Terrorists, Racial Diversity Threaten U.S. Aircraft Carriers? (Updated)


Categorie: Bombs, David Axe, Naval |
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U.S. Navy aircraft carrier crew. Navy photo.


For 60 years the U.S. Navy has been organized around its force of large, heavily-protected aircraft carriers, each deploying more combat power than most whole nations can muster.  “Carrier proponents … seem to accept on faith alone the premise that a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is essentially invulnerable,” Commander John Patch writes in the current issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings. “The truth is, a deployed aircraft carrier is more vulnerable to mission kill than is commonly believed.”

“Mission kill” means knocking a carrier out of action, rather than sinking it. So what are our carriers’ greatest weaknesses? Patch sketches a range of threats, from explosives-laden small boats to cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. He particularly emphasizes the danger posed by crafty, bloody-minded extremists. For one, “carrier crew size and diversity would likely allow unfettered access to clandestine infiltrators of almost any ethnicity,” Patch writes.

In other words, because there are so many people on carriers — up to 5,000 — some of them are bound to be brown-skinned. And the presence of brown-skinned sailors could make it easier for Islamic terrorists to sneak on board and sabotage the ship.

So how would one defend against such infiltration? Patch doesn’t say, but the implication, however indirect, is clear: fewer non-white sailors would help. In implying, even vaguely, that racial integration has weakened the carrier force, Patch plays into a sea swell of race anxiety in the Navy that outsiders rarely observe. Many in the Navy are unhappy with what they see as affirmative action gone out of control, to the detriment of our national security. “What core competency of the Navy is a diverse Navy supposed to represent?” blogger CDR Salamander asked.

Well, innovation, for one. “Recognizing the unique potential everyone adds in cultural background, gender, age, and ethnic diversity provides the foundation for creative interaction and healthy debate in our workforce,” said Dr. Walter Jones from the Office of Naval Research.

“Presuming carrier invulnerability is dangerous,” Patch contends. Sure, but presuming that a racially diverse Navy contributes to our carriers’ vulnerability is arguably more dangerous, as that threatens the vibrant, integrated society at the foundation of our highly capable armed forces.

But never mind all that. In fact, Patch’s entire premise is illogical. Most of the potential attacks he highlights aim for a carrier mission-kill, rather than a “hard kill” that might sink the ship and claim thousands of lives. And for good reason. Sinking a carrier makes sense from a terrorists’ point of view, as it would be catastrophic, bloody and symbolic, like the USS Cole attack times a hundred. But carriers are heavily armored and compartmentalized. It would take a very, very big bomb for a terror attack to sink a flattop, making any attempted hard-kill logistically improbable.

But a terrorist mission-kill, however possible, is pointless — for it’s strictly a tactical victory. In the absence of many hundreds of dead Americans and the resulting propaganda coup, what does a terrorist have to gain from knocking a carrier out of action for a few days or weeks? Carriers are an extremely minor threat to terror groups; disabling a carrier would not make terrorists any more secure in their bases, nor advance their causes. Better to invest your time and bomb-making materials in attacking a crowded public market in a U.S.-occupied country where you might exacerbate ethnic and religious schisms. That, at least, could help undermine some U.S.-backed government.

Carriers are unlikely terror targets because they’re too tough for spectacular damage and too irrelevant from a terrorist’s operational perspective. Really, the question of carrier vulnerability is not worth feeding the sea service’s tragic undercurrent of racial fear.

Update, 1/13/10: CDR Salamander writes in with this clarification:

I appreciate the mention at your site and all, but my stand is nowhere even close to what Patch may or may not have been going for.  As a matter of fact, my take is almost 180 degrees out. I don’t care what race, creed, color, religion, or national origin anyone I am working for/with is.  Heck, I spent the better part of two decades putting my life in the hands of about every DNA mix and confession you can name — most of the time in the Navy you can never tell anyway.  I just don’t care. All I want is for them to be the very best qualified in the position they hold.  Operating a nuclear reactor, flying helo or inspecting a recent repair below the waterline — I just don’t care.

Some people though are more concerned about where a person’s DNA comes from more than they are about their qualifications, character, and performance.  That is what I oppose.

21 Responses to “Terrorists, Racial Diversity Threaten U.S. Aircraft Carriers? (Updated)”

  1. Graphomaniac! says:

    Excellent post, David. Spot on everything you wrote. For every Maj. Nidal Hasan, there’s tens of thousands of servicemen and women who, hey, also aren’t white and happen to be just as dedicated, professional and devoted. More directly to the article’s argument, the idea that potential infiltrators are aided by the multi-ethnic nature of many Western militaries is a joke. I wonder how Mr Patch would treat a similar hypothetical involving Asian combatants, or a US-European hypothetical. Is the article unflinchingly honest? Perhaps. A well-thought-out bit of analysis? No.

  2. M. Bouffant says:

    Well, it’s good to see that the Navy is still the most traditional & hide-bound of the services. At least some things never change.

  3. heg says:

    To ignore the obvious is a dangerous game. I don’t believe the commander was suggesting an “all white” navy as you suggest, only that the threat exists and additional precautions should be taken.

  4. Graphomaniac! says:

    I still don’t think Patch made the links between an ethnically-diverse crew and an increased threat from infiltrators solid enough.

    Bouffant: http://news.soc.mil/Memorial%20Wall/Bios/5th%20SFG_Taha_bio1.pdf

    Get over it.

  5. Steven Zoraster says:

    “Carriers are unlikely terror targets because they’re too tough for spectacular damage and too irrelevant from a terrorist’s operational perspective.”

    An attack on a US warship by a successful infiltrator, even if it is only one guy with a pistol, would be portrayed as a massive success by our enemies. The propaganda effect would be large. And, in fact, it would create mistrust among sailors that would damage shipboard morale. Small, but real, so worth our side worrying about. Definitely the kind of thing terrorists are thinking about, among hundreds of other ideas that they have on their minds.

    The mindset of our military and civilian leaders should be that there will be more successful attacks, so how best to respond to them with propoganda and action. And how best to prepare the American people.

  6. Daniel says:

    “What core competency of the Navy is a diverse Navy supposed to represent?” blogger CDR Salamander asked.

    Maybe CDR Salamander should wake up and stop living in the 50s. Only 68% of Americans were non-hispanic caucasians in 2006. Non-hispanic caucasians are expected to be a plurality, rather than a majority by 2030.

    So unless the Navy plans to continue recruiting from a shrinking population base, I’d say ethnic diversity serves ALL the major competencies.

  7. Matt says:

    Why does CDR Salamander keep referring to minorities as one people? Its clear that hes writing about blacks in comparison to whites.

  8. NickP says:

    Can anyone imagine what World War Two would have looked like with this level of paranoid precautions in place? When did we decided that in a war we should be certain that every possible risk to the lives of our troops must be rectified even if it removes all our war fighting capabilities? How would we have won WWII if we decided that because of Kamikaze’s we were no longer going to deploy our carrier fleet into the Pacific.

    Yes carriers like everything else in the world is at risk of a terrorist attack, but every single sailor on board should know those risks before they ever sign on the dotted line at the recruiters office. The US military can not fight one of the worlds most agile and elusive villainous groups in a suite of armor so thickly plated as to render it immobile. I’m all for MRAPS and better body armor but we have to remember that at some point to kill the enemy were going to have to put our men and women in harms way.

  9. sid says:

    “Maybe CDR Salamander should wake up and stop living in the 50s. Only 68% of Americans were non-hispanic caucasians in 2006.”

    You are ignoring the fundamental point of CDR Salamander’s argument. Regardless of skin color -or what artificial ethnicity boxes one may check on forms- we should consider ourselves all Americans.

    In that vein, recruitment and promotion, especially in a military engaged in waging war, should focus on competence instead of garnering photogenic rainbow photops.

  10. AW1 Tim says:

    CDR Salamander’s comments have been taken completely out of context in this article, and obviously to support a bone-headed theory that forced diversity is good.

    Diversity, as currently practiced by the bullies from Millington, is a detriment to the Navy, and to America;s national defense. It forces the fleet to accept individuals BECAUSE of their ethnicity or gender, rather than recruit the BEST and BRIGHTEST without regard to ethnicity, gender, or any other factor.

    Politicians, for some time now, have been using the Navy as a petri dish for their social experiments, and it has had an overall negative effect on training and mission readiness. because of the demands for compliance, and the resulting paperwork, seminars and added workload, mission-based training has been reduced, and our fleet left less prepared to accomplish it’s primary tasks.

    Understand this: No one that I served with, or that I know still in the Navy gives a rat’s patoot about what color someone’s skin is, or what kind of accent they have. They care, as I did, about one thing only, and that is the dedication and competency of their shipmates and themselves.

    When diversity is FORCED upon an organization through quotas and relaxing of standards, (and that is EXACTLY how it is being accomplished, both in the fleet and at Annapolis) then it undercuts morale because folks begin to wonder if Ensign “X” got his commission through competence or skin color. Same with Seaman “W”. Did she get in because they Navy needed more females or because she was the best and brightest available?

    The subject of diversity is a fine thing to discuss, but the discussion must also make it clear that there is a world of difference between a military force and a civilian workplace. In the former, you risk not only your own life, but those of others, and those of civilians if you really mess it up.

    When I look at the Navy, I don’t want to see a rainbow. I want to see haze gray hulls bristling with weapons and a well-trained and better-led crew willing and able to use it anytime, anyplace, anywhere.


  11. FireSupport says:

    Dr. Walter Jones’s point is a falsehood. Diversity as a natural process for selecting and retaining the highest quality personnel leads to innovative thinking, etc. Diversity (discrimination based on skin color or ethnicity) for its own sake has the opposite effect. Taking and retaining less-qualified personnel to maintain a racial quota is an unfair, unwise, and patently illegal, by the way.

    The issue with Major Hasan is WHY he was not culled out based on his conduct and fitness. And Salamander and many others point to what is the increasingly obvious reason.


    However, I did shake my head at Patch’s point re: on-board terror threats. What if we had to fight the Chinese? We leave all the oriental sailors pierside?

  12. sid says:

    That spotlights the evil of “Diversity” as currently practiced…

    Its not about achieving a sense of assimilation (like the South LA Latino and the Nordic “Aryan” managed in Generation Kill); its about a continual celebration of cultural and genetic differences.

    Apart from funneling money and power into the hands of a few folks whose day job is to perpetuate the myth perpetual vicitmhood, the only other big result I’ve seen has been several score wounded and killed by a commissioned officer on a military base in the heart of the country.

    I, for one, would have no desire to spend quality time on a lifeboat with a bunch of folks centered on their differences….

  13. Moose says:

    Guys, listen to yourselves for a second. You’re saying that it’s impossible to maintain fleet diversity to a set standard because it will REQUIRE the recruitment and retention of under-qualified personnel. So, despite the fact that the diversity goals of the Navy are are far below the actual diversity of the US population, you’re saying it’s impossible to find enough minorities to competently fill those billets. I suppose the Navy never recruited under-qualified, and retained underachievers, before there were diversity goals.

    Great article as always, Axe.

  14. sid says:

    “Guys, listen to yourselves for a second. You’re saying that it’s impossible to maintain fleet diversity to a set standard because it will REQUIRE the recruitment and retention of under-qualified personnel.”

    No moose. You are twisting the argument with the implicit ASSumption that the vast prponderance of “minorities” are un/under qualified to serve.

    Bravo Sierra.

  15. sid says:

    “You’re saying that it’s impossible to maintain fleet diversity to a set standard because it will REQUIRE the recruitment and retention of under-qualified personnel.”

    Moose…As I am in reality half black…but my birth certificate pegged me as Caucasian…would/should I merit special consideration in hiring and promotion simply because of the melanin content of my skin?

  16. AW1 Tim says:


    As pointed out above, you are missing the point. I don’t care if we have an all-Black Navy, or a half-Hispanic Navy, or whatever. Skin color should have zero influence on whether or not you are recruited. Diversity, as practiced by the US Navy Diversity Command, is racism brought to it’s logical conclusion. It’s blatantly illegal, and detrimental to the Navy’s warfighting mission.

    There is only one color in the US Navy: Haze Grey. There is only one race: Human.

    We need to recruit the BEST and BRIGHTEST from amongst our citizens. If someone can pass the mental, emotional and physical requirements for enlistment, then that should be all we require. Race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or any of the other artificial designators should have no bearing whatsoever upon your enlistment.


  17. David,
    Naughty naughty. I cover Diversity a lot in the Navy – but it has nothing to do with the argument Patch may or may not be making.

    To boil it down – I love the fact that the Navy I love has everyone from every DNA group and mix of them – reminds me of my hometown. What I object to is an official policy of sectarianism and discrimination based on race, creed, color and national origin that is being pushed by the Diversity Industry. That is my argument. I love diversity – and live it every day – however – I detest the fetid cancer of Diversity as sold by the Diversity Industry. Huge difference.

    Oh and Matt, read my stuff again.

  18. ajay says:

    Q: how many US warships (or British warships, for that matter) were lost in WW2 because they had been infiltrated by ethnically similar German saboteurs? I’m guessing “none”.

    (“Nimitz? Ain’t that a German name?”

  19. sid says:

    Glad you brought up the Germans in WWII….

    But you neglect to bring up the experience of the German Americans in WWI.

    Nor do you bring up what happened to the Japanese Americans in WWII.

    In both those cases though, it was a fuller assimilation into the larger society that salved the wounds.

    The Diversity Business …and that what it is… is predicated upon keeping divisiveness alive instead.

    Thats how they make their money.

  20. John Cheese says:

    During the Cold War the U.S. effectively nullified the threat of East Bloc naval infiltration by relying on African-American sailors on all but one randomly selected carrier. However, in one incident three Cubans managed to infiltrate a ship in 1979.

  21. John Patch says:

    John Patch here. I am disturbed folks would think I implied we should avoid diversity. I was simply suggesting that terrorists could conduct a false flag infiltration in Navy uniforms and could do so without worrying about standing out. Solutions might include ID badges for crew with proximity chips for access to more sensitive areas. We could not conduct a similar asymmetric false flag infiltraiton on a PLAN warship. JPP

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