily sink a carrier.  So the carriers have to stand off China, out of range.  But that puts their F-35 aircraft out of range of China, because F-35 planes have a range of 1,100 kms. 

     So, where is the folly?   We are building very very expensive aircraft carriers, which have even more costly airplanes, that from the outset are of no use. 

     The March of Folly continues.

     And we are all culpable, because we all pay taxes, and support those leaders who see wisdom and caution in folly.   

How America Buried Its Future in Its Defense Budget

By Shlomo Maital

USS NEw Mexico

   In Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column, March 31, he writes about his cruise on the U.S.S. New Mexico, a modern nuclear attack submarine, underneath the Arctic ice cap.

   He describes: “Excellence…if anyone turns one knob the wrong way on the reactor or leaves a vent open, it can be death for everyone. …As one officer put it: ‘You become addicted to integrity’. There is zero tolerance for hiding any mistake. The sense of ownership and mutuality and accountability is palpable.”

   How many American companies would LOVE to be able to describe themselves as Friedman describes the U.S. Navy submariners? How many would LOVE to have world-class cutting-edge technology, like the U.S. Navy, far beyond that of other companies?   Why don’t they? Because the U.S. defense budget in 2014, despite cuts, will total $526.6 b., or 4 per cent of America’s GDP. This is fully one-third of all the world’s defense spending in 2014, or $1.538 trillion, up from $1.538 trillion in 2013, the first rise in global defense spending in a decade. America is burying its economy in those costly nuclear subs.  

   Years ago, I visited an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. 11 decks of amazing technology and 5,000 superbly trained 18-year old or 20-year-old sailors. Planes launched and retrieved, at night, in darkness, simultaneously. Microsoft, IBM, eat your heart out.

   America’s chief rival, China, spends only $132 b. a year on defense, or one-fourth that of America. And NATO? The 28 NATO nations have agreed they should spend 2 per cent of GDP on defense (half of America’s level), but none except the U.K. (2.4 per cent) actually do.  

   And Russia? Russia will boost its military spending by 44 per cent in the next three years, to fulfill Putin’s vision of a Great Russia (“bring back the U.S.S.R.!”).

   So to sum up: The world is again in an arms race, defense spending is rising, and we are wasting huge sums on things like nuclear subs. Europe, as always, is sheltering under America’s defense spending, and has nothing to face Russia with. America has sunk its economy in military technology, which despite myths does not translate into cool civilian technology, for the most part.

   * What purpose do those superb Navy subs and aircraft carriers serve, when the main threat to America is Taliban terror, al Qaida fighters armed with AK-47’s and home-made improvised explosive devices?  

   * Would the world be a better place if America’s economy were made stronger by diverting defense spending into infrastructure and civilian technology and education?

   * Should Europe quit sponging off America and spend to defend itself?

   * Is Russia again going to impoverish itself by putting billions into defense rather than rebuilding its flagging civilian economy, just as the U.S.S.R. did, fatally? Russia’s Siberia oil production is declining because Russia simply is not maintaining its oil infrastructure there – this, despite piles of cash in the bank. Simple incompetence.

   Stay tuned.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital