Mitt Romney Likes to Play with Toy Soldiers and Sailors

So Mitt Romney complains that the US Navy has fewer ships than it did in 1917 — true, but utterly irrelevant and deceptive.

Did you know that we have a weaker cavalry than we did in 1917, too?  I’m shocked.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

17 thoughts on “Mitt Romney Likes to Play with Toy Soldiers and Sailors”

      1. Speaking of zeppelins — hey, Keith, have you seen “Hell’s Angels?” I really really loved it. I thought it was beautiful. And I’d never heard of it, and only went because it was part of a Jean Harlow series (she’s in for about 10 minutes). Am I high, or is it a really hauntingly poetic movie? Fiercely anti-war, as well.

  1. This whole line of argument has been wholly absurd on many levels:
    1) As noted, the US Navy of 1917 is not comparable to the US Navy of 2011 qualitatively. I don’t know about the total manpower or tonnage, but how much of the 1917 fleet would you balance against a modern nuclear-powered 1,000 foot 100,000 ton aircraft carrier carrying 4,500 sailors and marines (the easy comparison I know offhand, from reading about the Dardanelles campaign a decade or two ago, is that a British WWI battleship carried 600 men)? And what scale would you use? Certainly, a single 2011 aircraft carrier is far more of a force than our entire navy in 1917. And a single missile sub is more of a strategic threat than the entire 1917 navy.
    2) 1917 is not comparable to 2011: then, the British had the largest and most powerful navy in the world; I don’t know offhand whether we were second, third, fourth, or even fifth. Now, our navy is equal in tonnage to the next thirteen navies combined.
    3) Arguably, ours is not only the overwhelmingly dominant navy, it’s the only navy, in the sense of a strategically useful global navy that people a generation or two ago would recognize. We have the only large aircraft carriers, with our allies Britain and France operating smaller ones. China and India are developing one apiece; we have eleven. Basically, everyone else’s navy is there to provide coastal defense and to regulate and/or harass commerce (submarines), and to provide strategic deterrence (missile subs).
    4) There’s a real question about whether our navy is even useful in an age of wave-skimming cruise missiles, silent submarines, and suicide bombers in small, fast boats. If Iran closes the straits of Hormuz, they’ll do it using land-based missiles, submarines, and tiny speedboats, not using naval tonnage. And we’ll fight it with planes flown out of Qatar as much as we will by exposing incalculably expensive aircraft carriers to risk.

  2. If you shudder at the state of our cavalry today, you don’t even want to think of how few miles of telegraph wire our military has at its disposal today compared with what it had when Benjamin Harrison was in the White House! Barack Obama’s indifference to these deficiencies ought to get him impeached.

    1. And our once-proud Semaphore-based early warning network is in a shocking state, leaving us utterly defenseless.

    2. Let’s not go too far though. I think we should keep some of that manual stuff around. Aren’t we having a solar flare or what-all? I like to have backup.

  3. I think Ft Hood had one troop of cavalry when my dad was stationed there. I was a cavalry base as in helicopters and armor.

      1. I have a friend who was in the Life Guards–yeah, those guys on horse, with the shiny stuff–and if he is a representative example of the regiment, we’d be well advised to not make jokes about them. They’re tough, and those horses are mighty effective in crowds. Joint Chiefs: Ignore Captain Jinks’s outfit at your peril!

        And while we’re at it, might want to shop around for some vessels that can fire a proper broadside. The best we can muster is Constitution, 44 guns–although we can count ourselves lucky compared to the Royal Navy, whose only remaining ship of the line isn’t going _anywhere_.

  4. IMHO there is a good argument to be made that the US should maintain a strong navy (possibly larger than today’s, in terms of being able to actually fight pirates off the Horn of Africa and similar missions) and massively cut its Army and overseas bases.

    I doubt, however, that Mr. Romney is making that argument.


    1. But how can we maintain a strong navy when it doesn’t even have as many coal shovels as it had during the Great War?

  5. The average number of wings per military aircraft has fallen by half since 1917. Skills are a disgrace: find me a single army private who can wind puttees respectably.

  6. I think the true crime is that people fail to appreciate how many Obama-created bureaucratic hoops a sodier has to jump through in order to get one, well-crafted gladius these days.

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