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Investor's Business Daily
The Beast Lobby
October 15, 2003
Environmentalism: As it's done in the past, the military has surrendered to animal welfarists, this time agreeing to limit the Navy's use of a new sonar system.
The Navy says its new low-frequency active sonar, called the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System, is vital to national security. As submarines become quieter, the Navy needs it because its ability to detect them with old technology has become more difficult. And when the Navy can't "see" its enemy, that enemy has a greater chance to carry out lethal strikes.
The new system promises better vision. It lets the Navy detect quiet submarines and to do it while the enemy is at distances too far out to be a threat to the Navy's surface ships.
The enemy the Navy could see, though, is the one that got off the kill shot. Eco-activists, claiming that the new sonar harms marine life, have pressured the Navy, with the help of U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte, into agreeing to limit the use of the system. In a settlement reached last week, but not yet approved by Laporte, the Navy will test the system only in some areas off of East Asia.
The Navy is free to use the system in times of war. But without adequate testing and training, its effectiveness could be compromised.
That doesn't seem to matter to environmental groups, which believe - or at least claim - that the system hurts marine life. Just how, they're not exactly sure.
Maybe the low-frequency sonar waves disorient whales and dolphins, causing them to surface too quickly and die from the bends, a condition brought on by nitrogen bubbles that form in the blood during rapid decompression.
Or the sonar waves actually excite compressed nitrogen in tissues and turn it into gas that expands and kills the animals.
Research conducted by independent marine biologists found that risk of injury is confined to small areas near the vessels that emit the sonar. Yet the military caved in. And it wasn't the first time.
At Camp Pendleton in Southern California, Marines training for amphibious assaults hit the beach, then board a bus that takes them elsewhere on the base where they finish the assault. They dare not upset the gnatcatcher, a small gray songbird.
Other parts of Camp Pendleton are off-limits because of the presence of the endangered tidewater goby, the microscopic fairy shrimp and rare plants. In Texas, 200,000 acres of training grounds in Fort Hood cannot be used because of the presence of a couple of endangered species.
Then there was the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, where pilots trained by dropping live bombs; it was closed partly because of environmental concerns. It's just part of what seems to have become routine to yield to radical elements rather than counter them by pointing out what is so obviously sensible.