cover image Oceans Ventured: Winning the Cold War at Sea

Oceans Ventured: Winning the Cold War at Sea

John F. Lehman. Norton, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-25425-9

In this incisive political and strategic analysis, Lehman, secretary of the Navy from 1981 to 1987, describes the “naval rearmament and maritime superiority” strategy that he argues decided the Cold War. By 1980, Lehman writes, the U.S.S.R. had mounted a comprehensive challenge to American naval supremacy—a challenge unmet by Jimmy Carter’s policy of substituting “soft power and diplomacy” for armed force. Incoming president Ronald Reagan, determined to counter the Soviet initiative, began a massive new exercise, Ocean Venture, involving forward operations in the Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic, to send a message of deterrence. The Soviet government perceived the exercise as a threat and responded with its own programs of modernization, maneuvers, and “surveillance and harassment.” But economic difficulties rendered the Soviet Union unable to close the “significant” and “widening” technological and operational gaps with a revitalized U.S. Navy. After 1983, Lehmann asserts, America’s maritime strategy spurred the Soviet Union into military overextension—contributing to the regime’s collapse—without a shot fired. Lehman makes a difficult-to-ignore case for sea power’s potential to “prevent having to go to war at all.” This well-argued work will have significant appeal for those interested in national security issues. [em](June) [/em]