Checkpoint Asia

Hormuz Tanker War Lays Bare the Limits of US Power

The US doesn't want to be anywhere near the Hormuz kill zone, doesn't have the ships if it did, and can't find allies to do it instead

Consider this news from last week:

US Finds Allies Resistant to Call for Persian Gulf Fleet

With Germany having formally ruled out joining a US-led naval operation in the Persian Gulf, the Trump Administration is continuing to find little interest in the plan, with few nations seeing the merits of the idea, and many seeing getting involved as potentially making matters worse.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Michael Gilday, who is nominated to be the top admiral in the Navy, said that the idea of the fleet is that the US would be in charge, and foreign ships would do 80% to 90% of the work for them. It’s understandable why that sounds good for the US, and also understandable why no one else wants to be involved.

Since then the UK — after failing to attract any EU states for its own fleet separate from the Americans — has reluctantly joined the US one.

No other powers have joined nor are any likely to.

Obviously that in itself already shows the limit of US diplomatic clout over its desired auxiliaries.

More than that why does the DoD ideally want foreigners to provide upwards of 80 percent of the ships?

The first reason is that the US Navy doesn’t have the ships. Between the ships on maintenance at home (which is more and more rarely accomplished on schedule) and the ships it has doing all kinds of other things all over the world it doesn’t have the forces it would need in the first place.

Secondly, what forces it could send into the Strait of Hormuz it is reluctant to do so because if the war Bolton and CENTCOM want breaks out a narrow strait lined with Iranian missiles (possibly augmented by Russian ones) that the Persians have been meticulously laying down for two decades is the worst place for a ship to be.

When that war comes you want to be on the high seas at least 300 kilometers from the Iranian shore, not a fish in a Pepsi can.