"Facts are stubborn things.”
Another conference for the limitation of armaments is proposed. The protocol for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, subscribed to at Geneva by the League of Nations Assembly representatives of forty-seven nations, called for a limitation of armament conference to be held in Geneva in June, 1925. It was not held. The Congress of the United States in a recent appropriation bill, requested the American President to call another conference, to take up the work unfinished by the Washington Conference. It has not yet been held, or convoked. Very recently, the League of Nations has invited all nations, including the United States, and even Soviet Russia, to send representatives to confer at Geneva to arrange the preliminaries of a limitation of armament conference which it is hoped by the League will be comprehensive in its treatment of that great subject.
The tremendous possibilities for good for all humanity from limitation of armaments, and elimination of wasteful and animosity provoking competitions in armaments, excite the sympathy and arrest the attention of all but professional fire eaters, of which there are fortunately fewer than in the past.
The proposed conference will be influenced, perhaps guided, by the Washington Conference, which resulted in the Washington Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments, signed February 6, 1922.
Due probably to lack of adequate, timely, and authoritative American publicity in connection with the Washington Conference, there was little intelligent public discussion in connection with it until the Treaty was an accomplished fact.
The Washington Treaty was signed and ratified by the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan. Its salient provisions fixed the capital warship and aircraft carrier tonnage of those powers as shown in the following table.
The treaty definition of a capital warship may well be quoted: “A capital ship, in the case of ships hereafter built, is defined as a vessel of war, not an aircraft carrier, whose displacement exceeds 10,000 tons .... standard displacement, or which carries a gun with a caliber exceeding eight inches…”
Capital Ship Tonnage
Aircraft Carrier Tonnage
From the ratio of such tonnage allowed the largest three navies, 5-5-3, the Washington Treaty is frequently referred to as the 5-5-3 Treaty. This designation has the virtue of brevity, and yet distinguishes the Limitation of Naval Armament Treaty from the various other treaties made at the Washington Conference.
The prospect of another conference revives interest in the 5-5-3 treaty. Is that treaty all that could be desired? Will it serve as a proper guide for the next conference?
Critical examination of the 5-5-3 Treaty by no means implies lack of sympathy with the principle of limitation of armaments upon an equitable ratio. One can sympathize with the wished for consummation of the Washington Conference without believing that the 5-5-3 Treaty is all good.
Nor does such discussion question the good faith of any nation or individual. The pact was voluntarily entered into. Each of the nations invited to the conference naturally and properly drove the best bargain that it could.
Neither does such discussion indicate a bellicose tendency. Navies are for a certain purpose—national security. Intelligent consideration of the size of a navy demanded by national security requires consideration of the navy’s relative size, and of its relative availability under various conditions.
If the treaty is all right, it can stand close inspection. But if it contains mistakes or unfair provisions, it makes eventually for international discord, not for peace and security. Its shortcomings should be recognized if they are not to be duplicated and perpetuated. The fullest discussion of the 5-5-3 Treaty seems most desirable before the United States shall subscribe to another such agreement.
Furthermore, discussion of the Washington Treaty is desirable in connection with the question of eventually modifying that treaty itself. According to the treaty’s terms it can be modified or terminated under certain conditions. One of those is, of course, participation in war. Also if there has been a material change of circumstances, a power may request the others to meet in conference for reconsideration and amendment. The treaty also says that “in view of possible technical and scientific developments,” the United States, after consultation with the other powers, shall arrange for a conference “as soon as possible after the expiration of eight years from the coming into force of the present treaty, to consider what changes, if any, may be necessary, to meet such developments.” As the treaty was finally ratified and came into force August 17, 1923, the time for reconsidering its provisions in conference is less than six years away.
However, it might be contended that there have been no change of circumstances or scientific or technical developments justifying modification. No one can foresee conditions that far ahead, which is the very reason for these provisions of the treaty, but such a contention might conceivably have merit. In that case the United States could not suggest anything that savored of repudiation. But the treaty also provides that it shall remain in force until December 31, 1936, which does put a possible period to it, and does then give an opportunity to demand amendment of it as of right, and not as a privilege. However, the treaty will not end then, unless one of the contracting powers shall have given at least two years prior notice of its intention to terminate the treaty. Analogous timely notice would plainly be required in case it were the intention to demand amendment, for the alternative of the failure of mutual agreement on amendment, would in the last resort be termination.
Therefore, if any modifications are to be made in that treaty, they must be considered in ample time to be decided upon, and presented in proper form to the interested nations before the end of the calendar year 1934. That is but eight years away.
Upon what consideration was based the fundamental ratio of 5-5-3? Was it a fair one?
It was stated that it represented approximately the ratio of heavy warship tonnage possessed by the respective powers at the time of the conference. It is generally conceded that armament expenditures are insurance premiums upon a nation's possessions The national wealth of the United States bears to that of Japan more nearly the ratio of 20 to I than it does of 5 to 3. It seems questionable to ignore such considerations as relative national wealth.
Certain types of ships, such as cruisers and transports, can be quickly furnished from the merchant marine. If two countries are allowed equal tonnages of regular warships, as is the case with Great Britain and the United States, it is then plain that the one of these two countries which has the largest merchant marine has the greatest navy for practical purposes. Therefore the relative merchant marines possessed by the respective countries are proper considerations in arriving at the ratio of warship tonnages to be allowed them, particularly of types of vessels which can be supplemented from the merchant marine. Specifically, if the United States and Great Britain are actually to have the parity supposed to be given them by the treaty, Great Britain with the world's greatest merchant marine, should not expect to be allowed as great a regular cruiser tonnage as the United States.
The treaty required the United States to sacrifice eleven partially completed heavy warships, battleships, or battle cruisers. Of this number, one, the Washington, was three-fourths completed. Three others were more than a third completed. Two others were more than a fourth completed, and one other more than a fifth completed. The other four were actually started, construction being about one tenth advanced. Three hundred and thirty million dollars had been spent upon these eleven ships, now scrapped, and many more millions had to be spent to cancel contracts and actually scrap them.
How many heavy ships of the first line under construction did Great Britain scrap? Only four, in such an early stage as to be referred to in the treaty as: " . . . four building or projected." Mr. Hughes, the American Secretary of State, in his opening speech at the Washington Conference, when specifying action it was proposed be taken, referred to these ships in the following words: “. . . . that Great Britain (1) Shall stop further construction of the four new Hoods, the new capital ships not laid down, but upon which money has been spent ”…Note the words, “not laid down.”
A Costa Rican, a midshipman by special permission of Congress, was once asked by a thoughtless Annapolis classmate of what the Costa Rican navy consisted. Drawing himself up proudly, the Central American youth replied: “Of three gunboats—pause—which are to be built.”
That was the kind of new battleships that Great Britain sacrificed. Why was it necessary in arriving at limitation of international naval armaments for such a disproportionate sacrifice to be made by the United States?
Fair Limitation Possible
Why should not the ratio have been observed by the United States completing all its ships that were well advanced in construction, with the proviso that it would then cease building for a specified time, and that in the meantime the other nations might complete construction in progress, or build, to give them their proportionate tonnage? If necessary to keep within a maximum allowed tonnage, the United States could have scrapped more old ships. This would have avoided the waste of destroying new ships, while retaining the old ones. This waste was a great initial one, and also a continuing one, as it costs more to maintain old ships than new ones. This proposition would not have been unfair to the other nations. They would have had a chance to build the latest models. Like automobiles, battleships improve rapidly in design from year to year. Also they increase greatly in cost of upkeep with increase of age. The old ships retained by the United States even now cry aloud for extensive betterments, in addition to repairs of a more routine nature.
Such a proposed plan would have been fairer to the shipbuilding interests, financial, and human. They would have had more time in which to readjust themselves, instead of suddenly finding themselves out of a job. The disruption of the shipbuilding industry is a national mistake both from the economic standpoint, and that of defense. The British Empire did not neglect this consideration, and by the treaty was allowed at once to build two great heavy ships to replace older tonnage.
These are the Nelson and Rodney, with their nine 16-inch guns each, and “all modern improvements,” superior to all other fighting ships in the world.
Was a Precedent Established?
However, that particular milk has been spilled. It will be interesting to see if by this great act of national renunciation, generous beyond example, the United States really did establish a precedent.
The number of reasonably modern light cruisers possessed by Great Britain, the United States, and Japan, built and building, is respectively 51-12-25. That expresses the specific numbers of cruisers, and at the same time gives the ratio. It is obviously quite different from 5-5-3. The United States is conspicuously short in number of light cruisers. Now if the United States did establish a principle by sacrificing so many heavy ships, it was that nation with most vessels of a type should reduce to the prescribed ratio by scrapping vessels. Even upon the basis of a 5-5-3 ratio this would require Great Britain to scrap thirty-nine light cruisers, and Japan to scrap seventeen. Will they do it? By their actions the world will learn their frank opinion of the sacrifice the United States made. For the first time in history a nation voluntarily renounced naval supremacy.
No Battle Cruisers for the United States
There is another serious result of the treaty, which is irrevocable for at least a decade. Much can happen in a decade, as the last one shows.
Great changes in the political world come to mind; dynasties have passed, and the map of Europe has been radically altered. But there have been other changes, just as great, and just as pregnant for the future, if not quite so apparent on the surface. In the last ten years the trade of the United States with Asia has quadrupled to its present figure of more than $1,500,000,000 a year. It could shrink more rapidly than that.
Of the sixteen fine heavy ships building for the United States at the time of the Washington Conference, six were battle cruisers. The United States did not possess any vessels of that type, and, of course, possesses none now, due to the treaty. The United States’ building program was an attempt to correct a serious deficiency in its Navy—the total lack of battle cruisers. Great Britain and Japan each have four battle cruisers. These great, heavily armored ships, carrying guns of battleship caliber, can also make high speed. They have speeds of about 28 knots an hour. No United States battleship can exceed a small fraction more than 21 knots. What is the United States to do if its commerce be attacked by battle cruisers? The United States has nothing that could overtake a battle cruiser that could not be promptly blown out of the water by the battle cruiser.
The only answer to battle cruisers is battle cruisers. They are the potential heavy commerce destroyers, raiders, heavy scouts, swift escorts, and fast wing of the battle fleet to which the United States has no counter. It was with battle cruisers that the Germans repeatedly raided the east coast of Britain. Only their fear of the British “cat” squadron of battle cruisers limited their raids. The world saw what happened to the commerce of the Mistress of the Seas when the marauding Emden, speedy for her time, but only a light cruiser, was at large. It also saw that it took battle cruisers to bring von Spee to bay at the Falklands after he had sunk the British cruisers under Cradock at Coronel. The lack of battle cruisers may yet spell national disaster for the United States.
The responsible authorities state that the older retained battleships of the United States require extensive betterments. They need to be re-boilered, to be converted to oil burners, and to have more horizontal deck armor as protection against aerial bombing. They also need “blisters,” or bulges of the hull at the turn of the bilge, or similar provision to protect them from underwater attack, in the same way the British ships have been protected.
Most important of all, thirteen of the United States battleships need to have greater turret gun elevations. At present they are outranged by the guns of the British battleships, because the latter have the greater angles of elevation. The British battleships have in general greater speed than those of the United States. It is plain that a navy with superior speed and greater gun range is a superior navy.
The treaty purports to give parity between the United States and Great Britain. One little clause of the Washington Treaty reads thus:
“No alteration in side armor, in caliber, number or general type of mounting of main armament shall be permitted except: . . .
The American Secretary of the Navy and American President say that the United States has a right to increase its turret gun elevations. The Japanese were so sure that the right was not taken away by the treaty that they actually have increased theirs.
However, Great Britain officially objects to the United States increasing the elevation of its turret guns, and declares that such an increase would be a contravention of the treaty. Whether this contention is correct or not, the right certainly existed before the treaty was acceded to, and now it is questioned.
Meanwhile certain of these ships are undergoing extensive alterations, but the turret guns are not being given greater elevations. That is, the Treaty is now preventing necessary work on United States battleships needed to give parity with Great Britain.
Mr. Hughes, in presenting to the Washington Conference the original proposal of the United States for a limitation of naval armament, said, among other things:
It is also clear that no one of the naval powers should be expected to make these sacrifices alone. The only hope of limitation of naval armament is by agreement among the nations concerned, and this agreement should be entirely fair and reasonable in the extent of the sacrifices required of each of the powers.
It is significant that the original proposal of the United States had nothing to say about the status quo of fortifications and naval bases. It proposed the 5-5-3 ratio of capital ship tonnage, and various collateral matters that bore upon that main proposition, and made it specific.
The report of the American delegation contained the following paragraph:
Before assenting to this ratio the Japanese government desired assurances with regard to the increase of fortifications and naval bases in the Pacific Ocean. It was insisted that while the capital ship ratio proposed by the American government might be acceptable under existing conditions, it could not be regarded as acceptable by the Japanese government if the government of the United States should fortify or establish additional naval bases in the Pacific Ocean.
We see then, that the American proposal, which was deemed by the American delegates to be fair to all concerned, proposed a 5-5-3 capital warship tonnage ratio, as between the British Empire, the United States, and Japan, based upon existing conditions, which included full liberty of action for the three countries concerned with respect to fortifications and naval bases anywhere in the world, including, of course, the Far Eastern theater. It does not seem to have been noted particularly by the American delegates that the original 5-5-3 ratio, if an equitable one when there was liberty of action as to fortifications and naval bases, at once lost that condition of equity when certain other conditions were injected that were foreign to the original basis of consideration.
The American delegation reported that “after prolonged negotiations, the three powers” agreed upon Article XIX of the Treaty. Article XIX follows:
The United States, the British Empire, and Japan agree that the status quo at the time of the signing of the present Treaty, with regard to fortifications and naval bases, shall be maintained in their respective territories and possessions specified hereunder:
- The insular possessions which the United States now holds or may hereafter acquire in the Pacific Ocean, except (a) those adjacent to the coast of the United States, Alaska, and the Panama Canal, not including the Aleutian Islands, and (b) the Hawaiian Islands;
- Hongkong, and the insular possessions which the British Empire now holds or may hereafter acquire in the Pacific Ocean, east of the meridian of 110-degrees east longitude, except (a) those adjacent to the coast of Canada, (b) the Commonwealth of Australia and its territories, and (c) New Zealand;
- The following insular territories and possessions of Japan in the Pacific Ocean, to wit: the Kurile Islands, the Bonin Islands, Amami-Oshima, the Loochoo Islands, Formosa, and the Pescadores, and any insular territories or possessions in the Pacific Ocean which Japan may hereafter acquire.
The maintenance of the status quo under the foregoing provisions implies that no new fortifications or naval bases shall be established in the territories and possessions specified; that no measures shall be taken to increase the existing naval facilities for the repair and maintenance of naval forces, and that no increase shall be made in the coast defenses of the territories and possessions above specified. The restriction, however, does not preclude such repair and replacement of worn out weapons and equipment as is customary in naval and military establishments in time of peace.
What Article XIX Means
We have seen what Article XIX says. Now just what does it mean? It means that Japan, the British Empire, and France are free to fortify and develop naval bases in the Far East, but the United States as a result of the 5-5-3 Treaty no longer has that right. The United States owns Guam and the Philippines, but it cannot add one gun to their fortifications, and it cannot construct in them a dock large enough to take its largest ships, although it has no such dock there now. The nearest location in which the United States still has freedom of action in this regard is in the Hawaiian Islands. But they are almost five thousand miles from Manila.
Admiral Mahan, that universally recognized master upon the subject of sea power and naval strategy, wrote as follows upon the subject of America’s interest in sea power:
Let us start from the fundamental truth, warranted by history, that the control of the seas, and especially along the great lines drawn by national interest or by national commerce, is the chief among the merely material elements in the power and prosperity of nations. It is so because the sea is the world’s great medium of circulation. From this necessarily follows the principle that, as subsidiary to such control, it is imperative to take possession when it can be done righteously, of such maritime positions as contribute to secure command…
The military or stragetic value of a naval position depends upon its situation, upon its strength, and upon its resources. Of the three, the first is of most consequence, because it results from the nature of things; whereas the two latter, when deficient, can be supplied artificially, in whole or in part. Fortifications remedy the weaknesses of a position, foresight accumulates beforehand the resources which nature does not yield on the spot; but it is not within the power of man to change the geographical situation of a point which lies outside the limit of strategic effect.
To understand just what Article XIX means it is necessary to look at the map of the Pacific, particularly the western part.
In the past the United States considered it necessary to keep some of its biggest ships in the waters of the Far East. With the present unsettled conditions in China, or for other reasons, the United States may again desire to keep some of its battleships in those waters. For their supply, repair, and docking, it would be necessary to have at least one adequate base. But the United States has no such base in the Far East. Her battleships would have to go the five thousand miles to the Hawaiian Islands for docking, or even to the United States, two thousand miles further.
This is bad, but the United States can submit to it if the other powers can. But they labor under no such handicap, as a little study of Article XIX quickly shows.
Japan retains full liberty of action on her home islands, to develop and fortify naval bases as she sees fit, if she desires more than the excellent ones she already has. Her position dominates the Japan Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the China Sea, and assures those communications to the mainland of Asia which Japan considers vital to her interest. That it should be so no friendly nation can reasonably protest, and the President was never more the spokesman of the United States, than when, in opening the Conference, he said: “Content with what we have, we seek nothing which is another’s.”
For three thousand miles, from the tip of Kamchatka, to Formosa, Japanese islands are outposts off the coast of Asia. Just south of Formosa lies the South China Sea. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Islands. This would seem to give the United States a legitimate interest in this region. But in all the Philippines must be maintained the status quo of naval bases and fortifications. This is equally true in Hong Kong and Borneo, British possessions on the north and south, respectively. But notice the principal meridian that runs down the western part of the South China Sea, the 110th meridian of east longitude. To the west of that the British Empire retains full liberty of action. And to the west of that, just a little, lies Singapore, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Here the British propose to develop a great naval base. It is less than fourteen hundred miles from Manila, where the United States may not develop a base. Its distance from Manila is just about the same as that of Sasebo, a Japanese home island existing naval base, which, of course, may be developed as Japan sees fit.
Article XIX does not mention France. On the coast of Cochin China, just west of the meridian before mentioned, France possesses one of the finest harbors in the world. Here is Camranh Bay, eight hundred miles to the west of Manila. It was here that Rozhdestvensky based the Russian fleet on that long cruise that ended so tragically at Tsushima. This magnificent bay “could hold the navies of the world.”
Britain, France, and Japan may fortify and develop new or old naval bases in positions to support battleships in Far Eastern waters, but the United States may not. That is what Article XIX provides, the article that was the result of “prolonged negotiations,” which treats of matters entirely absent from the original American proposal.
The proponent of that Article was Japan, which is comprehensible, but that it should have been accepted by the United States is incomprehensible.
A recent writer has aptly and with great reserve stated:
By renouncing their right, under Article XIX of the Washington Treaty, to develop major naval bases in the Western Pacific, the American people gave hostages to fortune which most strategists believe to be irredeemable.
Treaties bind for the future. Posterity has rights. Consideration of the future implies also a survey of the past and the present.
The population of the United States in the last hundred years has increased 100,000,000. For the last fifty years the annual rate of increase has been over 1,000,000 a year. As the population increases, the production of the country increases. Increasing foreign markets must be found for its exports, if the balance of trade is not to become fatally adverse, and if the high standards of living are to be maintained. A century hence with a population probably more than twice the present one, the United States will require a proportionately greater foreign market. It must have its share in developing new markets, and in enjoying their commerce when developed.
Consul General Lay, in his recent book on the Foreign Service of the United States sums it up in one paragraph: “We are an industrial nation. Already production has so far surpassed our domestic consumptive capacity as to render us largely dependent upon exports for the essential margin of prosperity. What is to be our industrial future if not in export trade?”
The market of the future must largely be found in Asia. Of all the grand divisions of the earth, it is the least developed as a market, and is the most rapidly developing. In the last fifty years the export trade of the United States with Asia has increased from 2.2 per cent of the total United States export trade to 12.3 per cent. No other geographical grand division can show an equal increase. Europe’s proportion of the United States export trade is decreasing. Also there has been a correspondingly great increase in the import trade of the United States with Asia. Fifty years ago it was but 8 per cent of the total import trade, and now it is 26.9 per cent. In both cases, the increases have been sustained and gradual. Of the total annual foreign commerce of the United States amounting to $7,900,000,000, $1,531,000,000 worth is with Asia. It has quadrupled in the last ten years.
Not only is the commerce of the United States with Asia very great and rapidly increasing, but it bids fair, if properly protected and encouraged, to continue. That part of the world constitutes almost a virgin field, commercially. The total of imports and exports per capita per year in China is but $3.09. In no other country is it so low, except Russia since the war, or the Congo. Highly developed countries, commercially, such as the United Kingdom, which has a corresponding figure of $180.56 or sixty times as much, cannot possibly offer such attractive future possibilities for trade.
Asia is the home of more than half the population of the earth. That great industrial revolution which in the last century has so greatly modified the productivity, the demands, and the consequent commerce of the so-called Western powers, has hardly yet made a ripple in the stream of Asiatic life. But all signs point to a great awakening there. The great potential market of the world is Asia.
Commerce Requires Naval Bases
What has Article XIX to do with all this? Just this, that a country’s foreign trade must have the backing of its navy on the spot. A merchant ship arbitrarily detained by the order of some power in the Far East needs help in the Far East. The diplomat arguing against unfair trade restrictions, such as discriminatory tariffs, port dues, freight charges, and the like, needs the support of visible evidence of his country’s power. Particularly is the mind of the Orient impressed by what it can see. Consul General Lay pertinently remarks:
According to traditional conceptions, the authority and force of diplomacy are derived from the power of a nation to inflict injury upon another. War, or the use of force, is as much a part of diplomatic action as is the dispatching of courteous notes or an ultimatum…Armaments are an effect; not a cause. Armies and navies move under sealed orders written by diplomacy; they cease firing when diplomacy gives the command…
For a navy to be on the spot, it must have proper bases for refitting, refueling, and supply, conveniently located. Like automobiles, the ships of the navy require their service stations and garages conveniently located.
It is no coincidence that Great Britain has a great foreign trade, a great navy, and naval bases so well scattered about the world that the sun “never sets” on them. The recent round-the-world trip of the British squadron was punctuated by stops at British naval bases at convenient intervals. Consider Great Britain’s bases en route to Asia: Gibraltar, Malta, Suez, Aden, Colombo, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
The British project to develop at Singapore a great naval base, upon which millions will be spent, has been revived since the World War. This is the result of careful consideration by British Empire strategists and statesmen. The plain reason is that that region has become the world’s strategical focus. It is in the great fallow commercial field of the world, and at the crossing of the ways of the world’s commerce.
Great Britain, France, and Japan may all have adequate naval bases in the Far East, and may further develop and fortify them. But the United States may not. The United States possessed that fundamental right before it acceded to the Washington Treaty, but that Treaty took away the right.
If the United States is to continue to enjoy its share of the developing commerce of Asia, it must be able to defend that commerce. It must be able to maintain in far eastern waters sufficient naval strength to support its diplomats and consuls, to prevent any encroachments upon its legitimate trade, any unfair discriminations, or any attack upon its ships of commerce, or their crews. This naval force is also required as a safeguard for United States territory in those parts, that is, the Philippines and Guam, and also to protect the missionaries, and other Americans in that part of the world.
Therefore just plain defense, and not aggression, requires that the United States be able to maintain far away in Asiatic waters a naval force great enough to act as a counter against the biggest fleet that may be out there on the spot.
The Naval Handicap
That there is no dock in the Philippines or Guam large enough to take the United States battleships or aircraft carriers is a tremendous handicap. The one such dock in Hawaii is too far away. And further still is the one on the west coast of the United States, and the one at the Canal Zone.
Ships have to be docked every six months to clean their underwater bottoms and overhaul their outboard fittings, if they are to maintain their speed and efficiency. Other overhaul work requires their presence in a navy yard up to an average total of a month and a half a year. It is, of course, not possible to be dogmatic about this, but this is a fair statement. Sometimes they need longer, seldom less.
There being no adequate American dock nearer the Far East than Hawaii, battleships would have to go at least the five thousand miles from Manila to Hawaii for their semi-annual docking. That requires a month and a half of steaming at 10 knots (economical speed) just for the round trip. Two round trips a year and a month and a half of work in the navy yard add to four and a half months per year that each battleship would have to be off station if it were docked in Hawaii.
But any practical student of these questions knows that this assumption is too optimistic. He knows also that there would be occasional delays in completion of work, due to developing troubles not seen until overhaul started. He knows that each ship would average off station at least five months of the twelve, and more, probably six.
That is, for the United States, without an adequate far eastern naval base, to keep one heavy ship on station there, the services of two ships would be fully engaged.
And that estimate does not take into consideration that the long line of communications, seven thousand miles from San Francisco to Manila, would in war time require protection and demand its quota of ships, including heavy ones.
For each useful battleship at the spot needed, there would then be one unavailable. At least half of that time would be spent in going to or returning from a distant dock. With a dock at hand there would obviously be no such loss of time. It was to take the place of ships lost to the British Fleet due to absences in nearby home docks, that even the great British Navy required the aid of the American battleship squadron which served with the British at Scapa Flow. They could not risk the loss of fleet preponderance that would have obtained had the Germans sallied forth with their full fleet when a considerable number of British battleships were undergoing their regular and indispensable overhaul.
And think of the fuel that would be saved in avoiding the thousands of miles of futile steaming!
When it may be desired to keep the United States battle fleet in the Far East, an adequate base there, costing about the price of one battleship, would make five more battleships available for instant service. And even the ones undergoing overhaul would be at hand. Admiral Lord Charles Beresford said that “Battleships are cheaper than battles.” He might have added that sometimes bases are cheaper than battleships.
Results of Article XIX
Article XIX, by denying the United States proper naval bases in the Far East, destroyed the 5-5-3 ratio originally proposed as effectually as if a pen had been drawn through the ratio and the figures changed.
At the same time, Article XIX took from the United States its ability to support the principle of the Open Door. This principle of equal trade opportunities for all nations in the Far East has been a traditional policy of the United States. It was even reiterated in the Nine Power Treaty, also agreed to at the same Washington Conference that resulted in the 5-5-3 Treaty.
Whatever existing agreements may purport to allow, when the United States lost the power to support the principle of the Open Door with its Navy, for practical purposes it lost the benefits of that principle. That door requires not only the diplomat’s touch on the handle, but the Navy’s foot in the opening.
Objections to Base Answered
In the Jones Bill, the United States promised the Filipinos their independence upon the fulfillment by them of certain conditions. It may be objected, therefore, that the United States should not establish a considerable naval base in territory ultimately to be given up. The same might have been said about Cuba, which has been given its independence. However, with the consent of the Cubans, the United States retained the Guantanamo naval base and has the right to retain it forever.
In Asia for November, 1921, Mr. Manuel Quezon, President of the Philippine Senate, writing on the subject, “America’s Pledge to the Philippines,” makes it plain that the element for which he speaks desires the independence promised in the Jones Bill. However, among other significant things, he says:
On the other hand, an independent Philippine government would be grateful to America; it would continue its existing economic relationship with the United States to the mutual benefit of both parties concerned; it would grant to the United States the coaling stations required for maintaining a strategic position in the Pacific, and so forth.
The 5-5-3 Treaty is uneconomical. It requires maintaining old ships instead of newer ones. It requires more ships to do a task that fewer could do if provided with proper bases.
The 5-5-3 Treaty is unfair. It allows other nations to have and yet develop naval bases in locations that control the Far East and denies that right to the United States. By this it destroys the 5-5-3 ratio, and permits the Open Door to be closed.
The 5-5-3 Treaty has sacrificed the United States’ defense of its territories, of its trade, and of its interests in the Far East.
The 5-5-3 Treaty is not only contrary to the present security and interest of the United States, but the interests of posterity have been disregarded. American posterity’s birthright to a fair share of the future trade with Asia has been yielded to others.