A naval or military service exists for the purpose of protecting the interests of the country concerned, and while its final worth will be measured by its performance in time of war, the greater part of its work is done in time of peace, and, on the theory that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, one of the great functions of a naval or military service is the preservation of peace.
This consideration affects particularly the naval service, in that in time of peace it is charged, in conjunction with the State Department, with the duty of protecting American interests in foreign countries.
The general policy of the United States in regard to the use of its naval forces in this connection seems to be covered by the following extracts from the Navy Regulations, 1913:
R. 1633. During a war between civilized nations with which the United States is at peace the commander-in-chief and all under his command shall observe the laws of neutrality and respect a lawful blockade, but at the same time make every possible effort that is consistent with the rules of international law to preserve and protect the lives and property of citizens of the United States wherever situated.
R. 1646. On occasions where injury to the United States or to citizens thereof is committed or threatened, in violation of the principles of international law or treaty rights, the commander-in-chief shall consult with the diplomatic representative or consul of the United States and take such steps as the gravity of the case demands, reporting immediately to the Secretary of the Navy all the facts. The responsibility for any action taken by a naval force, however, rests wholly upon the commanding officer thereof.
R. 1647. The use of force against a foreign and friendly state, or against anyone within the territories thereof, is illegal. The right of self-preservation, however, is a right which belongs to states as well as to individuals, and in the case of states it includes the protection of the state, its honor, and its possessions, and the lives and property of its citizens against arbitrary violence, actual or impending, whereby the state or its citizens may suffer irreparable injury. The conditions calling for the application of the right of self-preservation cannot be defined beforehand, but must be left to the sound judgment of responsible officers, who are to perform their duties in this respect with all possible care and forbearance. In no case shall force be exercised in time of peace otherwise than as an application of the right of self-preservation as above defined. It must be used only as a last resort, and then only to the extent which is absolutely necessary to accomplish the end required. It can never be exercised with a view to inflicting punishment for acts already committed.
R. 1648. Whenever, in the application of the above-mentioned principles, it shall become necessary to land an armed force in foreign territory on occasions of political disturbance where the local authorities are unable to give adequate protection to life and property, the assent of such authorities, or of some one of them, shall first be obtained, if it can be done without prejudice to the interests involved.
Stockton, in his Manual of International Law, page 143, states:
With respect to . . . . weak states with unstable governments, it at times occurs that citizens abroad must be protected at once, not by diplomatic representation; there is no time for that, but by the employment of naval force.
Under these circumstances whenever civil disturbances occur, it is usual for naval powers to send a naval force to the place of the trouble or threatened commotion for the purpose of affording protection or asylum to the citizens that may be there domiciled. In those cases the regulations of the navy already quoted must be followed so far as they can apply. The responsibility for any action taken by a naval force rests wholly upon the commanding officer thereof, after due consultation with the diplomatic or consular officer upon the spot.
At times the mere appearance of a naval force, accompanied by a firm attitude on the part of the officer in command, will prevent the resort to active measures. A display of force is sometimes ordered by Congress or by the President of the United States.
It happens at times that the commanding officer of a naval force is required by circumstances or request to protect the citizens of other countries than his own. Instances of this kind have occurred of late years, for example, in the protection afforded by British men-of-war in Alaska at the time of a threatened Indian uprising, and by our own vessels on the Isthmus of Panama and at Bluefields in Nicaragua.
As to the third class of governments, such as are ordinarily classed as semi-civilized or barbarous, intervention by force in behalf of citizens domiciled or sojourning there is a more common matter. In these countries the employment of naval forces is the principal means of such protection, added thereto at times by the landing of military detachments.
With the Monroe Doctrine a vital principle in the foreign relations of the United States, under which we view with suspicion, if we do not consider it an unfriendly act, any hint of European aggression toward any American government, our country must assume a certain responsibility for the acts of such republics, and, denying the right to those aggrieved, we must take upon our own shoulders the duty of safeguarding the interests of European countries. With the completion of the Panama Canal and with the increased commerce and foreign intercourse with the countries involved our responsibilities will be increased.
In conjunction with the State Department in time of peace the Navy Department is of necessity intrusted with the duty of protecting American interests in foreign countries, and, as a consequence, ships of the navy must be stationed so as to enable a naval vessel to reach any point of threatened disturbance at short notice.
Ships of the Naval Service, be they battleships, gunboats or transports, are much less restricted in their movements in foreign waters than would be the case with army transports on a similar mission, and the presence of the former will be taken as a matter of course, while army transports, with troops on board, would be barred or their presence considered as an unfriendly act, and in any event, would tend to defeat the very purpose for which sent. The mere presence of a small naval force may serve to gain the object sought or to preserve the peace, but, on the other hand, conditions may be such that a decided increase in the naval force will be required with the added possibility of more or less extended landing operations (Nicaragua, 1912), (Oriente Province, Cuba, 1912).
Any such reinforcement should be provided by the Naval Service, if for no other reasons than (a) that officers of the Naval Service of command rank are usually versed in international law and in diplomatic usages; (b) that, being first on the spot, they become thoroughly familiar with the conditions to be met, and if superseded by other officers of the same service the continuity of action will be preserved; and (c) that bringing into the matter forces of another department will result in delay, divided responsibility and in lack of harmonious action, and at the same time will tend to make a peaceful settlement more difficult and at an increased expense to the government.
That the employment of the naval forces alone for duty of this sort is in accordance with our policy and custom is shown by the statement of Secretary Cass in 1857:
Our naval officers have the right—it is their duty indeed—to employ the forces under their command not only in self-defense, but for the protection of our citizens when exposed to acts of lawless outrage, and this they have done, both in China and elsewhere, and will do again when necessary, but military expeditions in the Chinese country cannot be undertaken without the authority of the national legislature.
The use of marines as legation guards is based upon the same considerations; they are in foreign countries, the commander-in-chief of our naval forces in those waters is the one who would be called upon for relief in case of necessity, and being of the same service, the necessary unity of action is assured.
For these reasons it is believed that the wisest course for the Navy Department to adopt is one that will always permit that department to have at its disposal a force capable of initiating and carrying to a successful conclusion, short of war, in conjunction with the ships, any decision in regard to our foreign policy that the State and Navy Departments may consider essential for the United States to adopt.
By custom the Marine Corps has come to be considered, and, in view of its training with the navy, very properly so, as a body of troops available and suitable for immediate dispatch to those countries where conditions require a display of force, either as a caution or for the actual protection of American interests. Marines are part of the naval forces, and their employment in this manner (as an adjunct to the naval forces on the spot) is accomplished without the strained relations that would follow in case troops of the army were so employed, and at a much less expense than would be involved thereby.
Under normal conditions the distribution of the Marine Corps is about as follows:
(1) Sea service 22 per cent.
(2) Foreign service 11 per cent.
(3) 1Navy yards, naval prisons, Marine Corps posts 25 per cent.
(4) Special duty, band, recruiting, clerical 5 per cent.
(5) Recruit depots 10 per cent.
1Includes men sick in hospital, on furlough, in confinement, or about to be discharged.
This leaves a balance of about 2600 men (27 per cent), and from this number must be formed the advance base forces for each coast, and from these, reinforced by reducing the already too-small detachments at navy yards and by taking men from the recruit depots before their course of instruction is finished, must also be formed any expeditionary organization.
This number is all too small, particularly when it is considered that the desired efficiency of that part of an advance base force pertaining to the fixed defenses can be obtained only by constant drill and instruction with the material with which it is supplied.
Up to and including the present time all organizations assembled for advance base training have been included, by force of necessity, whenever the Marine Corps has been called upon to furnish an expeditionary force (seven times in a trifle over three years); while such service is of great value along certain lines, it cannot but interfere materially with its proper preparedness for war as part of the fleet. The reduction in the detachments at navy yards for expeditionary service always leaves the yards inadequately guarded, and in view of the time deemed necessary for training of recruits at naval training stations, the disadvantage of cutting off from one to eight weeks of the fifteen weeks course of instruction at Marine Corps recruit depots is apparent, yet under present conditions this must be done if the desired number of men is provided.
Actually and proportionately, the number of marines serving afloat is believed to be too small, the maximum number being about 2250 (22 per cent). As a comparison, in the British Navy about 11,500 marines (61 per cent) are understood to be serving afloat, and the scope of the duties of both officers and men is being increased constantly.
Service afloat on ships of the navy is absolutely essential for the efficiency of the Marine Corps as a branch of the Naval Service; if such service is discontinued or curtailed, the characteristics of the Marine Corps will change, and in a short time it will lose touch with naval conditions and the handiness under all conditions that can be gained by such service only, its mobility will be decreased, and eventually its existence as a naval adjunct will cease. Thereafter the navy will be compelled to rely in its landing operations on the complements of its ships, with all the attendant disadvantages and decrease in efficiency of the ships, or on strictly military forces, not trained for service with the navy, with the great disadvantage of delay and divided responsibility.
As a matter for future consideration it is suggested that the most satisfactory arrangement for the defense of permanent naval bases would be to place the entire defense thereof in the hands of the Naval Service.
The foregoing considerations can be amplified, but it is believed they show that the naval service needs for its own benefit and for the efficient performance of its duty, ashore and afloat, in peace or in war, an adequate Marine Corps, and by this is meant one of such strength as will enable it to perform all its duties as part of the naval establishment, and at the same time to provide expeditionary forces when needed without disrupting its service at navy yards and without interfering materially with the training necessary for its officers and men to carry out properly the duties assigned them as part of the naval establishment.