The strong arm of the government in enforcing respect for its just rights in international matters is the Navy of the United States.—Roosevelt
NAVAL policy in its most comprehensive sense defines the mission of the Navy. It conforms in principle to the means of protecting the existing and traditional American policies. In this study it is my purpose to discuss naval policy as it stands today in official form; and also to touch upon certain international aspects of the position of the United States in the postwar world order in relation to the expressed declaration of the existing policy.
It is the duty of the naval officer to know the policy of his service. In fact, it is to be presumed that naval officers know more about it than any other class or profession. The officer personnel has been singularly free from the influence of party platforms and organized propaganda. Moreover, by virtue of devotion to service and pride in profession, its studies have been directed to the problems of the best defense of the United States with the material and personnel provided.
A marked deviation from the status quo will involve reorientation in policy, with attention to the national policies which are inextricably entwined with it. Since law has ever derived its power from force and authority—be it static or dynamic—even so has the last analysis ever proved that policy will depend upon force when a clash of policies arises. It is the way of the world, a law of nature whether it be applied to individuals, parties, states, or nations. Sea power is relative; and therefore an agreement upon armaments is to be desired. Nevertheless, the requirements of sea power to protect American prosperity of the future have not diminished in importance, nor has sea power lost its effect in shaping the destinies of states.
There are facts to meet, and realities to confront. Political slogans and maudlin sentimentalities must be avoided in an effort to reach bed rock. In a study of this description, one must endeavor to avoid the fallacies of imperialistic and militaristic Scylla, as well as the weakening pacifistic and altruistic Charybdis. An accurate middle course must be set. A great and powerful nation will ever require certain instruments to maintain her prestige in world affairs, even though it be moral effect free from any consideration of material gain. One of the most important of these national instruments is a vigorous naval policy acting as a directive for adequate naval defense.
It is the duty of the United States to uphold and cherish every wise and reasoned pact, obligation, and treaty that more effectively tends to the peace of the world. The duty does not terminate at this point; for even as a display of force is often necessary in protecting American interests in Nicaragua and Haiti, so it may be necessary to use force in protecting legitimate interests in other international affairs. It is even well to remember that Russia has yet refused to abide by international law as recognized by the civilized powers, and although any conflict of policy is remote, since the United States does not yet recognize her as a state, the truth exists that her expressed basic national doctrines appear to vary considerably from ours. Nations, like individuals, have their ideals and noble principles; but, on the other hand, the eternal realities are ever present. Henry Cabot Lodge said, in the stirring days of the World War:
If we are to secure our own peace and do our part toward the maintenance of world peace, we must put rhetoric, whether in speech or on paper, aside. We must refuse to be satisfied with illusions. We must refuse to deceive ourselves or others. We must pass by mere words and vague shows, and come clear eyed to the facts and the realities.
Senator Lodge succinctly stated that attitude of mind which should be shown by the naval officer in any study of naval policy and in particular as that policy approaches the crossroads where a change may be for better or for worse.
A thorough understanding of naval policy is a primary requisite to adequate realization of the historical significance of foreign policy. Such studies emphasize the fallacies in the arguments of those individuals who depreciate the value of the military and naval force that made, protected, and defended these United States. Naval policy has in all probability never been studied so zealously as by those officers, high in rank and experience, who have been selected and who are especially fit to advise statesmen as to the mission, needs, and practical operation of the Navy. Moreover, there is that interest among the juniors coming on to take the Navy as it is turned over to them, and to carry on to the best of their ability. It is a great interest, this junior interest, and the naval policy outlined for the future will determine in many minds whether or not the interest of the government is sufficient, and the desires of the people such, that officers of the highest caliber are to be needed. The question is today asked by civilians of high social and business standing, “Is the naval officer’s profession what it used to be?” and, “I wonder if my son should enter the service, considering the apathy of many towards national defense.” These are momentous questions which only the future can answer correctly.
Policy in general may be defined as those precedents, principles, doctrines, and courses of action which determine the conduct of affairs of one nation with another. They are often general rather than definite—abstract rather than concrete. Policy is further subdivided into domestic and foreign policy. We will deal here with foreign policy and its corollary, naval policy. In any study of the foreign policy of a state, naval policy finds expression. The backbone of the foreign policies of all the great powers of the world has been, in the last analysis, naval and military power. This statement is not a vainglorious wave of the flag; it is merely the truth of recorded history, and the majority opinion of those who have given considerable thought to international affairs. Theodore Roosevelt, profound student of history, and naval historian, said in a public address:
In treating of our foreign policy and of the attitude that this great nation should assume in the world at large, it is absolutely necessary to consider the Army and the Navy; and the Congress, through which the thought of the nation finds its expression, should keep ever vividly in mind the fundamental fact that it is impossible to treat our foreign policy, whether this policy takes shape in the effort to secure justice for others or justice for ourselves, save as conditioned upon the attitude we are willing to take toward our Army, and especially our Navy.
In the next few lines Roosevelt said:
The strong arm of the government in enforcing respect for its just rights in international matters is the Navy of the United States.
There is organized and highly paid propaganda directed against this “strong arm”; there are lecturers who depreciate the work in the past of this “strong arm”; and it is rumored that there are those in foreign lands who would like to see this “strong arm” materially weakened. What should our naval policy be?
Even a superficial study of the history of most of the great states will show that pure justice and equitable action have not always guided the conduct of their respective policies, whether considered in formulation or execution. The self-interest of states has been the great factor to reckon with. There is no use fooling ourselves on this score with platitudes and catch phrases. Self-interest and ambition ever dictate to nations, just as they do to individuals and political parties. National prestige will be derived from the justice displayed and the liberality shown in the exercise of strength.
Foreign policy and military-naval policy were closely interrelated in all «ur great crises. To realize this, study again the negotiations of Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and the effect of sea power on the last months of the American Revolution. Some day Admiral Comte de Grasse will be given his share of credit for the victory of York- town. At any rate it terminated the war, and launched us in the family of nations. Than browse just here and there in the diplomatic negotiations of Charles Francis Adams during the Civil War, and see what sea power meant, and how action on his part, according to much opinion, thwarted the intervention of Great Britain. In what measure did the blockade by Northern sea power preserve the Union? Here we find naval policy in all its ramifications, maritime rights of neutrals, right of blockade, doctrine of continuous voyage, and even the Monroe Doctrine, tied so closely to foreign policy, that without sea power little semblance of any enforcement of policies necessary to win the Civil War could have been effected.
The World War presents the classic example of the dependence of foreign policy on the strength of sea power and the use of a fleet. To gain the real significance of this expression of British and American policy, one should read the well-phrased notes of the United States Department of State with our interpretation of the rights of neutrals, the exercise of blockade, and definition of contraband. But no less interest lies in the replies of Great Britain, and certainly far greater interest lies in the action of Great Britain in the interpretation of these disputed and still unsettled questions. We all remember how, when the United States entered the war as an associated power, we properly aided the Allies, and in particular Great Britain, in enforcing the strictest and most drastic blockade ever maintained in sea warfare. Sea power to a great measure decided the World War. It was a strong naval policy from the outset that denied to Germany the "sinews of war.”
At this point one should examine the naval policy of the United States as signed by the Secretary of the Navy, Edwin Denby, on May 16, 1922. That document states:
U. S. naval policy is the system of principles, and the general terms of their application, governing the development, organization, maintenance, training, and operation of a Navy. It is based on and is designed to support national policies and American interests. It comprehends the questions of number, size, type, and distribution of naval vessels and stations; the character and number of personnel, and the character of peace and war operations.
The essence of our naval policy was expressed in the same document, and was captioned: “The Fundamental Naval Policy of the United States.” It then succinctly defines that policy, which in principle is concurred in by every true patriot, by the statement:
The Navy of the United States should be maintained in sufficient strength to support its policies and its commerce, and to guard its continental and overseas possessions.
The thesis is advanced that the fundamental naval policy of the United States should be preserved in its most comprehensive sense. The facts marshaled hereafter and the observations advanced will be pertinent to this existing policy. Our interest in this question of naval policy and its effect upon foreign policy, and vice versa, is not merely academic. It affects the naval profession throughout. It shapes the size and scope of a navy and determines its mission.
Fallible human opinion will ever disagree over details and matters of degree in the determination of adequate national naval defense. It is only when the United States is hoodwinked, diplomatically speaking, and departs from that parity expressed in her naval policy, “to create, maintain, and operate a navy second to none,” that our surest guaranty against war has begun to go by the board. The real security against foreign aggression will be weakened should we sink to the position of a second-class naval power. Yet there are those citizens today who, heedless of chaotic conditions in parts of the world where the United States has an interest, and in face of unsettled and uncodified international law, have allowed the siren song of pure idealism to lead them into a Utopian realm at a time when stern and more practical stuff should be exhibited. I refer to the strong propaganda in some quarters against any defense, and the lack of interest displayed by many in the well-being and efficiency of the Army and Navy, the pay of soldier and sailor, officers and men, and the attempt of individuals and organizations of the intelligentsia to detract from the deeds of the military and naval professions in the past. All in all they are tendencies, but should not tendencies be watched?
The functionaries of policy and the functionaries of war should work together. They are citizens of the same free government, and it is their duty to counteract subversive tendencies by educating the people to an understanding of policy in its general aspect, and the just pride that they should have in its bulwark—the Army and Navy. National security and national honor should ever be the goal, but it cannot be assured when naval policy has been forced to a minor and impotent position in the scheme of defense. Such a position might be gained unwittingly.
Strength to Support Policies
The prosperity and prestige of all world powers have been dependent upon the degree of maintenance of their basic foreign policies. It is not beyond the realm of conjecture to visualize what might have happened to the United States and the states of South America had there been no Monroe Doctrine in its original declaration or its subsequent ramifications. It is interesting to note that the matter of self-interest in relation to balance of power caused Great Britain to aid the United States in supporting this doctrine of “America for the Americans” by the threat of British sea power during the doctrine’s inception and infancy. The impetus that the Open Door Policy gave to American commerce and foreign markets is an illuminating study. The Navy will always be concerned with the Caribbean Policy and the government’s attitude towards insurgents, rebels, and the attendant insurrections in this area. The mere mention of these policies is sufficient to suggest why that important statement, “strength to support its policies,” heads the tabulation in the declaration of naval policy.
That baffling and unsolved international problem, the freedom of the seas, remains unanswered. It is in reality only applicable to war. Upon its interpretation to a great degree the strength of sea power and the use of a fleet are based. That is, what policy will dictate the action and use of sea power in its relation to the rights of neutrals, the exercise of blockade, and the form and extent of visit and search? History is our only guide, for nations have come to no agreement in respect to this vexatious question. Kenworthy and George Young in their study, Freedom of the Seas, say:
For whenever the pinch has come British sea power has made, short work of rights of neutrals or responsibilities of belligerents.
What these British authors lack in finesse is compensated for by considerable truth. When we ask why the above has been generally true in war, that important word expediency holds the essence of the answer.
The Monroe Doctrine was framed and maintained as a necessary policy to safeguard the perpetuation of the Federal Union. It was clearly foreseen that should the European systems be extended to the New World and thereby draw the new states into the Old World brawls and wars, it would have a deleterious effect upon the functioning of our government. In other words, it was a recognition on our part of a preference for democratic government over that ruled by monarchy and absolutism. It was a desire also on our part to help the self-governing and democratic states of South America; it was a policy of self-defense founded on geographical-political principles. It was hoped to produce a barrier against the colonization and imperialism of Europe. History has proved the soundness of the original intent.
The strength and enforcement of this doctrine depended for a time upon the sea power of Great Britain. Channing supported any policy that would thwart the extension and colonial accessions of Continental Europe. The United States was most fortunate as a nation in receiving this powerful support. The Monroe Doctrine was recognized in Sir Austin Chamberlain’s official letter of May 19, 1928, to the American Ambassador Houghton pertaining to the British official interpretation of the Kellogg Pact before committing Great Britain to its stipulations. In paragraph 10 of the above letter, we read:
The language of Article I, as to the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, renders it desirable that I should remind Your Excellency that there are certain regions of the world the welfare and integrity of which constitute a special and vital interest for our peace and safety. His Majesty’s Government has been at pains to make it clear in the past that interference with these regions cannot be suffered. Their protection against attack is to the British Empire a measure of self-defense. It must be clearly understood that His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain accept the new treaty upon the distinct understanding that it does not prejudice their freedom of action in this respect. The Government of the United States have comparable interests any disregard of which by a foreign power they have declared that they would regard as an unfriendly act. His Majesty’s Government believe, therefore, that in defining their position they are expressing the meaning and intention of the United States Government.
There have been many interpretations of the Monroe Doctrine by governments and by students of international affairs. There is considerable literature to be read on the subject. Scholars have been at variance as to its benefits and its application. However, what concerns us in this study is that it has been a policy; it has with but few exceptions been maintained; it would probably be evoked immediately should conditions demand it; and it has depended upon a “fleet in being” for its greatest support, first by that of Great Britain, and then by that of this country. Theodore Roosevelt said in substance that the Monroe Doctrine was just as strong as the American Navy. That great President, in an official speech and message to the people said:
The Monroe Doctrine should be treated as the cardinal feature of American foreign policy; but it would be worse than idle to assert it unless we intended to back it up, and it can be backed up only by a thoroughly good Navy. A good Navy is not a provocative of war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.
It is peace in the Western Hemisphere that is to be desired and worked for. The Monroe Doctrine more than any other policy has contributed its share to the peaceful evolution of democracy in the New World. President Hoover in his Good Will Mission clearly expressed our government’s desire to maintain the traditional friendship with its southern neighbors, and in definite terms conveyed our pleasure in their commercial gains and prosperity.
The “open door” of commercial opportunity and equal trade applied incalculable impetus to the foreign trade of the United States. This policy was promulgated in principle by our government in the early days when our sea power was weak and our population small. It was based upon equitable and just premises. In other words, our desire was for trade in the great marts of the world. The fathers of our government soon advanced the doctrine that trade on the seas of the world should not be a monopoly of any power or powers. In later years, when the all-embracing imperialistic policies of great powers were in the process of execution, looking after backward peoples and carrying the "white man’s burden,” the United States with foresight and astuteness secured adherence by the great powers to what is generally known as the “Open Door Policy” of John Hay. This policy particularly applied to the Orient, and expressed the desire that equal opportunity should be given to all nations in trade, and by expressed terms suggested that an agreement should be reached that would militate against further partition of weaker states. Sun Yat Sen once told the writer, “This policy more than any other prevented the dismemberment of China.” There are Asiatic problems today closely related to it, for it is also pertinent in its application to “spheres of influence.” Manchuria is yet a problem in the maelstrom of Asiatic politics.
The support of a doctrine of equal opportunity is a fundamental requisite to the success of our ocean-borne commerce. A great share of the prosperity of the United States is derived from foreign trade, with the protection of the long sea lanes and lines of communication falling to the Navy. It is here that naval policy is closely related to that phase of foreign policy concerned with trade.
More and more will the United States look to foreign ports for raw materials as she grows industrially. Her economic life will to a great measure depend upon markets for the manufactured goods, and the ability to purchase raw materials. Difficulties will arise, as they have always arisen, over foreign trade. Such conflicts have been the source of practically all international friction on a large scale. The “battle for oil” is a stupendous struggle today. The United States is consolidating her position in foreign markets with speed, and more than ever before needs corresponding insurance from sea power. It is doubtful whether the United States will ever again allow a belligerent to make all the rules of contraband and seriously interfere with our neutral trade. Who can venture to assert that sea power will not have a great role?
The rights of neutrals in war, the concrete definition of blockade, and the specific classification of contraband, are questions which at the present time are undecided by any international agreement. They are grave questions and in some respects more important than the questions now discussed in international conferences, for in the interpretations given to them and in their applications lie the seeds of war. History clearly records that in emergencies great sea powers have dictated their own definitions whenever and wherever possible in order to enforce their policies. Expediency ever acts in emergency. Their war policies may not be pursued when war is over, but it is a different story when a country’s back is to the wall.
There is no generally accepted definition of freedom of the seas. Whatever may be the interpretation today as enunciated by the expression of opinion from militarists to pacifists inclusive, there remains the historical method for those in search of data—the facts of yesteryears. There is much hope for a new world order, and great minds and high personages are striving for surer guaranties of world peace; but the policy of how a navy is to be used in respect to its contact with neutral trade is the focal point of much relevant matter upon which nations do not care to commit themselves in time of peace. It is to be hoped that some day this question will be fairly answered in international conference. Any comprehensive study of all that has been said and written on the freedom of the seas will convince the student that just how and to whom the seas will be free in war is unanswered; but it stands to reason that small powers will never decide for the large ones in the matter of how and where they will carry commerce, that is, unless a strong enough coalition can be effected. A strong commercial power with a weak sea power may face this reality.
When the United States has been at war she has never stood for the complete freedom of the seas as defined by her at times when she was neutral. We recognized the effectiveness of sea power in the last war, after we entered it, by assisting in as strict a blockade as it was possible to enforce. Observe the Civil War and the curtailment of provisions and supplies that finally bore fruit in bringing Lee’s half-starved army to terms. The blockade of Cuba was one of the first operations of the Spanish-American War. We remember the most drastic, effective blockade ever maintained with a great fleet, that of the British Navy in the World War. This blockade was later augmented by a squadron of American battleships.
In the last analysis, freedom of the seas in war is gained by command of the seas, if I may take liberty with the broad term. This will be gained by a dominant naval force. The naval policy in its treatment of belligerents and neutrals will be evolved from the inalienable rights of self-defense—the most expedient methods to terminate the dispute, adhering wherever possible to the generally accepted principles of international law. For a neutral, sea power is required. The exchange of diplomatic notes and protestations will be of little avail, if the examples of fourteen and fifteen years ago have any validity.
Richard Washburn Child recently wrote:
Because freedom of the seas in some formula of guaranty for the continuity of our foreign trade is one of the reasons for naval rivalry, any negotiations which attempt to crystallize agreements as to ratio of index comparisons between our Navy and that of Great Britain which does not include a settlement of the freedom of the seas doctrine from the American point of view is downright improvidence.
It is well here to inquire, what is the traditional policy of the United States with respect to the rights of neutrals in maritime war? The little green book entitled Instructions for the Navy of the United States Governing Maritime Warfare, June, 1917, has been withdrawn. It was the last official word on the subject and was clearly our one-time official policy based upon legal interpretation of generally accepted international law. It was prefaced as follows:
The following instructions have been prepared in accordance with international law, treaties, and conventions to which the United States is a party, the statutes of the United States, and, where no international agreement or treaty provision exists covering any special point, in accordance with the practice and attitude of the United States as hitherto determined by court decisions and executive pronouncements.
It would be presumptuous for any student of international law and foreign policy to venture the prediction that the above quotation would or would not preface such instructions if reissued in the future. They will probably never be issued in like form again. But if they were issued, and the United States were a neutral, what guaranty has this country that the liberal attitude of the United States towards neutral trade would be enforced. It must never be forgotten that a belligerent sea power if of sufficient force, will at the first opportunity drive the enemy from the seas, and then cut off her neutral commerce. Even should the United States never engage in another war, what assurance have we that our great commerce can flow without sea power to protect it? Or as regards President Hoover’s desire that food stuffs for civilians be allowed ingress to both belligerents, what will cause such an innovation to become an accomplished fact? One is strongly inclined to believe that sea power will do it.
The tremendous increase in the ocean- borne commerce of the United States is recognized by all. Is it not true that this country should be even more solicitous of the rights of neutrals in maritime war? Should naval policy ever neglect this paramount interest? The ever-expanding world commerce of this country requires adequate protection, whether we are neutral or belligerent. American maritime interests and the increase expected will require cruiser tonnage “second to none” to meet the demands which may be made for merchant-ship protection.
Our friend and greatest commercial rival, Great Britain, fully comprehends that in her foreign commerce lies her greatest revenue, her sinews of peace and war, her jugular vein of prosperity. Hector C. Bywater in Navies and Nations quoted Mr. Winston Churchill as saying, soon after the Armistice:
Nothing in the world, nothing that you may think of, or dream of, or anyone may tell you; no arguments, however specious, no appeals however, seductive must lead you to abandon that naval supremacy upon which the life of our country depends.
British sea power saw that British economic life was maintained by ultimate victory over her great rivals at successive periods in history—Spain, Holland, France, and finally Germany.
Fundamental foreign policies will be maintained if national interests demand it, and the Congress is fully cognizant of the national position. Great economic expansion requires foreign policy and the services of government to protect and safeguard its interests. Should diplomacy become bankrupt and peaceful negotiations fail, then national honor and national interests require some force, some power to gain recognition of vital and just interests. It must be a tangible, existent force comparable in its preparedness to the force behind all law of the land.
Strength to Support Its Commerce
History has no parallel for the meteoric rise of the United States in commerce and trade for the fifteen years beginning in 1914. There are numerous contributory causes that effected this fact. In the main, they were world conditions and economic factors that sprang from the World War. The existing naval policy states that the Navy should be of "strength to support its commerce.” How few give thought to this need. How many, lost in the dreams of what we all should like to see, preach little or no protection for this ever-increasing commerce. The size of a navy must be studied in terms of trade routes in both oceans and the nature of the protection required. Naval policy will here focus attention on cruisers and the matter of ridding the seas of enemy raiders. The number of cruisers should logically be determined by the number of merchant ships carrying American goods. In this respect naval policy should be particularly definite.
The United States, holding a major share of the world’s credit and an ever-increasing share of world trade, should never lose sight of the danger of economic rivalry. It seems sensible to believe that just as long as kings, potentates, and heads of states require police protection, just as long as armored cars are needed to transport bullion or securities, just so long as insurrections and rebellions occur in great and small states, just so long will a rich ocean-borne trade depend in emergencies for its existence and well-being upon its sea power.
In a comparison of the old-fashioned ideas of conquest and dominion with the modem commercial era, Richard Washburn Child writes:
The truth of the matter lies deeper. Navies in these days are maintained for defense of a nation under any circumstances and for protection of one’s own commerce or a threat for commerce. It is plain enough to the clear thinker that rivalry in naval prestige rests upon questions of trade, commerce, and economic rivalry.
The United States holds the strongest financial position in the world. In our settlements with the fifteen debtor nations this country will receive $22,206,275,638 over a sixty-two-year period, from the war loans of $9,862,316,802. The principal and interest paid each year amounts to about $200,000,000. The Department of Commerce estimates that the value of stocks and bonds sold to foreigners in 1928 was more than $1,500,000,000, of which it was estimated that the people of this country bought back $1,000,000,000. We are citizens of a creditor nation which holds $14,000,000,000 of long-term foreign investments, exclusive of war debts. The United States exported more than $500,000,000 of gold last year, while the yearly interest on long-term foreign investments amounted to more than $800,000,000. These staggering figures are given to point out the fabulous wealth of the country. The figures a decade hence are beyond prediction. There is a question which might present itself to those who give thought to the subject: will there be sufficient insurance on these great sums to prevent repudiation or a failure to comply with the provisions of agreements? Naval policy should ever provide the bulwark for the protection of a great state’s wealth.
The import and export trade of a country is invariably a barometer of prosperity. In 1928 the exports of the United States totaled $5,128,000,000 and the imports (largely raw materials) reached $4,091,000,000. An official estimate has been made that the foreign trade was in reality over $22,000,000,000. This is due to the non-goods values that passed over and out of the United States.
Government support in some cases, and certainly years of labor, have been required to build up this vast trade. Strong opposition to American economic penetration exists in sections of the world. The above- quoted figures give some conception of the tremendous amount of commerce involved. There is the inevitable conflict that arises over a gain in the sale of the products of one country and the diminishing sales of another. As an example, there is at the present time a decided opposition abroad to American motion pictures. Isaac F. Marcosson, one of our keenest observers of foreign affairs, writes:
Whereas we possess only 6 per cent of the world’s land, comprise 7 per cent of the total population, grow 27 per cent of all the wheat, dig 40 per cent of all the coal, use 63 per cent of the telephones and make more than 85 per cent of the motor cars, we produce nearly 90 per cent of all the films. Knowing this you can readily understand why the American picture has drawn the lightning and why every effort is being made to stop its advance.
The renascence of American shipping interests is a factor of national prosperity tied to foreign trade and supported by foreign policy. As stated before, the mercantile marine requires protection. Captain Dudley W. Knox, commenting on this phase of our wealth and on our need of cruisers, wrote in an article for the New York Times, that which cannot be denied:
The stoppage of our sea-borne commerce would cause the shutting down or drastic reduction in operations of nearly every factory and industrial enterprise in the United States. Millions of people would be thrown out of work and remain with no means of support until the sea lanes were again open. In the World War the Allied cruisers, backed by their fleets, not only made it possible to supply the armies and thus to carry on the war, but also stood between civil industrial life and the poverty stricken condition to which Germany was reduced in consequence of the blockade.
A comprehension of the size of foreign trade is essential to an understanding of the importance of sea communications and the necessity for its protection in any emergency. It has been officially computed that our annual foreign water-borne commerce totals about 100,000,000 long tons, valued at a figure estimated to be over $8,000,000,000, with a freight bill of $750,000,000. Last year American ships carried only about one third of the above commerce. Less than 9 per cent of the value of American commerce for the period 1910-14 was carried in American bottoms. The trade increase over the pre-war period accounts for much of the prosperity of this country. This increase since the war has been 200 per cent with South America, 380 per cent with Asia and about 325 per cent with Africa. Since Mr. Hoover said recently, in substance, that one home in ten is dependent upon the export trade, I take the liberty of elaborating that remark and venturing the thought that in an emergency one home in ten will be dependent upon the protection of that trade. Will American shipping ever be embarrassed and interrupted as it was in 1914, 1915, and 1916? Naval policy should be strictly mindful of foreign trade, the sea lanes of the world, and the size of the mercantile marine.
There is ever the question of new and more fruitful markets. “Manifest destiny” with its burning desire for territory, which conquered by war and by purchase the present boundaries of the United States, no longer obtains. This territorial expansion is not a satisfactory analogy, but it furnishes a historic parallel, in a measure, to the causes which push a manufacturing nation into new markets wherever they can be secured. The exportable surplus of a country, coupled with a desire to purchase raw materials, supplies the main spring for this need. Where will the search for the dollar end? It is a laudable pursuit when honest weight and true values are given, for we are supplying the world with much which they need in this mechanized, industrial age.
The London Times Trade and Engineering Supplement, commenting on the proposed United States of Europe, says:
European nations attempting to act as separate entities are powerless to resist the American invasion and their bid to present a united front in commercial matters is a reasonable reaction to the aggressive economic policy of the United States.
It is a historical paradox that “peaceful penetration” has often led to war. The great hope of the United States is that this will never come to pass in our case. The fight for new markets and for the retention of trade already secured caused wars by which the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Venetians each in turn had dominance, and then passed the scepter of the seas on to the next. It was not passed without a struggle. Then came the maritime heyday of Spain, France, and Holland, each of whom succumbed to the “wooden walls” of England. We all know of Germany’s bid for world trade and of her efficient, vigorous fight for foreign markets prior to the war. It is repeated: war is not wanted, but, in view of the treasure involved, what better protection exists than adequate defense? Treaties cannot be depended upon in all cases to enforce American policy and to secure her just claims, particularly when a violation of contract or an infringement of our rights jeopardize American prosperity.
To Guard Its Continental and Overseas
This last, but probably most important, clause of the fundamental policy of the United States embraces as its mission the first-line defense of the United States and her possessions. It can mean nothing but adequate defense and well-trained defense. Under the caption “General Naval Policy,” one finds certain specific missions which lead to the practical fulfillment of the letter of the fundamental policy. They are stated in the following terms:
- To create, maintain, and operate a navy second to none, and in conformity with the ratios for capital ships established by the treaty for limitation of naval armaments.
- To make war efficiency the object of all training, and to maintain that efficiency during the entire period of peace.
- To develop and to organize the navy for operation in any part of either ocean.
- To make strength of the navy for battle of primary importance.
- To make strength of the navy for exercising ocean-wide economic pressure next in importance.
- To cultivate friendly and sympathetic relations with the whole world by foreign cruises.
The extent of the Atlantic and Pacific coast lines of the United States presents a difficult defense problem. They together comprise the longest sea-girted national boundary in the world. Their defense is in many respects a greater problem than Britain’s problem of protecting her sea lanes. The Navy has been entrusted with the continental protection by policy, and will discharge its duties in an emergency with the force furnished. It cannot be improvised and will require a fleet in being. A serious reduction in the present naval force will certainly require a restatement of naval policy. The Navy has never been accused of failing to make the best disposition of the force furnished. The question for the verdict of the people is, will the insurance be adequate to the national possessions at stake ?
In any consideration of the defense of continental shores and overseas possessions, the problem resolves itself in general into the ability to operate immediately and with maximum possible efficiency in either ocean or in both. It follows that this involves distribution of forces and the effecting of concentration. These problems are intricate and require the highest degree of knowledge, coordination, and technical skill on the part of the high command. The naval policy of the United States will determine in general the plan for their execution in any emergency, and great caution should be exercised when the diplomatic rapprochements and plans of foreign powers indicate a tendency on their part to effect a treaty with us which would diminish the normal distribution of our sea power in any strategical area necessary for our protection.
Many writers have considered the Battle of Manila Bay to mark the entrance of the United States into the class of world powers. In other words, with little effort the United States became a colonial power and by possession of the Philippines entered as an interested party into Asiatic politics. It is beyond the scope of this article to remark upon the significance of these islands other than to mention their strategical importance and their proximity to the Asiatic mainland. At the present time the Pacific basin occupies much thought from an economic and political viewpoint. The unsettled political condition of China, the ambition of Japan, and the practices and political creed of the Russian Bear constitute a world problem, to which those who direct the foreign policies of great commercial states are giving serious and profound thought. There is every reason to believe that the Singapore Naval Base will be completed—a crowning of the many naval bases Britain holds the world over. Although the United States has by treaty promised to add nothing to the defense of the Philippines, this policy should not interfere with the defense required to protect the vital sea lanes of the Orient, which involves a question of importance to the commercial interests of the United States. It seems illogical and untenable to hold that the United States requires no protection or scarcely any in the face of the Singapore Naval Base and the strong defense of the outlying islands of Japan. The Philippines comprise a strategical area in which the United States by geographical position has much interest, and any departure from the adequate protection of such areas will considerably jeopardize the outcome of many situations in which the United States might be placed by force of circumstances, situations nevertheless vital to her interests.
In the desire of the United States to forestall attempts by foreign powers to secure a footing by seizures of custom houses, etc., in the Caribbean area, certain principles of policy have been followed, referred to by writers as the Caribbean Policy. This policy is predicated upon a protection of American interests and is even liberally interpreted to mean aid for local governments in that area when threatened by insurrections or revolution. One infers from the past application of this policy that the United States desires no interference from foreign powers even though the interference be a collection of their debts or just obligations. The United States has by its good offices effected arrangements whereby collection may be made and paid to the creditor nations, and by such action prevented a lien or “strangle hold” by the foreign powers on the territories and possessions of the smaller states in question. There is much criticism from some quarters on the application of these principles, but vigorous and timely action on our part has prevented intervention and even occupation by other powers. Furthermore, such action on our part has decided whether or not the United States would be reckoned as a second-class power in respect to this phase of international relations. Any perusal of the high lights of this chapter of diplomacy will show at first glance that a good, efficient navy has much to do with the enforcement and continuation of this policy.
The protection of the Panama Canal is vital to the well-being of the United States, whether a belligerent or a neutral. It is the link that must be controlled in any war. It is the main factor in any strategical and in many cases tactical study of the employment of our fleet. It took many years for the United States to secure the territory, the rights, and the canceling of a treaty with Great Britain. A reduction of the existing force will not ensure its protection. After the years to effect the conditions by which the canal could be built, and the great engineering and even medical skill in accomplishing this task, one should not speak lightly of its protection, or cease to voice an opinion as to the adequate defense needed. Is not the strategic line of communications between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans a priceless legacy brought into being under the leadership of Roosevelt, Goethals, and Gorgas? It is for posterity to defend and strengthen it rather than weaken its security.
The need of cruisers and the size of cruisers enter into any discussion of the protection of foreign possessions of the United States, when that question is considered in terms of trade. It is natural and reasonable that Britain should take other views in the light of her many naval bases and suitable naval auxiliaries. The small cruiser is adapted to her needs, and Great Britain has usually perceived her needs. Great Britain has 880,000 tons of relatively fast merchant ships in comparison to 188,000 tons of such ships of the United States. A considerable number of these ships are capable of conversion to auxiliary cruisers. The scarcity of these auxiliaries and the few United States bases with long lines of communications make the 8-inch 10,000-ton vessels desirable, in fact necessary, for the United States to maintain parity in any comparison with the respective missions of the two countries.
Battleships will remain the backbone of the fleet. They are not to be considered in their mission, whether as an offensive or defensive instrument, in the category of cruisers, or such weapons of opportunity as the submarine. They cannot by their nature be used as commerce raiders or as efficient escort to commerce. They are constructed to take knocks and to receive them in fleet action, in particular, and in land bombardments, with limitations. The Associated Press reports on December 21, 1929:
Secretary Stimson said today that he is one of those who believes that capital ships are still the core of a fighting sea fleet, but that the United States will approve a reduction in capital ships in the event this is agreeable to the other sea powers, Great Britain, Japan, France, and Italy.
It is believed that whatever the outcome of the London Conference, a reorientation of United States naval policy will be required. Any limitation that provides adequate defense and removes excessive taxation is to be desired. The great causes of war lie beyond limitation of armaments, and the hair-splitting of tonnage details. The roots of war lie in the probable clash of commercial interests, the utter disregard for a nation’s foreign policy, and the rights of belligerents and neutrals in maritime war. The United States, with some deviation, has, since the War of 1812, been the defender of neutral rights in war, and Great Britain in the majority of cases has been the defender of belligerent rights. An agreement of understanding on these vexatious questions should provide a point of origin for most constructive work in the realm of international good will. Nations display a marked aversion for free discussion of what their attitude would be toward neutrals in a war in which they might be belligerents.
It is through commercial prosperity that we grow as a nation. It would be foolish to advance the prophecy that a clash of interests is not a possibility. It is to be hoped that a settlement may be effected by peaceful means. Vice Admiral Meurer of the German Navy recently wrote:
It lies in the very nature of great powers and progressive peoples to expand at the expense of others. Nothing will ever be able to change this fundamental principle no matter how much one may talk of eternal peace at congresses, conferences, or leagues of nations.
The keynote of American foreign policy has been friendliness and desire for peace. When one asks what agency would protect and defend her legitimate foreign interests should peaceful means be of no avail, there can be but one answer, and that is—sea power. Some say that sea power is unnecessary, and that the Kellogg Pact, the League of Nations, and the World Court will attend to all disputes. It is hoped that they will, and thereby in many cases they will serve mankind to good purpose, but by what power will their decisions and verdicts be enforced should moral suasion fail? Washington once wrote to Knox, “It is among the evils, and perhaps not the smallest, of democratic governments, that the people must always feel before they will see.” It is at that stage of affairs where public opinion feels that cherished interests have been violated and national honor is at stake, that the opinion of any organization or league dominatingly foreign should be as chaff in the wind.
The thesis is presented that upon our naval policy will depend our peace and security. It is believed that the Navy, as a whole, voices the sentiments of Theodore Roosevelt when he said:
The United States Navy is the surest guarantor of peace which this country possesses. Our voice is now potent for peace, and is so potent that we are not afraid of war. But our protestations would neither deserve nor receive the slightest attention if we were impotent to make them good.
It is paradoxical but nevertheless true that authority and force are required to insure peace in civil, national, and international affairs. There are prominent pacifists who advocate the cultivation of the international mind. This is to be commended within reason, but not to the degree that we are maneuvered into a position whereby other countries may pass official judgment upon the legality of our affairs. A favorite expression of Dr. James Brown Scott, one time counselor of the State Department and recognized authority on international law, is that we found very early in our diplomatic dealings that it was preferable to look after our own affairs rather than entrust their execution to others.
There appears to be no panacea for the ills of the world. The best minds should ever advance constructive measures that will tend to relieve mankind from the burden of capitalistic exploitation, economic slavery, excessive taxation, and war. Checks and safeguards have been devised which will tend to prevent such a catastrophe as that in 1914. Arbitration, conciliation, and mediation will also perform their share of good work. The United States has always stood for these peaceful methods of settlement, and some of the outstanding principles of their operation were originally advanced to the world by the United States. The problem of world peace will not be solved by either the pacifist or militarist. The thought of war and adequate defense against war are anathema to the pacifist, while, on the other hand, the militarist stresses too strongly the theory that “might makes right.” The safe road lies between the two extremes, and it would be decidedly impolitic for those shaping policy to embrace either of the radical opinions. The problem of adequate defense and all its corollaries comprise a study of vast proportions. Superficial knowledge and misguided altruism prompt many of the statements of the day. There are grains of wisdom in the generality that statesmen build and plan for posterity, while the politician builds and plans for the next election.
Foreign policy and naval policy are interrelated in the same manner as law and its enforcement. Their strength will depend upon the interests and will of the people. The Navy deserves the support of the people through their elected representatives, for the service has yet to fail the country in need, and has maintained a commendable efficiency in the face of apathy, organized propaganda, and from some quarters an absolute lack of appreciation of its needs. Naval policy will support foreign policy in proportion to the strength of the Navy. Those who are awakened to the influence of foreign policy and its importance in the affairs of the world will become aware of the need of its “right arm.” In other words, thoughtful people will be impressed with the necessity of maintaining a navy adequate to its responsibilities. Chief Justice Taft, when President, stated, “The world’s history has shown the importance of sea power both for adequate defense and for the support of important and definite policies.” Woodrow Wilson said: “Our ships are our natural bulwarks.” There are without question “important and definite policies” to maintain and naval policy should be forged to meet all demands and respond to all orders with celerity, maintaining a preparedness proportionate to the greatness and wealth of the nation.
The goal of humanity which lies on the horizon is the common brotherhood of man. It seems that its attainments will be best realized through the development of free and self-contained nationalities, each aiming at cooperation permeated by a spirit of friendliness, but “each sufficient unto itself, as a free man is sufficient unto himself.” The goal will be gained neither by aggressive foreign policies with tremendous armaments nor the reduction of adequate defense to enforce the existing policies. It will be a fleet “second to none,” with the profession of faith that its mission lies in the display of justice as well to the weak as the strong.
The memory of man is short. It is in the nature of things that prosperity and luxury dull the senses to remembrance of the lean years. Sea power has been a writer of history and a predominant factor in the rise of the United States as a world power. It would be a sacrilege to weaken the bulwarks of her safety or abandon measures that should be able to determine her future.