Time Magazine: Scare-Mongers?

I haven't gotten my copy of Time magazine yet this week, but it looks like they're going back into the "write about stuff to try to scare people" mode. Their cover story this week is about "What War With Iran Would Look Like" -- there's a synopsis here, which contains these excerpts:
The first message was routine enough: a "Prepare to Deploy Order" sent through Naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two minehunters.
The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said be ready to move by October 1.
A deployment of minesweepers to the east coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed, but until now largely theoretical, prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran.
Whoa, scary! The article goes on to couple this "news" with a report that the CNO apparently ordered an updating of plans for the potential blockading of Iranian ports; this prompted an apparent denial from DoD that anything strange was happening, according to The Army Times (which still was able to get in a quote from a Democratic congressman about how scary the Administration is).

I don't know if the CNO ordered a routine review of war plans or not, so let's concentrate on the first item in the article: the "prepare to deploy" part. Interestingly, it mentions "two minesweepers and two minehunters" -- I wasn't sure there was that much of a difference between the two existing classes of Mine Countermeasures ships, but let's assume for the sake of argument the Time meant "Osprey-class MHC" for minesweeper and "Avenger-class MCM" for minehunters (although it could be vice versa). Time makes it seem like a big deal that we're sending minesweepers (or hunters) to the Gulf, without bring up one salient point: we already have 4 of them stationed there! Yes, that's right; we already have 2 Osprey-class MHCs (USS Cardinal and USS Raven) and two Avenger-class ships (USS Ardent and USS Dextrous) forward-deployed out of Bahrain.

OK, so we already have four minehunters there -- it still sounds scary to be doubling our force, you might say. It might be, if it wasn't for the fact that the two Osprey-class ships currently in Bahrain are being decommissioned in Dec. '06 and being transferred to Egypt. So, it looks like rather than doubling the force, we're just replacing the ones that are already there but leaving. Since all the Osprey-class ships are to be decommissioned by the end of 2008, I wouldn't be surprised if the two "minesweepers" that got prepare to deploy orders were the Cardinal and Raven, who are going to "deploy" to their new owners in Egypt -- which means we'd still just have four minesweepers in the Gulf.

And what about the cruiser and the submarine that were mentioned? Well, it turns out that Navy ships, especially since 9/11, do "surge deployments" all the time -- this search of Navy NewsStand returns almost 300 hits for surge deployments, including ones for USS Memphis, USS Columbia, and USS Louisville from this year.

Bottom line: This just isn't a big deal, no matter how much Time wants us to believe it is.