Lawyers, Guns, and Money has been on a roll lately, and their recent posts posts about the battle of Jutland are no exception. (Click here, here, and here for the first three in this series.)
Aside from being just plain good reading, it's also worth remembering Jutland in light of current events. Two decades after Jutland, this kind of battle was already largely obsolete. By World War II, the submarine and the airplane both made clashes between surface fleets the exception, not the rule. The Kriegsmarine's menacing battleships, such as the Bismarck (pictured here) turned out to be effective raiders on Allied shipping, not instruments of sea control. Even if the Nazis had built a larger surface fleet, the Allies likely would have used submarines and aircraft to hunt them down and kill them long before the German navy could force a Jutland-like decisive battle. That sort of asymmetric escalation would have proved far cheaper, more effective, and more obvious than a tit-for-tat construction of more British and American navy's battleships.
I'm sure you can see where I'm headed with this. It took only 26 years, between the battles of Jutland and Coral Sea (the first naval clash in which the ships never saw each other), to make the dreadnought, the battleship, and their kin obsolete. (Well, not exactly. They still played an important role in supporting amphibious landings at Normandy, Tarawa, and elsewhere.) If US conventional forces were rendered obsolete in most conflicts, such as the counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, how long would it take? And would we even recognize the moment of obsolescence when it arrived?
The Bismarck spent a great deal of time in port, including safe havens in the Norwegian fjords, from which it would occasionally sortie for a raid. How different is that picture from conventional American and Iraqi forces, sheltered in their bases, venturing forth only for the occasional raid or patrol?