Strategy is difficult of definition; but though many definitions have been made, and though they do not agree together very well, yet all agree that strategy is concerned with the preparation of military f6rces for war and for operating them in war—while tactics is the immediate instrument for handling them in battle. Strategy thinks out a situation beforehand, and decides what preparations as to material, personnel, and operations should be made.
Many books have been written on strategy, meaning strategy as applied to armies, but very few books have been written on naval strategy. The obvious reasons are that armies in the past have been much larger and more important than navies; that naval men have only recently had the appliances on board ship for writing on an extensive scale; and that the nature of their occupation has been such that continuous application of the kind needed for thinking out principles and expounding them in books, has only recently been possible.
Most of the few existing books on naval strategy deal with it historically, by describing and explaining the naval campaigns of the past and such land campaigns as illustrate principles that apply to sea and land alike. Perhaps the best books are those of Darrieus and Mahan.
Until about 50 years ago, it was only by experience in actual war, supplemented by laborious study of the campaigns of the great commanders, and the reading of books on strategy which pointed out and expounded the principles involved in them, that one could arrive at any clear idea of strategy.
But wars have fortunately been so infrequent, the information about them has often been so conflicting, and so many results have been due to chance, that, in default of experience, the mere reading of books did not lead to very satisfactory results, except in the case of geniuses; and therefore war problems and war games were devised, in which the various factors, material and personnel, were represented, and made as true to life as possible.
The tactical games resulting, which naval strategists now play, employ models of the various craft used in war, such as battleships, submarines, etc., and are governed by rules that regulate the movements of those craft on a sort of big chess-board, several feet square, that represents an area of water several miles square. The strategic games and problems are based on principles similar to those on which the tactical games are based in the sense that actual operations are carried on in miniature; but naturally, the strategical operations cover several hundred miles, and sometimes thousands. The aim of both the tactical and the strategic games is to determine as closely as possible the laws that decide victory or defeat; and therefore, for any country, the material, personnel and operations it should employ. Naturally the results obtained are not quite so convincing as those of actual war or battle; but they are more convincing than can be attained in any other way, as yet devised, especially as many of the operations of the game board that turn out well in games are tried out afterwards by the fleet in peace maneuvers. War games and problems may be compared to the drawings that an architect makes of a house which someone wants to build; the plans and drawings are not so realistic as a real house, but they are better than anything else; and, like the war games, they can be altered and realtered until the best result seems to have been attained, considering the amount of money allowed, and other practical conditions.
The idea of devising war games and war problems seems to have originated with von Moltke; certainly the fact of doing it was by his direction. Shortly after he became chief of the general staff of the Prussian army in 1857, he set to work to carry out the ideas that he had had in mind for several years, while occupying minor posts, but which he had not had the power to enforce. It seems to have become clear to his mind that, if a chess player acquired skill, not only by playing actual games and by studying actual games played by makers, but also by working out hypothetical chess problems, it ought to be possible to devise a system whereby army officers could supplement their necessarily meager experience of actual war, and their necessarily limited opportunities for studying with full knowledge the actual campaigns of great strategists, by working out hypothetical tactical and strategic problems. Von Moltke succeeded in devising such a system and in putting it into successful operation. Hypothetical problems were prepared, in which enemy forces were confronted with each other under given circumstances of weather, terrain, and distances, each force with its objective known only to itself: for instance, you are in command of such and such a force at such and such a place; you have received orders to accomplish such and such a purpose; you receive information that the enemy, comprising such and such troops, was at a certain time at a certain place, and marching in a certain direction. What do you do?
Classes of army officers were formed, and compelled to work out the problems exactly as boys at school were compelled to work out problems in arithmetic. The skill of individual officers in solving the problems was noted and recorded; and the problems themselves, as time went on and experience was gained, were made more and more to conform to probable situations in future wars with Austria, France, and other countries, actual maps being used, and the exact nature and magnitude of every factor in each problem being precisely stated.
By such work, the pupils (officers) acquired the same kind of skill in solving strategic and tactical problems that a boy acquires in solving problems in arithmetic—a skill in handling the instruments employed. Now the skill acquired in solving any kind of problem, like the skill developed in any art such as baseball, fencing or piano playing, does not give a man skill merely in doing a thing identically like a thing he has done before: such a skill would be useless, for the reason that identical conditions almost never recur, and identical problems are never presented. Similar conditions often recur, however, and similar problems are often presented; and familiarity with any class of conditions or problems imparts skill in meeting any condition or any problem that comes within that class. If, for instance, a man memorizes the sums made by adding together any two of the digits, he is equipped to master any problem of addition; and if he will practice at adding numbers together, he will gradually acquire a certain ability of mind whereby he can add together a long row of figures placed in a sequence he never saw before, and having a sum he never attained before. Or a pianist, having acquired the mastery of the technique of the keyboard and the ability to read music, can sit down before a piano he never sat at before, and play off instantly a piece of music he never saw before.
Doubtless Moltke had ideas of this kind in mind when his plans for educating strategists and tacticians by problems on paper and by games were ridiculed by the unimaginative, and resisted by the indolent; and certainly no man was ever proved right gloriously than Moltke. In the war with Austria in 1866, the Prussian army crushed the Austrian at Sadowa in 19 days after the declaration of war. In the war with France in 1870, the Prussian army routed the French and received the surrender of Napoleon III in seven weeks and two days, not because of superior courage or experience in war, but by more scientific strategy. As Henderson says: "Even the French generals of divisions and brigades had had more actual experience (in war) than those who led the German Army Corps. Compared with the German rank and file, a great part of their non-commissioned officers and men were veterans, and veterans who had seen much service. Their chief officers were practically familiar with the methods of moving, supplying and maneuvering large masses of troops; their marshals were valiant and successful soldiers. And yet the history of modern warfare records no defeats so swift and complete as those of Koniggratz and Sedan. The great host of Austria was shattered in seven weeks; the French Imperial Army was destroyed in seven weeks and three days; and to all intents and purposes the resistance they had offered was not much more effective than that of a respectable militia. But both the Austrian and the French armies were organized and trained under the old system. Courage, experience and professional pride they possessed in abundance. Man for man, in all virile qualities, neither officers nor men were inferior to their foes. But one thing their generals lacked, and that was education for war. Strategy was almost a sealed book to them." Also "Moltke committed no mistake. Long before war had been declared every possible precaution had been made. And these included much more than arrangements for rapid mobilization, the assembly of superior numbers completely organized, and the establishment of magazines. The enemy's numbers, armaments, readiness and efficiency had been submitted to a most searching examination. Every possible movement that might be made, however unlikely, had been foreseen; every possible danger that might arise, however remote, discussed and guarded against"; also, "That the Prussian system should be imitated, and her army deprived of its monopoly of high efficiency, was naturally inevitable. Every European state has to-day its college, its intelligence department, its schools of instruction and its course of field maneuvers and field firing."
Strategy may be divided into two parts, war strategy and preparation strategy; and of these two, preparation strategy is by far the more important.
War strategy deals with the laying out of plans of campaign after war has begun, and the handling of forces until they come into contact with the enemy, when tactics takes those forces in its charge. It deals with actual situations, arranges for the provisioning, fueling and moving of actual forces, contests the field against an actual enemy, the size and power of which are fairly well known—and the intentions of which are sometimes known and sometimes not. The work of the strategist in war is arduous, pressing, definite and exciting; and results are apt to follow decisions quickly. He plays the greatest and oldest game the world has ever known, with the most elaborate instruments, and for the largest stakes. In most wars, the antagonists have been so nearly equal in point of personnel and material that the result has seemed to be decided by the relative degrees of skill of the strategists on both sides. This has been the verdict of history; and victorious commanders in all times and in all lands have achieved rarer glories, and been crowned with higher honors, than any other men.
Preparation strategy deals with the laying out of plans for supposititious wars and the handling of supposititious forces against supposititious enemies; and arranges for the construction, equipment, mobilization, provisioning, fueling and moving of supposititious fleets and armies. War strategy is vivid, stimulating and resultful; preparation strategy is dull, plodding, and for the strategist himself—apparently resultless. Yet war strategy is merely the child of preparation strategy. The weapons that war strategy uses, preparation strategy put into its hands. The fundamental plans, the strength and composition of the forces, the training of officers and men, the collection of the necessary material of all kinds, the arrangements for supplies and munitions of all sorts—the very principles on which war strategy conducts its operations—are the fruit of the tedious work of preparation strategy. Alexander reaps the benefit of the obscure labors of his father, Philip; William is made German Emperor by the toils of Moltke.
The work of laying out a supposititious campaign, involving supposititious operations against a supposititious enemy, requires of the strategist a thorough estimate of the situation, including a careful estimate of the forces of the enemy, material and personnel, and of the strategy that will probably govern his operations—whether he will act on the defensive, or assume the offensive; if he is to act on the defensive, how and where will he base his forces, how far will he operate away from his own shores? And if he is to act on the offensive, what direction will his operations take; will he secure an advance base; and if so, where? And as the character of the enemy's operations will depend on the personnel of the enemy general staff and of the high commanders afloat, who comprise the personnel, and what are their characteristics?
To decide these questions correctly requires considerable acquaintance with the enemy country, its navy and its policy, a full knowledge of the strategy, personnel and material of that navy, and a sound conception of strategy itself. But to decide the questions correctly is essential, because the decision will form the basis of the future plans.
Naturally, as the plan is entirely supposititious and is to take effect at some indefinite time in the future, all the factors that will be in existence at that time cannot be foretold exactly, and therefore must be estimated. This will necessitate several alternate hypotheses; and a war plan including mobilization and operations must be made out, based on each hypothesis. For instance, on the hypothesis that the enemy will take the offensive, one set of plans will have to be prepared on the basis that we shall also take the offensive, and another on the basis that circumstances may be such at that time as to make it wise for us to resort to the defensive; while on the hypothesis that the enemy is to remain on the defensive, a set of plans very different from the other two as to both mobilization and operations must be devised.
Each set of the plans just suggested may also have to be divided into two or more parts. On the basis that the enemy will remain on the defensive, for instance, the circumstances when the hour for action comes, such as the fact of his being quite unprepared, may indicate the advisability of an attack on him as sudden as it can be made; while, on the other hand, circumstances such as the fact of his being thoroughly prepared may render it necessary for us to send a larger force than we could get ready quickly, especially if the enemy coast be far away, and may therefore indicate the advisability of deliberate movements, and even a protracted delay before starting.
But no matter what plan is to be followed, a detailed plan for every probable contingency must be prepared; and it must be elaborated in such detail that it can be put into operation instantly, when the fateful instant comes; because the enemy will put his plans into operation at the same time we do, and the one whose plans are executed first will take a long step towards victory.
Not only must the plans provide some means whereby the plans themselves shall get into full operation instantly when war breaks; other plans must also provide that all the acts which those plans contemplate must be performed. Not only must the plans provide that all the prearranged orders for putting the Kearsarge into full commission shall be instantly sent by mail, telegraph and telephone to the proper officials, but other plans must also provide means whereby the officers and men shall actually march on board the Kearsarge, her ensign and commission pennant be displayed, all the fuel, ammunition, provisions and equipment be on board; and the Kearsarge sail at once, and join the commander-in-chief at sea.
Doubtless the most complicated and comprehensive plans are those for sending a large expedition on an offensive mission to a far distant coast; especially if that coast be guarded by an efficient navy, if it have outlying islands that would afford good bases for her destroyers and submarines, and if there are not good harbors which our fleet could seize as advance bases, from which to prosecute its future operations. The complexity of the task of planning such an expedition, taking due account, but not exaggerated account, of all the factors, favorable and adverse, is appalling; but the task must be undertaken and accomplished. The most tedious part is the logistics—the arrangements for supplying the fleet on the way and in the distant theater of operations with the necessary provisions, equipment and ammunition and, above all, the fuel. The average super-dreadnought consumes about 460 tons of coal per day at full speed, and about 108 tons at to knots; and coal or other fuel for all the dreadnoughts, battle cruisers, cruisers of various classes, scouts, destroyers, submarines, ships, aircraft of different kinds, hospital ships, ammunition ships, transports, and the fuel ships themselves, must be provided by means that must not fail.
While the work of planning an offensive movement to a distant coast is the most tedious and complex, the work of planning a defensive measure against a sudden attack on the coast needs the most concentration of effort; for whatever the plans require to be done must be done at once. This necessitates that the orders to be issued must be as few as possible, that they be as concise and clear as possible, that the things to be done be as few and as simple as possible, and that all possible foresight be exercised to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding, or any necessity on the part of any one for requesting more instructions.
When the fateful instant comes, the final command to mobilize puts into execution whichever of the plans already made is to be followed; and for this reason it is clear that the various plans must be kept separate from each other, and each set of plans must include all the various orders that must be signed for carrying it into effect, including the particular word or phrase that directs the execution of that particular set of plans.
It is the story that the final order to the British Navy in the early part of August, 1914, was the word "Go." All the units went immediately, understandingly, unitedly; and the greatest machine the world has ever known was almost instantly in operation at full speed. No such stupendous feat, physically considered, had ever been done before. The mobilization of the Prussian Army in 1870 and of the German Army about August 1, 1914, were as great performances mentally and strategically, but not physically, by reason of the relative feebleness of the forces set in motion. This relative feebleness was due, of course, to the insignificance of muskets compared to navy guns, of railway trains compared to battleships, etc.—an insignificance far from being neutralized by the greater number of the units, for one 14-inch shell has an energy equal to that about 60,000 muskets, and no army contains anything approximating the powerfulness of a battleship.
Not only, however, must the strategist make plans in peace for preparations that culminate in mobilization, and simply ensure that the navy shall be ready in material and personnel when war breaks; he must also make plans for operating the navy strategically afterwards, along each of the various lines of direction that the war may take. In other words, the work of preparation strategy in making war plans may be divided into two parts—mobilization and operation.
The plans of mobilization deal naturally with all the activities concerned, material and personnel, and endeavor to arrange a passing from a state of peace to a state of war in the quickest possible time, and with the least chance of errors and omissions. A considerable degree of imagination is required, an almost infinite patience, and a perfect willingness to work indefinitely without any reasonable expectation of getting tangible results. A more hopeless task can hardly be given any man or body of men than that of working out plans, general and detailed, day after day, for contingencies that will probably never happen, and to guard against dangers that will probably never come; preparing tables, diagrams and schedules, which are almost certainly doomed to rest forever in the sepulchre of the confidential files.
Yet this work is basic. Perhaps it is for that reason that it is obscure and dull; basic work is apt to be so. The spectacular success of an individual in any walk of life is often but the crowning of the unrecognized, and often utterly unknown work—of other men.
Strategy is not a science only; it is an art as well; and although the art cannot be practiced in its perfection until after the science is well comprehended, yet the art of strategy was born before the science was. This is true of all those departments of man's activity that are divided into sciences and arts, such as music, surgery, government, navigation, gunnery, painting, sculpture, and the rest; because the fundamental facts—say of music—cannot even attract attention until some music has been produced by the art of some musician, crude though that art may be; and the art cannot advance very far until scientific methods have been applied, and the principles that govern the production of good music have been found. The unskilled navigators of the distant past pushed their frail craft only short distances from the land, guided by art and not by science; for no science of navigation then existed. But the knowledge gradually gained, passing first from adept to pupil by word of mouth, and afterwards recorded on the written and then the printed page, resulted first in the realization of the fact that various apparently unrelated phenomena were based on the same underlying principles; and resulted later in the perception, and still later the definite expression, of those underlying principles. Using these principles, the navigator expanded the limits of his art. Soon we see Columbus, superbly bold, crossing the unknown ocean; and Magellan piercing the southern tip of the American continent by the straits that now bear his name.
But of all the arts and sciences, the art and science that are the oldest and the most important; that have caused the greatest expenditure of labor, blood and money; that have been the immediate instruments of more changes and greater changes in the history of the world than any other, are the art and the science of strategy.
Until the time of Moltke the 'art of strategy, like most arts, was more in evidence than the science. In fact, science of any kind is a comparatively recent product, due largely to the more exact operations of the mind brought about by the birth of the science of measurement, and the ensuing birth and development of the mechanic arts. Before Moltke's time campaigns were won by wise preparation and skilful execution, as they are now; but the strategical skill was acquired by a general or admiral almost wholly by his own exertions in war, and by studying the campaigns of the great commanders, and reflecting upon them with an intensity that so embedded their lessons in his subjective mind that they became a part of him, and actions in conformity with those lessons became afterwards almost automatic. Alexander and Napoleon are perhaps the best illustrations of this passionate grasping of military principles; for though both had been educated from childhood in military matters, the science of strategy was almost non-existent in concrete form, and both men were far too young to have been able to devote much time or labor to it. But each was a genius of the highest type, and reached decisions at once immediate and wise, not by inspiration, but by mental efforts of a pertinacity and concentratedness impossible to ordinary men.
It was because von Moltke realized this, realized the folly of depending on ability to get geniuses on demand, and realized further the value of ascertaining the principles of strategy, and then expressing them so clearly that ordinary men could grasp and use them, that he conceived and carried into execution his plan; whereby not only actual battles could be analyzed, and the causes of victory and defeat in each battle laid bare to students, but also hypothetical wars and battles could be fought by means of problems given.
The first result of a course of study of such wars and battles, and practice with such problems, was a skill in decision a little like that developed in any competitive game, say tennis, whist, chess, poker, boxing, and the like—whereby any action of your adversary brings an instantaneous and almost automatic reply from you, that you could not have made so skilfully and quickly before you had practiced at the game; and yet the exact move of your adversary, under the same conditions, you had never seen before. Of course, this skill was a development, not of the science, but of the art, as mere skill always is; but as skill developed, the best methods for obtaining skill were noted; and the principles governing the attainment of success gradually unveiled themselves, and were formulated into a science.
Naturally, strategy is not an exact science like mathematics, physics or engineering—at least not now. Whether it ever will be cannot be foretold. The reason that strategy (like medicine and most other sciences concerning humari beings) is not an exact science is simply because it involves too many unknown quantities—quantities of which our knowledge is too vague to permit of our applying exact methods to them, in the way in which we apply exact methods to the comparatively well-known quantities and elements in the so-called "exact sciences." But a science may be a science even if it is not an exact science; we may know certain important principles sufficiently well to use them scientifically, even if we do not know them with sufficient exactness to permit us to use them as confidently as we should like. We may know, for instance, that it is folly to divide a military force in the presence of an active enemy into such small forces, and at such distances apart, as to let the enemy defeat each small force, one after the other, even if we do not know exactly how far it would be safe to separate two forces of a given size, in the presence of an enemy of a given power. It is well to know a fact in general terms, even if we do not know it in precise terms: it is well to know in general terms that we must not take prussic acid, even if we do not know exactly how much is needed to kill.
So the studies and problems instituted by von Moltke, and copied in all the armies and navies of the world, have brought about a science of strategy which is real, even though not exact, and which dwells in the mind of each trained strategist, as the high tribunal to which all his questions are referred and by whose decisions he is guided; just as the principles of medicine are the guide alike of the humblest and the most illustrious practitioner, wherever the beneficent art of medicine is practiced.
It is clear that, in order to be skilful in strategy (in fact, in any intellectual art), not only must a man have its scientific principles firmly imprinted on his mind, but he must make its practice so thoroughly familiar to his mental muscles that he can use strategy as a trained soldier uses his musket—automatically. Inasmuch as any man requires years of study and practice—say, of chess—in order to play chess well enough to compete successfully with professional chess players, it seems to follow that any man must require years of study and practice of the more complicated game of strategy, in order to play strategy well enough to compete successfully with professional strategists. The game of chess looks easy to a beginner; in fact, the kind of game that he thinks chess to be is easy. But after he has learned the moves, he finds the intricacies of the game developing more rapidly than he can master them, and discovers that chess is a game which some men spend their lifetimes studying. The full realization of this fact, however, does not come to him until after defeats by better players have forced into his consciousness the almost infinite number of combinations possible, the difficulty of deciding on the correct move at any juncture, and the consequences that follow after wrong moves.
So with strategy. The ease and certainty with which orders can be transmitted and received, the precision with which large forces can be quickly dispatched from place to place, and the tremendous power exertable by those forces, tend to blind the mind to the fact that transferring any force to any place is merely making a "move," and that the other player can make moves too. If a man were never to be pitted in strategy against another player, either in games or in actual war, the "infinite variety" of strategy would never be disclosed to his intelligence; and after learning how to make the moves, he might feel willing to tackle anyone. Illustrations of this tendency by people of great self-confidence are numerous in history, and have not been missing even in the present war, though none have been reported in this country as occurring on the Teuton side. There has always been a tendency on the part of a ruling class to seize opportunities for military glory, and the ambition has often been disproportioned to the accompanying ability and knowledge—sometimes on the part of a king, prince or man of high nobility, sometimes on the part of a minister, sometimes on the part of an army or navy man, who has been indebted to political or social influence for his place. But within the past so years, especially since the establishment of the general staff in Prussia and the studies of von Moltke, the overshadowing importance of strategy has been understood, the necessity of comprehending its, principles and practicing its technique has been appreciated, and attempts to practice strategy by persons inexpert in strategy have been deprecated.
The game of strategy, while resembling in many ways the game of chess, differs from it, of course, in the obvious element of personal danger. It also differs from it in an equally important but less obvious way—its relation to the instruments employed; for in chess those instruments (" pieces ") are of a number and character fixed by the rules of the game; whereas in strategy the number and character of the instruments (ships, etc.) employed are determined by strategy itself, assisted by engineering. Germany realizes this, and therefore has established and followed a system whereby the character of the various material and personnel units of the navy, and even the number of them (under the restrictions of the money allotted), are decided by a body of men who are highly trained in strategy and engineering.
There is an intimate connection between policy and strategy, and therefore between naval policy and naval strategy; and while it is difficult to draw the line exactly which separates policy and strategy, it may be said in general that policy is the concern of the government, and strategy is the concern of the navy and army, to be employed by them to carry out the policy.
As naval policy and naval strategy are so intimately connected in their essence, it is apparent that the naval policy of a country and its naval strategy should be intimately connected in fact; for the policy cannot be properly carried out if the strategy that tries to execute it is not good, or if the policy requires more naval force or skill than the navy can bring to bear; and the strategy cannot be good if it is called upon to execute a policy impossible to execute, or if the exact end in view of the policy is not distinctly known. Some of the greatest mistakes that have been made by governments have been made because of a lack of coordination between the government and its navy, so that the policy and the strategy could not work together. We see an illustration of this throughout the history of France, whose civil and naval authorities have not worked harmoniously together, whose naval strategy has apparently been opportunistic and short-sighted, and whose navy in consequence has not been so successful as the large sums of money spent upon it might lead one to expect.
Across the English Channel we see a totally different state of things. In Great Britain the development of the navy has been going on for more than 1200 years, ever since King Offa declared that "he would be secure at home must be supreme at sea." For about 800 years thereafter the development was carried on energetically, but in an opportunistic fashion, following the requirements of the hour. In 1632, however, the Board of Admiralty was established; and with occasional interruptions, especially prior to 1708, the board has continued in existence ever since. A coherent policy of development has thereby been assured, and a wisdom of strategy established which more than any other single factor has made Great Britain the mistress of the seas, and almost the mistress of the world.
The wisdom of her strategy has been due largely to the fact of the close touch maintained between the civil government, including Parliament, and the navy; for by its very constitution the Board of Admiralty includes some of the highest officers of Parliament, the Cabinet and the navy. Its presiding officer is a member of the Cabinet and also member of Parliament; four of the officers are naval officers, high in rank, character and attainments; and the Junior Civil Lord is a civilian versed in naval matters. All the orders for great movements of the fleets and ships are directed by this board and signed by its secretary, the board, by a fiction of the law, being considered an individual replacing the Lord High Admiral—which it did, in 1632. The board is supposed to meet every day with all the members present, the vote of each member carrying as much weight as that of any other member. Naturally, the First Lord of the Admiralty being a Cabinet officer and a member of Parliament, has a far greater influence on broad questions than any other one member; and the First Sea Lord being the person of the most experience in naval matters, has the most weight on strictly naval questions. Theoretically, however, neither of these gentlemen can carry a measure opposed to the others; and any member, even a junior, has equal opportunity with the others to bring up and discuss any question and to attempt to get its passage by the full board; but in 1869 the First Lord at that time, Mr. Childers, brought about a change whereby the First Lord was made personally responsible to the government. This vastly increased the power of the First Lord, relatively to the others.
Two other navies, the German and the Japanese, which with the British, are the most efficient navies in the world, have systems somewhat different from the British. In Germany and Japan the Emperor is the head of the navy, and there is no civilian between him and it. In Germany there is no Minister of Marine, unless the Emperor himself may be said to be the Minister, which he practically is; and the navy is divided in three parts, each under an admiral. The three parts are the general staff, which deals with war plans and fundamental questions; the naval cabinet, which deals with matters of personnel; and the administrative section, which has to do with questions of material, including money, and the getting of money from Parliament. In Japan the Minister of Marine is by law a naval officer, and under him is a Chief of Staff, also a naval officer. The Minister of Marine has the direction of the navy as a whole, but the ideas of the Chief of Staff are supposed to be carried out in matters that are strictly naval. The Japanese naval officer has a higher regard for the office of Chief of Staff than for that of Minister of Marine, because it is given for professional excellence only.
It might seem at first sight that in Germany and Japan there would be danger of a lack of coordination between the civil and the naval authorities, and a tendency for the navy to become unduly self-assertive. Of course, one reason why there is no such danger is that the governments of those countries are controlled by men who, though 'civilians, have great knowledge of international affairs, and of military and naval subjects; another reason is that the navy is so vital a matter, accurate knowledge about it is so general, and interest in it so widespread and intense, that there is no great gulf fixed between naval people and civilians. Still another reason is the fact that in each country the Emperor is trained in military and naval duties as well as in civil duties, and therefore can effect in his own person the coordination of the civil and the naval authority: that is, of policy and strategy.
Such automatic and complete coordination is desirable not only in preventing the unnatural barrier between the civil and the military authority which exists in some countries such as ours, but in lightening the labors and enlightening the deliberations of the strategists. If, for instance, a bold policy is to be enforced, and a large sum of money allotted for material and personnel, the strategists will be led to recommendations different from those to which they would be led if a cautious policy were to be pursued, and a small sum of money to be allotted.
Germany did not turn her eyes seriously towards the navy until the Emperor William II read Mahan's book, "The Influence of Sea Power upon History." Previous to that epochal event, Germany had relied on her army to protect her interests and enforce her rights, being led thereto by the facts of her history and the shortness of her coast line. But the strategically trained mind of William grasped at once the situation laid bare by Mahan; and his military training led him to quick decision and prompt action. The necessary machinery was soon set in motion, with the amazing result that in 20 years the German navy became the second in power and perhaps the first in efficiency in the world.
Was this feat accomplished by prodigal expenditures in building vessels and other material of all kinds, and enlisting and commissioning a large number of officers and men? No, the expense was less than that of building our navy, even if a liberal allowance be made for the relative cheapness of things in Germany; and the mere enlisting and commissioning of officers and men was the simplest part of the undertaking.
How was it accomplished? In the simplest way imaginable: by following Moltke's plan of solving hypothetical war problems, and adapting the military war game (kriegoiel) to naval forces; playing numberless war games, and deciding from those games the naval strategy best adapted to Germany's needs—not only in matters of general principle, not only as to tactics, training, education, cooperation with the army, and the size of fleet required to carry out the policy of the nation—but also as to the composition of the fleet, relative proportions of vessels of the various type, and the characteristics of each type. Nothing was left to chance; nothing was decided by guessing; no one man's dictum was accepted. The whole problem was attacked in its entirety, and a general solution found; and after this, the various divisions and subdivisions of the problem were attacked and solved, in obedience to the same principles, in accordance with the results obtained at kriegspiel.
If a very large and complicated engine of new pattern is to be built by any engineering company, no casting of the smallest kind is made until general plans have been outlined, detailed plans prepared from these, and then "working plans" made for the workmen. From the working plans, the workmen construct the various parts; sometimes in number several hundred. Finally, the whole intricate machine i§ put together, and the motive power applied. Then all the parts, great and small, begin their allotted tasks, each part perfectly adapted to its work, not too large and not too small; all working together in apparent confusion, but in obedience to law—fulfilling exactly the will of the designing engineer. So, the vast and new machine of the German Navy was designed in the drafting room of the kriegspiel; and though it has been gradually strengthened and enlarged since then, each strengthening piece and each addition has been designed in accordance with the original plan, and has therefore harmonized with the original machine. Thus the navy has expanded smoothly, symmetrically, purposefully. No other result was to be expected: the strategy having been correct, the result was correct also.
Perhaps one contributing factor to the success of the German Navy has been her staff of officers highly trained in strategy by kriegspiel, that ensures not only sound advice in general, but also ensures that at any time, night or day, a body of competent officers shall be ready at the Admiralty to decide what action should be taken, whenever any new situation is reported. This factor is most important; because in naval and military operations, even in time of peace, but especially in war, events follow each other so rapidly, and momentous crises develop so suddenly, that the demand for action that shall be both wise and instantaneous, is imperative. The chess player can linger long over his decisions, because his opponent cannot make his next move meanwhile; but in warfare no such rule or condition can exist. In war, time is as vital a factor as any other: and the strategist, who, like Napoleon, can think faster, and decide more quickly and accurately than his antagonist is, ceteris paribus, sure to win; and even if ceteris are not quite paribus, his superior quickness and correctness will overcome great handicaps in material and personnel; as the lives of all the great strategists in history, especially Alexander and Napoleon prove convincingly. To bring a preponderating force to bear at a given point ahead of the enemy—to move the maximum of force with the maximum of celerity—has always been the aim of strategy: and probably it always will be, for the science of strategy rests on principles, and principles never change.
Thus while we see in Great Britain's Navy an example of the effect of a strategy continuous and wise, conducted for three hundred years, we see in the Japanese and German navies equally good examples of a strategy equally wise, but of brief duration, which started with the example of the British Navy, and took advantage of it.
The German and Japanese navies did not follow the British Navy slavishly, however; for the national military character of their people required the introduction and control of more military and precise methods than those of the primarily sailor navy of Great Britain. We see, therefore, a curious similarity between the German and Japanese navies, and very clear evidence in each of the engrafting of purely military ideals on maritime ideas. And we see not only this, we see the reaction on the British Navy itself of the ideals of the German and the Japanese, and a decided change during the last ten years from the principles of "the blue water school"; as evidenced mainly by the institution of a Naval War College, including a War Staff, the employment at the Admiralty of general staff methods, though without the name; and the introduction into naval methods, especially naval gunnery, of mathematical procedures.
Previous to the Japanese-Russian War, ten years ago, the strategy of the British Navy may be characterized as physical rather than mental, depending on a superior number of ships and men; those ships and men being of a very high grade individually, and bound together by a discipline at once strict and sympathetic. All the personnel from the highest admiral to the humblest sailor prided themselves on being "British seamen," comrades of the sea, on whom their country placed her ultimate reliance. Maneuvers on a large scale were held, target practice was carried on with regularity—and navy ships carried the banner of St. George over every sea, and displayed it in every port. Tactics and seamanship filled the busy days with drills of many kinds; but strategy, though not quite forgotten, did not command so large a portion of the officers' time and study, as it did in Germany and Japan. The rapid success of the Germans and Japanese, however, in building up their navies, as instanced by the evident efficiency of the German fleet almost under the nose of England, and the triumph of the Japanese fleet in Tsushima Strait startled the British Navy out of her conservatism, and caused her to proceed at full speed towards the modernization of her strategy. With the quick decision followed by quick action, that characterizes the seaman everywhere, the British instituted a series of reforms, and prosecuted their efforts with such wisdom and such vigor, that, in the brief space of ten years, the British Navy has been almost revolutionized. As in all such movements, the principal delay was in bringing about the necessary mental changes; the mental changes having been accomplished, the material changes followed automatically.
The change whereby the German and Japanese navies became preceptors to their preceptor is like changes that occur in everyday life, and is one of many illustrations of how a young and vigorous individual or organization, endowed with proper energy and mentality, can appropriate whatever is valuable for its purposes from its elders, and reject whatever those elders have had fastened on them by circumstances or tradition; and develop a superior existence. It is a little like the advantage which a comparatively new city like Washington has over an old city like Boston, in being started after it was planned, instead of being started haphazard, without being planned at all.
The United States Navy was started not like the city of Washington, but like the city of Boston. It was modelled on the British Navy; but since the United States has never taken an interest in its navy at all comparable with that taken by Great Britain in its navy, and since our navy has been built up by successive impulses from Congress and not in accordance with a basic plan, the lack of harmoniousness among its various parts reminds one of Boston rather than of Washington. Due to the engineering and inventive genius of our people and the information we got from Europe, inferiority has not occurred in the units of the material: in fact, in some ways our material is perhaps the best of all. Neither has inferiority been evidenced in the personnel, as individuals; for the excellent physique and the mental alertness of the American have shown themselves in the navy as well as in other walks of life.
In strategy, however, it must be admitted that we have little reason to be proud. We do very well in the elementary parts of the naval profession. In navigation, seamanship, gunnery, and that part of international law that concerns the navy we are as good as any. But of the higher branches, especially of strategy, we have little clear conception. How can we have? Strategy is one of the most complex arts the world contains; the masters in that art have borne such names as Alexander, Caesar, Nelson and Napoleon. Naval strategy is naval chess, in which battleships and other craft take the place of queens and other pieces. But it is a more complicated game than chess, for the reason that not only are their more kinds of "pieces," but the element of time exerts a powerful influence in strategy while it does not even exist in chess. The time element has the effect not only of complicating every situation, but also of compelling intense concentration of mind, in order to make decisions quickly; and often it forces decisions without adequate time for consideration, under circumstances of the utmost excitement, discomfort and personal peril.
One dislikes intensely to criticize his own country, even to himself. But when a naval officer is studying—as he should continually do—what must be done, in order to protect his country from attack by some foreign foe, it would be criminal folly for him to estimate the situation otherwise than honestly: and to do this, it is necessary to try to see where his country is weak and where strong, relatively to the possible foes in question. If we do this, and compare the strategical methods employed by—say Germany and us, we are forced to admit that the German methods are better adapted to producing economically a navy fitted to contend successfully in war against an enemy. In Germany the development of the navy has been strictly along the lines of a method carefully devised beforehand: in our country no method whatever, is apparent; at least no logical method. Congress, and Congress alone, decides what vessels and other craft shall be built, how many officers and men shall wear the uniform. It is true that they consult the report of the Secretary of the Navy, and ask the opinions of some naval officers: and it is true that the Secretary of Navy gets the opinions of certain naval officers including the General Board, before making his report. But both the Secretary and Congress estimate the situation from their own points of view, and place their own value on the advice of naval officers. And the advice of these naval officers is not so valuable, possibly, as it might be; for the reason that it is really irresponsible, since the advisers themselves know that it will not be taken very seriously. The difference between the advice of men held responsible for the results of following their advice, and the advice of men not so held responsible, is well recognized, and is discussed fully in the reports of the Moody and the Swift Boards on the organization of the Navy Department. Furthermore, our officers do not have the machinery of the kriegspiel to help them. It is true that at the Naval War College, a war game apparatus is installed and that war games are played, and war problems solved; but the officers there are very properly engaged in the regular work of a War College, in educating officers in the principles of warfare, and have little time for other work. It is also true that the war games and problems there do lead occasionally to recommendations by the War College to the General Board as to various matters; but the connection between the conclusions of the War College and the decisions of Congress via the General Board and the Secretary of the Navy is so fragile and discontinuous, that it may truthfully be said that the influence of the war games at our War College has but a faint resemblance to the determining force of the Kriegspiel in Berlin.