Amid the current War of 1812 bicentennial fanfare, it’s instructive to remember the cold water that Theodore Roosevelt and Alfred Thayer Mahan splashed on the triumphalist view of the conflict.
Sea power demands constant cultural upkeep. In a democratic country, the people must approve of expensive assets like navies. Not just seafarers but the government and larger society must embrace the idea that sea power is indivisible from national purposes. For a culture to exhibit staying power, that idea must be a matter of course for political leaders, institutions, and the man on the street. If it is not embedded in their basic assumptions, apathy and neglect—the enemies of maritime endeavors—take hold. Sea power withers when citizens come to view the Sea Services as a wasting asset, a luxury that consumes taxpayer resources while providing scant return on investment.