Prize Essay, 1934
"Courage and boldness of speech, unless they have material force at command, lead to peril in action."-Demosthenes
The foundation of naval policy is national policy. Whether or not these policies are uttered, the existence of a bond between the two must be recognized. Failure to adjust the size of navies to the needs of external policy, or conversely to adjust external national policy to the strength of the military fleet has, in the past, frequently led to disaster.
There is no intention of advancing here any of the old and familiar arguments for large navies—or for small ones. Undoubtedly the determination of the size of the fleet is a professional question. After national policies have been decided upon, reaching a conclusion as to the naval power necessary to support those policies is distinctly a task for a naval official. Defining the national policies, however, is not his function, except so far as his advice may be sought concerning the practicability of supporting those policies with the naval power that may be made available.
The lessons of history are so obvious to the student of sea power that he may fail to see the other side of the picture. While nations have been rising and falling by the use and abuse of the sea, others have been quietly working out their destiny without aspirations to what is often called greatness. Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, and Sweden have in modern times made no bid for world dominion. No one has as yet advanced proof that this lack has deprived their citizens of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
Advocates of a small navy may be strictly consistent in their arguments. Even those ardent pacifists who would reduce us to utter defenselessness may be aware of the cost and be prepared to pay the price. But ours is not the same case as Switzerland. Mental honesty should impel the advocate of disarmament to recognize the eventualities entailed and moral integrity should induce him to admit that the end of disarmament is not simply the disappearance of military force. The military force of a country is but the outward symbol of her national policy. Disarmament in policy must precede disarmament of the military establishment. Naval policy must be consistent with national policy. Disaster may well lie in any other source.
There is nothing new in such a contention. The exposition of it as a principle of naval policy runs like a thread through the writings of Darrieus.
A nation’s fleets are the realization of its naval policy; and at once there again appears the close bond between the execution of a naval program and the foreign policy of a country.1
One of Mahan’s major contributions to international politics was a clear exposition of the mutual dependence between the naval policy and the external policy of a nation.2 The disasters occasioned by ignoring this relationship may be traced through the pages of history.
Carthage, committed to a policy of commercial expansion by sea-borne trade, begrudged support to her fleet and not even the brilliant campaigns of one of the greatest generals of all times could save her from disaster. Denied the support of sea communications, the feats of Hannibal only insured his own ultimate downfall.3 Eighteen centuries later, Holland, aspiring to greatness by the sea, repeated the mistakes of Carthage in starving her military fleet. In a series of wars she was forced back upon herself and her sea-supported greatness withered away.
The modern history of Spain is the history of incompatible naval and national policies. In the early part of the seventeenth century the colonies and possessions of Spain were world-wide in extent and their wealth flowed by sea to the support of the mother country. But this rich dominion was not protected by a competent navy, so the wealth and greatness of Spain but served to feed the growing power of England.
Repeatedly her sea communications were raided by English seamen and one by one her colonies fell away. In 1898 she had not yet learned her lesson. In the face of a hundred years of American interest in Cuban affairs, her harsh policy was unsupported by a fleet adequate to the task of protecting that far possession. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines fell from the hands of a nation too feeble or too shortsighted to support a navy competent to protect them.4
The naval policy of France has been subjected to a curious succession of ups and downs. Committed by her continental position to predominating land influences, her maritime interests have assumed secondary importance. Only when her power on land has insured reasonable continental security has she fared forth upon the sea with military power. But throughout her history she has necessarily drawn much of her greatness from overseas. Consequently her ambitions have frequently felt the pinch of a hostile sea power.
Throughout the reign of Louis XIV the French Navy alternately waxed and waned. In the Seven Years’ War, during a period of naval decline, a good portion of her colonial possessions were stripped from her. The period of the American Revolution saw a rebirth of the French Navy. During this period her Navy was professionally committed to a false tactical doctrine which robbed her of the victories her naval development deserved. Nevertheless, the pressure of her sea power was effective. England, faced with powerful enemies at sea and committed to a distant war, found herself unable to subdue her rebellious colonies.
Napoleon in his ambition to conquer all Europe was finally thwarted by the naval combinations of Great Britain. Supreme upon the land, the Emperor was again and again defeated by the pressure of sea power. Denied access to the sea, the wealth of France slowly dried up under the demands of repeated wars, while the strength of her enemies was continuously renewed from English sources. Napoleon’s last great effort at sea culminated in the Trafalgar campaign—England was saved from invasion and Waterloo was destined to follow.5
The naval history of Russia furnishes a typical example of poor co-ordination between naval and national policy. In the latter part of the nineteenth century her eastward expansion reached the Pacific. Here she was to come face to face with the new power of Japan. Russia slowly extended her influence throughout Manchuria and occupied Port Arthur after that port had been denied Japan as part of the fruits of victory in the Chino-Japanese War.
Japan felt that Russia was pre-empting territory necessary to her economic needs and that Russia, securely based at Port Arthur, would always be a threat to her very existence. Russia felt secure in possession of her vastly superior reserves of man power and wealth. She reckoned without the sea. The long land lines of communications were too thin to support large-scale military operations in the distant east. Control of the sea was vital to both parties.
But Russian naval policy lacked the aggressiveness of her political policy. If she was to persist in her eastward expansion it was necessary for her to take steps to secure control of vital sea areas. This she failed to do, although the latent naval power of Russia was theoretically superior to that of Japan. Defeat in detail followed for the separated divisions of the Russian fleet and the smaller nation triumphed over her potentially more powerful adversary.6
Germany's bid for sea power is a matter of more recent history. Her rapid economic development impelled her to seek colonies beyond the seas and to develop a tremendous ocean-borne trade. Partly because the teachings of Mahan had been so thoroughly absorbed by her leaders, her commercial development was accompanied by the growth of a powerful navy.7
Her geographical position for the development of a great sea power was not advantageous. Rivalry with Great Britain was bound to arise from her bid for world power. Moreover, her continental position made it necessary for her, as for France, to assign primary importance to affairs on land. England blocked access from her ports to the sea.
In the case of Germany we must admit that her naval policy was consistent with her national policy, but her ambitions were opposed by insurmountable difficulties. To secure her home territory against powerful neighbors on land she must support a large army. Like France, her primary interests were on land. Like the United Provinces, her egress to the sea was blocked by a powerful potential enemy.
Germany’s ambitions exceeded her resources. Since the fall of the Roman Empire the world has never permitted one country to have at one time command of the sea and an irresistible army.8 Germany could attain safety only by adopting more modest ambitions. Her late history may be compared to that of France in the time of Napoleon. France also found it impossible to maintain a first-rate army and a first-rate navy. Like France, she also was finally defeated by the silent pressure of British sea power. Also like France, when her battle fleet was defeated, she resorted to a war of commerce destruction. And once again this type of warfare proved capable of dealing painful wounds but not fatal ones.9
Perhaps England is the only nation that has steadfastly maintained a naval policy in strict accord with her aggressive national policy. In this she has, of course, been much favored by geographical position. With but two minor lapses she has consistently maintained a navy competent to support all her national ambitions. In 1667, Charles II allowed his navy to decline to such an extent that De Ruyter sailed up the Thames and burned the shipping within sight of London. The lesson, dearly bought, was well learned. Never again has the British Navy been allowed to decline to such a dangerous point. In 1776, however, England’s harsh colonial policy resulted in her becoming committed to a distant war at a time when France possessed a powerful Navy. The loss of the colonies resulted. Since the beginning of the present national system, marked by the close of the Thirty Years’ War, England has at no other time been successfully opposed at sea.
In our history there has been no great consistency between national policy and naval policy. During the past 150 years we have shown a fairly constant tendency to widen our sphere of influence, both political and economic, yet the Navy has varied up and down the scale from the gunboats of Jefferson’s time to the world’s largest Navy of 1922.
A few years after the founding of the republic, Washington publicly advocated a policy of political isolation. This policy was undoubtedly the correct one for the struggling young republic. Although his advice was followed, the economic condition of the New England states directed their attention to the sea. Aided by a favorable national policy, after the foundation of a stable central government, and encouraged by the difficulties of war-torn Europe, our carrying trade increased out of all proportion to our strength as a nation.
It is noteworthy that our commercial expansion was not accompanied by a healthy naval growth. At this period of our history a navy of a dozen or twenty sail of the line could easily have been supported by the new nation.10 Such a force, possessing as it would a measure of the balance of naval power, would have gone a long way toward compelling respect for our neutral rights. The lack of such a force materially assisted in bringing on the disastrous War of 1812, in which our pit1 fully few frigates but showed what might have been accomplished by a navy commensurate with the scope of our sea-borne trade.
Following the War of 1812 our interest was diverted to internal expansion, the energy of the nation going into westward continental development. Although we retained a respectable merchant marine down to the beginning of the Civil War, sea trade had a decreasing importance m our national life. Valuable as was our trade and rich in the traditions of the clipper ships, the relative importance of the sea declined as our interests expanded inland. From the economic viewpoint, there was no compelling cause for the development of a navy.
In 1823, President Monroe enunciated his famous doctrine. On its face this doctrine was a piece of pure bombast and international bluff the like of which the world has seldom seen. With a contemptuous disdain for the necessary force to back up our magnificent ideal, we ordered the powerful nations of Europe to refrain from political expansion in the whole of the Americas and forbade Spain, backed by the Holy Alliance, to reconquer her rebellious colonies.
But the case was somewhat different from its surface presentations. The new policy announced was really a British policy.11 Great Britain had no wish to see the power of France increased by colonies acquired under any pretext, nor to see the countries of South America closed again to British trade. The Monroe Doctrine, therefore, rested securely on the might of the British Navy, while the United States struck a paternal attitude towards its southern neighbors.
This condition of affairs continued down to the Civil War. Some minor differences of opinion arose in the Central Americas where the application of the doctrine was to the disadvantage of Great Britain herself. These differences were amicably settled, however. Thus it came about that the Monroe Doctrine was not seriously challenged until 1864 when Maximilian I made his famous attempt in Mexico. This attempt was supported by France but the attitude of England toward America had suffered a great change during the course of the Civil War and the Monroe Doctrine Was no longer as popular in England as it had been. This in itself was an exposition of what an insecure basis our policy had rested upon for the previous forty years. The end of the war, however, found us with a powerful Navy, second only to that of England herself. Also, the effort was made in a country bordering the United States and at a time when we possessed a large army of veterans. Thus by good fortune, at the time of the withdrawal of England’s support, we possessed the requisite force to compel respect for this important element of our national policy.
The next challenge to the Monroe Doctrine came in 1902 as a result of the Venezuela affair. The German Navy was probably adequate to ultimately impose its will upon Venezuela over our protests, but again the attempt coincided with a renaissance of the American Navy. Sufficient naval force was therefore available to make it extremely doubtful to Germany that the game would be worth the candle, and the European balance of power was too delicate to permit her to indulge in a naval war so far from her home ports. The decisive actions of President Roosevelt made it immediately apparent that a mere show of force would not be sufficient and Germany had no other course than to withdraw as gracefully as possible.
At the beginning of the Civil War the Confederate States possessed no navy and the Union but a small one. The small Union Navy was the nucleus about which was gathered the heterogeneous blockade force. The use of ironclads in the war rendered obsolete a good portion of the world’s navies, so the United States ended the war with a Navy second only to that of Great Britain. The pressure of the blockade had been the decisive factor of the war but the quiet pressure of sea power escaped public attention and the Navy was allowed to decay slowly to impotence after the war was over.
At the close of the war we had a total of 674 armed ships. Fifteen years afterwards we possessed but 41 and most of these were obsolete.12 The merchant marine never recovered from the blows of the war. The days of the clipper ships were over, and with her iron ships England obtained the greater share of the world’s carrying trade. The British Navy was supreme, and once again the free-trade policy of England coincided with our own interests.
The westward expansion of the country had been completed ten years before the beginning of the war. We were now bounded by both oceans and the Gulf. The control of the Caribbean was vital to our communications between our two sea coasts. To these responsibilities we added the purchase of Alaska in 1867. Steadily we increased our dependence upon power to control the sea and just as steadily we decreased the strength of the Navy. There are several reasons why we received no serious setback in these years of our defenselessness. Europe was closely preoccupied in her own affairs. No powerful navy existed in the Pacific. England’s policy continued benevolent, and, last but not least, our national good luck continued.
In 1880 there was a mild revival of interest in the Navy. Congress appropriated money for three protected cruisers. With this small start the new Navy grew very slowly, but the next test of strength in 1898 found us with a modest Navy of third-rate.
In that year public opinion, inflamed by an irresponsible and unscrupulous press, led us into war with Spain. For the third time in our short history we rushed recklessly into war, unprepared and heedless of the consequences. By thousands our “citizens rushed to arms over night.” By thousands they died in the southern concentration camps. After a lamentable display of inefficiency, a few of them were landed at Santiago with little equipment and almost no conception of what had to be accomplished.13
That these conditions were not paralleled in the Navy was another piece of national good fortune. Since the Civil War the Navy had possessed a small group of officers whose spirit had not died as the Navy decayed. The names of Mahan and Luce are not written in the lists of the heroes of that war. The principles of strategy that they had taught were consistently violated during the course of the war. But that the Navy possessed an adequate force and the necessary spirit to accomplish its task is due, in no small part, to their influence.
The close of the war found our territory extended to include the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Hawaii was annexed the same year. The acquisition of Hawaii and Puerto Rico strengthened our defense position but with the Philippines and Guam in our possession, we found ourselves extended far into the Pacific. For the defense of these possessions the Navy was obviously inadequate. There was no danger of European aggression while the balance of power remained so delicately adjusted on that continent. But a new naval force was appearing in the Pacific, and the immigration question was soon to disturb our peaceful relations with Japan.
The slow and quiet development of the Navy could not keep pace with the extension of our foreign policy. In 1899, John Hay enunciated the open-door policy- After the Boxer Rebellion he announced:
The policy of the government of the United States is to seek a solution which may bring about permanent safety and peace to China, to preserve Chinese territorial and administration entity, protect all rights guaranteed to friendly powers by treaty and international law, and safeguard for the world the principle of equal and impartial trade with all parts of the Chinese Empire.14
Great Britain gladly approved of the new policy and the other powers somewhat unwillingly acquiesced. The open-door policy was therefore, at its inception, little more than a declaration of intention not to participate in the partition of China, together with a pious wish that others would do likewise.
Viewed in such a light the open-door policy required no extension of naval force. In popular opinion, however, the open- door policy has come to mean something much different. Every aggression against China in late years has been regarded by the American public as distinctly counter to our interests and policy. This throws the matter in an entirely different light, for to enforce the open-door policy in China would require so large a navy that the economic strength of the nation would be taxed in maintaining it.
In 1903 the Canal Zone came under American jurisdiction. The Isthmus and the Caribbean had been a vital part of our line of communication since our territorial expansion carried us to the Pacific coast. The building of the canal, however, directed public attention to that area. This resulted in a more active Caribbean policy. In the popular mind, and even in the minds of some of those who have directed our policy, the Caribbean policy has always been confused with the Monroe Doctrine.15
Differentiation between these two policies is important. In the Caribbean countries we have a vital interest. Conditions in these countries bear directly upon our control of the canal route. Our interest is not so direct in the other countries of South America. When, therefore, we find ourselves impelled to action in the Caribbean countries and attempt to justify ourselves under the Monroe Doctrine, we immediately arouse the fears of all South American nations. It is possible that this reaction would not result if the true reason for our action was better understood both m this country and abroad.
There is ample evidence that our Caribbean policy is in need of revision; indeed the events of the past few months seem to indicate that this revision is going on. We have, on previous occasions, taken action in Haiti and Nicaragua because those nations have found themselves unable to pay their external debt. By old international custom a creditor nation might seize the Ports and customs of a debtor and bankrupt nation.16 In the past we have taken such action to avoid violation of the Monroe Doctrine and to prevent a European nation from gaining a foothold in the Caribbean under any such pretext. Under the present conditions of default on international obligations, any such action by a European country in the Caribbean would be manifestly inconsistent, and a more modern Caribbean policy would seem to be in order.
The beginning of the World War found us with a Navy of such strength that its weight would be a considerable factor on either side of the scale. This naval strength in the hands of a neutral was instrumental in securing for all neutrals some measure of their rights under international law. In 1917, however, Germany found herself hemmed in with a tight blockade that was slowly destroying her power to resist. Her only hope of success was to secure an early end of the war.
She, therefore, resorted to unrestricted submarine warfare with the knowledge that this action would bring the United States into the war on the side of the Allies. But the lack of a military body in the United States capable of immediately taking the field in force made it possible that Germany might bring the war to a successful conclusion before the effect of American arms could be felt on the Western Front.17
The acceleration of the naval building program as a result of the war brought us to 1922 with the most powerful Navy in the world. In that year the Limitation of Armament Conference was called in Washington. In this conference we relinquished naval primacy in the interests of worldwide limitations of armaments and for other good and sufficient reasons. What has largely escaped attention, however, is that the retrenchment in naval strength was not followed by retrenchment in the field of national policy.
In fact, the treaties resulting from this conference established our continuing interest in the open-door policy, and although our ability to adequately defend the Philippines was hampered by treaty restrictions, we relinquished none of our responsibility in that quarter. For the defense of the Philippines under treaty conditions, a treaty navy was hardly adequate. Yet the years following the conferences have found us lagging behind the treaty ratio.
Since the Washington conference the London conference has extended the principle of limitations by agreement to include auxiliary types. Also in fields other than armament limitation, international diplomacy has expended considerable effort. Progress, in the main, has been vague but the trend of international thought indicated by these efforts remains of decided interest.
The Briand-Kellogg Peace Pact was the culmination of efforts to banish wars by legislative methods. Subsequent events have somewhat discredited the pact and indeed our own experience with national prohibition has cast considerable doubt on the adequacy of the method itself. This does not dispose of the question of international adjudication any more than the repeal of the 18th Amendment disposes of the question of temperance. This is largely a question for the future. At present the efficiency of the peace pacts is too indeterminate to receive any considerable weight in the determination of military strength.
In the field of international economics there have been for some years two widely diverse opinions. The recent World Economic Conference saw these opinions in more or less open conflict. One school of thought holds that monopolistic and restrictive policies are bound to yield before the demand for free interchange of international goods and that there can be no permanent foundation of world accord until the principle of equal trade opportunities for all is universally recognized.18 Others see in the continual striving for world markets a threat to world peace and look forward to the development of a policy of economic nationalism with international trade restricted to a few essential raw materials.
There is no need to attempt here to evaluate the advantages or disadvantages of either course. We must recognize, however, that the present trend seems to be toward the acquisition by governmental agencies of more and more control over the business of export, import, and shipping- import customs, import and export quotas, and government subsidies of shipping are everywhere existent. The direction of international trade has recently been the subject of many treaties and agreements, some of which almost take on the character of direct barter between nations.
External national trade has always been of interest to the government. There is a definite trend toward its closer control leading, in the case of Russia, to direct government monopoly of foreign commerce. Whatever may be our views as to the efficiency of government in business fields, we must prepare ourselves for a wide extension of government control of foreign commerce in all its aspects. It is difficult to see how the principle of national planning can be extended without this control. Whether or not this is to be achieved by the present methods of subsidies, import quotas, protective tariffs, export bounties, and barter treaties or by direct monopolies, the effect will be the same and measures of control must increase if we are to continue to control internal prices and surpluses.
The ultimate effect of these economic developments on naval strength is difficult to foresee. Historically, the policy of free trade has found its greatest success under the protection of a powerful navy. The German challenge to British commercial and naval supremacy under this system of free trade was one of the fundamental causes of the World War. In the past a large volume of international trade has meant a large navy and economic expansion has often been as dangerous to the peace of a country as political expansion.
Nationalistic policies, if carried to the limit of the development of a completely nationalistic economic system, will cause a decline of international trade. Eventually this would tend to effect the disappearance of navies, as without over-seas trade there is no necessity for a naval force to guard the oceanic lines of communications. Similarly, the offensive power of navies would decline in the absence of vital trade. These are possibilities of the future. The more immediate effect of the stimulation of national spirit will probably be an increase rather than a decrease in armaments.
The fundamental naval policy of the United States as recently officially published is as follows:
To maintain the Navy in sufficient strength to support the national policies and commerce and to guard the continental and over-seas possessions of the United States.19
It is thus clear that the Navy is fully aware of the bond between naval and national policies. This is not enough. Those who formulate national policy must be aware of it also.
Under present conditions the formulation of national external policy is an indefinite process. The President, acting through his Secretary of State, is charged with the conduct of foreign affairs. When a new question arises the President consults his experts in the State Department and possibly reaches a decision that may or may not be published. The question may be discussed from the floor of the House or the Senate. It will probably be written about in newspapers and magazines and discussed by citizens in all walks of life.20 From all such sources our foreign policy is finally formulated, but it rarely reaches the stage of a formal declaration of policy. Our “policy” is frequently an interpretation of public opinion and as such is subject to wide variations.
It is thus apparent that as the first step in the formulation of naval policy all of these sometimes vague and varied sources must be consulted to make a decision as to just what are the national policies. If this question is left to the General Board there is no assurance that their opinion will be considered authoritative and, moreover, it adds to their already heavy duties the task of reaching a decision in a field distinctly outside of their specialty.
It is contended that to the State Department, as the only body whose opinion can carry the weight of authority, should be delegated the task of the formulation of a clear, concise, and unambiguous declaration of national policy. Moreover, this declaration of policy should receive the widest publicity. A nation’s interests demand that its policies be understood by its citizens whose prosperity and happiness may depend upon these policies. Publication of these policies is consistent with the theory of democracy and in line with the new open diplomacy. As the first small step toward disarmament in the fundamental field of national policy such action would be more important to the peace of the world than all the peace pacts that have ever been written.
It may be contended in objection that such a course is impractical because the external national policy is ever changing, that the policy so published could not be comprehended by the average citizen, that it would lack authority because public opinion is the final arbiter in the realm of national policy and that republics are inherently unable to follow far-reaching designs. None of these objections is valid.
To contend that national policy is an esoteric subject is to deny the principle of democracy. In any event, national policy is finally decided by public opinion and the formulation and publication of policy is but an effort to crystallize and interpret this opinion. Publication of policy lays the question before the court of last appeal before action is required by a national emergency. That public opinion may change is conceded. A public policy would be no worse off in this respect than any of the treaties of renunciation of war, for treaties are entered into by the Executive with the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress, however, has the power of declaring war and its constitutional power in this respect cannot be abrogated by the Executive. Treaties, therefore, are but statements of policy and are subject to change without notice to the high contracting powers.21
Rapid change in national policy is more apparent than real. Despite the criticisms of the party out of power, the policy of the nation remains essentially unchanged from administration to adminstration.22 So far as those elements of national policy requiring the support of naval power are concerned, this is necessarily true, for navies are organizations of but slow growth. A battleship may be built in three years but to train the technicians in her crew may take a decade, and a generation is all too short a time to make an admiral. Since the First Punic War, no one has successfully improvised a navy.
To the Navy a clear exposition of national policy is essential. Not only do these policies determine the size of the fleet but they may have an important bearing upon the composition of the fleet as to types and characteristics of those types. Thus Germany, with her national policies clearly in mind, built a Navy for operations in the North Sea. The element of superiority thus given her ships over corresponding units of the British fleet, built for worldwide operations, was considerable.
In our own case the question of national policies could not exert such a great influence over naval design because almost any conceivable employment of the fleet requires large cruising radius and good sea-keeping abilities. The nature and extent of our coast line and the long jump from Panama to San Diego compel a definite leaning to the “blue-water school” with a fleet capable of operating either in the Arctic or in the tropics, and, so far as possible, able to supply its own needs. The element of national policy still does exert an influence, however. The possibility of projecting the fleet into areas far from any possible base has already caused us to differ from England in the question of maximum cruiser tonnage. This same lack of bases makes it essential for the fleet to carry most of its aircraft on shipboard, enhancing the value of the carrier type.
It is mainly in the determination of the size of the fleet that the effect of national policy is felt. Indeed since 1922 the size of the fleet has become a question to be determined by international agreement. This is a distinct advance in international politics. The size of navies was always somewhat of a relative matter and therefore a question that possessed the possibility of solution by international agreement. It should be distinctly understood, however, that the size of the fleet being thus restricted by treaty, the field of national policy also becomes limited.
The end of the period of the Washington treaties is approaching and the conference of 1935 is in sight. Already the rumblings of the disruption of the ratios of 1922 are in the air. In preparation for the conference we should be prepared to decide not only on the sacrifices in relative naval strength we can afford to make but we should also have definite knowledge as to what curtailments in national policy are entailed.
The century and a half of our history has endowed us with certain traditional policies. Others are more temporary and still other so-called policies merely trends. All are subject to debatable interpretation. New policies maybe in the process of formation. Old policies have become settled in our national consciousness. In the light of past and of the future national policies, our naval strength must be adjusted.
Senior in point of age is our policy of Political isolation. It is a policy that has been open to attack in recent years but one which seems to be firmly imbedded in the rational mind. It does not absolve us of interest in the affairs of others. The political relations between other countries can always exert an influence over the strength our fleet as did the balance of naval strength between England and Germany before the war.
As a reasonable corollary to this policy of isolation the most of us might infer a Policy of the maintenance of sufficient force to insure our continental limits from Evasion. Others may not see in this the Necessity for a moderate Navy. It is apparent, of course, that no non-American Power could support a large expedition on this side of the Atlantic without control of the sea. Without a reasonable Navy our Policy of isolation rests only on the altruistic motives of countries possessing the Necessary strength to support a strong expeditionary force.
It must be conceded that to support this simple policy of protection of the continental limits of the United States we do not need a Navy as large as any that might conceivably be sent against it. Strategically, a navy operating against the North American continent would have to operate a long way from its bases. It must possess a swarm of cruisers to protect its long exposed lines of communication. Its aircraft would probably have to be all carrier based, whereas ours might be, in part, based on shore. It could be menaced by the smaller submarine types. For the support of this minimum policy Hawaii would remain a valuable outpost and our interest in the canal and in the Caribbean would still be vital to our communications.
As stated above, other nations have existed in apparent security with no navies at all. Our case is much different, however. Our national boundaries still contain large undeveloped land areas. A much larger population could be supported by this country, at a much lower scale of living than at present, it is true, but at a much higher scale than is now generally found in some European and all Asiatic countries.
Our underpopulated areas may be considered regions of low economic pressure, as contrasted with areas of dense population and high economic pressure to be found in many places throughout the world. The natural flow of population must be toward these areas of low pressure. As in hydraulics, this flow will inevitably occur unless opposed by some artificial force. In our case the dam that holds back the tide of immigration is, in the ultimate analysis, the power of the fleet. Disarmament by example, carried to the final extreme, must see our facade of immigration laws crumble away as the support of the fleet is removed. We cannot continue to hold for ourselves a larger than average proportion of the world’s resources and maintain a standard of living higher than world average without protecting our wealth with the necessary force.
Next in seniority is the Monroe Doctrine. By name at least, it is familiar to nearly every citizen. In principle it has been accepted by most of the important nations of the earth. It has found its way into treaties. But unfortunately it means different things to different people.
In 1823, President Monroe, in his message to Congress, stated:
We owe it, therefore, to candor and to amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere, as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of European powers we have not and shall not interfere. But with the governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than a manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.23
It would seem that nothing could be more concise or direct. Yet the Monroe Doctrine is invoked whenever we feel impelled to take any sort of action in the Caribbean. That much of the confusion exists only in the popular mind is granted, but it is precisely in this field that an authoritative statement of national policy would do the most good.
To support the Monroe Doctrine adds considerably to the task of the fleet. The doctrine is only as strong as the Navy. No European aggression can succeed as long as the sea areas in this hemisphere are controlled, but conversely if that control passed to another we could do little more than protest a violation. To extend the area of our control to the shores of South America might require our fleet to operate as far from our bases as an enemy would be from his. The advantages of short lines of communication cannot be relied upon and we must have at our disposal a fleet of strength equal to that of a possible enemy, with ample cruiser strength to protect our extended lines of communication.
Next in order of interest to the Navy is the question of the Philippines. Spain lost them because she was unable or unwilling to support a navy adequate for their defense and too proud to dispose of them by peaceful means. Perhaps we are to repeat the mistake of our predecessor. Situated as they are a long way from any possible bases of repair and supply, the protection of these far-flung possessions is a problem to tax the strength of a treaty navy, built, equipped, and manned at the peak of its fighting efficiency. If these islands are deprived of shore defenses to such an extent that a fleet steaming to their relief may find itself without a secure base at the end of its long journey, the problem becomes well-nigh insoluble.
To secure defense of the Philippines, a treaty navy operating under conditions imposed by the treaty is hardly adequate. We are therefore faced with the old problem of either increasing our naval force or disposing of our responsibility in the Philippines. Economically these islands are certainly not worth the increase in the naval budget necessary to securely retain them. It must be recognized, however, that the question of their retention is bound up with the whole of the involved question of our Asiatic policy. Withdrawal from the Philippines means a definite and distinct withdrawal from Asia.
Granting independence promises to be only a means of sacrificing our authority in the Islands without losing our responsibility. There is probably no method of completely and finally relinquishing our responsibility other than outright sale to another power.
To support the policy of the open door in China in the present day is the most difficult task to assign to the Navy. Under present conditions a navy not only of treaty strength but one large enough to tax the economic strength of the country would be necessary. A secure Asiatic fleet base must be provided, capable of withstanding a long siege. A swarm of cruisers must be built to protect the long line of communications flanked by possible enemy bases, and a prodigious fleet of auxiliaries and supply vessels must be available.
In retrospect, the Washington and London naval treaties are largely open to the criticism that they were not followed, in our case, by a proper consideration of the peculiar relation between naval and national policies.
Once signed and confirmed, the naval treaties became a fixed element of national policy, the controlling element as regards the formation of naval policy. This has been recognized by those responsible for the formation of a naval Policy for the first element of general policy. United States naval policy is:
To create, maintain, and operate a Navy second to none and in conformity with treaty provisions.24
In the contemporary development of national policy, however, the effect of the naval treaties was apparently disregarded.
Part of the Washington treaty provided that the fortifications of Guam and the Philippines were not to be augmented. Furthermore, the treaties at the end of the War had transferred the Caroline and Marshall Islands from German sovereignty to Japanese mandate. In the new situation thus imposed, a Navy “second to none” became inadequate to defend the Philippines and to support the open-door policy, for to accomplish this it is necessary that the fleet be able to proceed to and operate in the waters around the Philippines, protecting a long line of communications with flanks exposed to a possible enemy based in the mandate islands.
The confirmation of the treaties should therefore have been followed by a withdrawal from the Philippines in such a manner as to absolve us from all responsibility for the future of that area and a recession from the open-door policy in regard to China. Economic conditions have since compelled us to make tentative advances of independence to the Philippines, but as before stated this has been done in such a manner that, if accomplished, it will leave us without authority in the islands while relieving us of little of the responsibility. Subsequent events have also demonstrated our inability to maintain the open door but there has been no official recession from this policy. Our failure to scale down our national policy to the strength of the fleet we can operate in the western Pacific constitutes, today, one of the danger spots to the peace of the world.
National policy should be considered, formulated, and enunciated in a form somewhat similar to the present published naval policy. It should be unambiguous, concise, and authoritative and furthermore, should receive wide publicity. The policy of the Navy should be founded upon this national policy. As naval policy has become the direct concern of statesmen, the national policy as regards the Navy should be consistent with national policy as regards those elements which the Navy may be called upon to defend.
We should enter the new naval conferences prepared to disarm in regard to national policy in proportion to the concessions made in naval strength. It should be made distinctly clear that the armed Navy is but the outward expression of national policy and that policy as regards the Navy must be consistent with the other elements of national policy.
With this in view we should be prepared to adjust our national and naval policies on somewhat the following lines:
- We must abandon the open-door policy or be prepared to build a Navy up to the limit of our resources.
- We must regain our right to fortify the Philippines and Guam and retain a large measure of cruiser superiority or be prepared to dispose of the Philippines in such a manner as to forever settle our responsibility for the future of those islands.
- We must retain a “Navy second to none” or be prepared to abandon the Monroe Doctrine.
- If we are to continue on the path of disarmament by example we must be prepared to abandon our policy of immigration control and allow our scale of living to sink to the average of the rest of the world.
1 Darrieus, War on the Sea, p. 19.
2 Mahan, Armaments and Arbitration, p. 67.
3 Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660-1783, pp. 14-18.
4 Darrieus, War on the Sea, Chap. iv.
5 Corbett, The Campaign of Trafalgar, p. 424.
6 Mahan, Naval Strategy, Chap. xiii.
7 Taylor, Life of Admiral Mahan, p. 131.
8 Vestal, The Maintenance of Peace, p. 518.
9 Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, Vol. II, Chap. xvii.
10 Mahan, Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812, Vol. I, p. 261.
11 Edward Everett, The Monroe Doctrine, Loyal Pub. Soc. #34.
12 Dealey, Foreign Policies of the United States, p. 112
13 Aston, Letters on Amphibious Wars, p. 133.
14 Dealey, Foreign Policies of the United States, p. 274.
15 Knox, “The Monroe Doctrine and Some Incidental Obligations in the Zone of the Caribbean,” N.Y.S. Bar Assoc. 1912.
16 Dealey, Foreign Policies of the United States, p. 237.
17 Scheer, Germany’s High Sea Fleet in the World War, p. 252.
18 Dealey, Foreign Policies of the United States, p. 55.
19 U. S. Naval Policy, 1933.
20 Pennfield, Foreign Policy Assoc, pamphlet 48, Series 1927-28.
21 Nicholas Murray Butler, Foreign Policy Assoc, pamphlet 48, Series 1927-28.
22 Vestal, The Maintenance of Peace, p. 431.
23 Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. II, p. 787.
24 U. S. Naval Policy, 1933.