The life sciences, without exception, teach that living organisms grow in periods, a season of dormancy followed by a season of activity. The races of men, by reason of their biological components perhaps, exhibit these same seasons, and there comes to pass a Golden Age, a Renaissance, or an Industrial Revolution, periodically interrupting what have been quiescent seasons of routine regularity and complacence. We are living in the midst of such an era of growing change today, an era in which new norms are being set, new viewpoints are being found, and new reactions are being discovered, in practically every area of human contact and experience.
In the international field, specifically, new relationships are growing, new responsibilities are developing, and new policies are being shaped. Such a period of change as ours, however, while presenting many novel aspects, does not demand that we scrap all that is old, just because it is old. It does, nevertheless, imply that we shall require the old to justify its continuing existence, and that it shall be reviewed and re-evaluated and recast in the newer mold, if that shall have been found, in fact, better than the old.
It is proposed in this article to give analytical consideration to some of the changing aspects of the international situation as they now present themselves. In particular it is proposed to examine the inter-relations of our diplomatic and naval techniques, to discover, if we may, how they square with the rapidly shifting scenes in which they operate. Some of the things which will be said have been stated many times before, but are here recited for their foundational values, from which an advance to newer positions may be made.
In any international theater of operations in which sea power is an element, two great groups of policies reign—the diplomatic and the naval. Diplomatic policy governs the recognitions, the understandings, the reciprocal agreements, and the sanctions among nations. Naval policy governs the application of naval force to international situations. Naval force exists mainly for the purpose of giving support and meaning to diplomatic policy.
Diplomatic policy succeeds fundamentally under two conditions. It succeeds when it is to the economic and political advantage of the conferees to agree. Treaties, in general, exert moral suasion only and are abrogated with impunity when a renegade signatory possesses sufficient naval and military power to accomplish his objectives single-handed. When an economic-political rivalry develops between nations, diplomatic policy may still succeed if it enjoys the support of an adequate naval policy. Moral suasion has little effect among nations when political and economic competition exists, despite the fact that its half-brother, public opinion, rules with growing prestige within the boundaries of any given political entity.
When diplomatic policy fails, however, naval force alone may be counted upon to re-establish the national authority. If, at that stage, naval force also fails, the nation as a whole goes down to defeat.
In days gone by, before the advent of the cable and the radio, the naval commander on foreign station was likewise the diplomat. He embodied both naval and diplomatic policy. He presented his case as diplomatically as might be, and with a force equal to the strength of his broadside. The ultimatum which Commodore Perry tendered to the Shogun in 1853 was not cabled to him from the Department of State. He spoke it extemporaneously to suit the occasion, and in keeping with the policy instructions with which he had sailed some months before, and his guns backed him up.
Rare indeed is the situation now when the naval commander is not in instantaneous contact with the Navy Department and, through the Chief Executive, with the arbiters of foreign policy in the State Department. In consequence, a completeness of rapport should exist in the hour-to-hour developments encountered in a given international situation, such as was manifestly impossible a generation or two ago. While this co-ordination is in fact experienced at times, in the minor tactics of an active diplomatic incident, it is not so clearly achieved in the major strategy of our international relations. Part of the difficulty is obviously due to this very departmentalization of our governmental forms, in which the naval and diplomatic channels meet only at the head.
Time and again, statesmen and economists have stated the principle that the Navy is needed primarily to support diplomacy abroad, whether that diplomacy is concerned with political issues, the protection of our nationals, or the preservation of commercial rights. One need only cite the historic successes of British diplomacy in every quarter of the globe, with the British fleet likewise in every quarter of the globe to give effect to the ultimatums and decisions of Downing Street. It should be axiomatic in dealing with irresponsible nations, as it is with children, not to demand of them what one does not command. It is obvious that the State Department must shape the foreign policy which is to control a given situation, but that, having shaped the policy, it must then look to the Navy for its enforcement against opposition.
Strangely enough, the reverse of this theorem is seldom considered, though its truth should be equally patent. If our foreign relations are to be uniformly successful, it must likewise be borne in mind that the strength of the naval force determines the vitality of the diplomatic policy. May a policy be said in truth to be a policy, if the means of giving it life and reality are not present in sufficient force to impose it upon others? Is it not otherwise the case of a sentry without his rifle?
The naval forces of Preble and Rodgers, lying off the ports of Tripoli and Tunis in 1805, determined the successes of their treaty negotiations with those recalcitrant states. The same conditions obtained when Commodore Lawrence Kearny in the Constellation concluded his Treaty of Wanghia, inaugurating the open door policy with China, in the early forties. The authority which a naval force gave to Perry in his Japanese conversations has been cited. Our naval force, dominant over that of Spain, measured the power with which John Hay, in 1898, wrote into the Peace of Paris whatever provisions he desired respecting the liberation of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the disposition of the Philippines.
In the opposite sense, the failure of Germany to give heed to our diplomatic protests against her violations of international laws and treaties in Belgium, rested solely upon her belief that our naval policy in 1914 would not support our diplomatic policy. In that assumption she was quite correct. Germany’s continued disregard of our subsequent diplomatic protests, respecting her misuse of the submarine and her interference with our neutral shipping, was predicated upon the same weakness of our naval policy. In that, however, she erred grievously, for between 1914 and 1917 our naval policy had gained sufficiently in momentum to carry us to the point where full naval support was accorded our diplomatic policy, and we entered the war. Our unsupported diplomatic positions toward Germany should have impressed upon us for all time the fallacy of such ventures. The maintenance of neutrality in the midst of extensive hostilities is most difficult for even the strongest neutral; it is humiliatingly impossible for a weak neutral.
The extent of our diplomatic successes in the Washington conference on the limitation of naval armaments was determined, almost as mathematically as the naval ratios which resulted, by the fact that we possessed in being, or in immediate prospect, the most powerful naval aggregation ever to be assembled under one flag. To curb that naval force, the conferees were willing and eager to accede to the rather startling proposals which were presented to them by our State Department. The partial or total failures of subsequent limitation efforts were predetermined by our weakened naval policy, even before the conferences convened. In those later gatherings we had no more ships to trade for further concessions from our sea rivals. We had sacrificed prestige so deeply at the Washington conference that our naval policy no longer merited their respectful attention, and diplomatic policy failed utterly, without its support.
Thus, one may conclude at this point that, while diplomatic policy frequently forges ahead, quite beyond the control of naval policy, nevertheless the dimensions of our naval force establish the limits beyond which our diplomatic efforts may not go, and still succeed.
In justice to the facts, it must be recorded that it is not always the fault of the State Department that foreign action at times over-reaches the naval arm. Not infrequently diplomatic positions are taken in response to ill-considered popular demands. An ultimatum is presented without the naval force to give it reality, and is received, in turn, with the complacent disregard which it deserves. Such an ultimatum may satisfy our national idealism aroused by a critical situation, but it is scarcely in keeping with the dignity of the nation to base its international relations upon impracticable phantoms which are known in advance to be beyond realization.
Most unfortunately, too, there are always present those non-belligerent groups who advocate “peaceful” sanctions against intractable nations, little realizing that the embargo and the blockade are the most powerful means which a combatant navy has at its disposal for the winning of a regularly declared war. No action that might be falsely taken in the interests of peace more surely guarantees a prompt break into open hostilities than does a punitive embargo unsupported by a predominant naval force.
With these fundamental principles governing beyond peradventure, it should be recognized that it is both utterly futile and painfully embarrassing thus to extend the diplomatic arm beyond the effective limits established by the naval arm. Such attempts have always been and always will be doomed to failure. If, then, the frontiers of successful diplomatic action are so definitely circumscribed by the naval arm, it might be enlightening to examine quantitatively the length of that naval arm.
It is axiomatic that our fleet—any fleet—can operate continuously only at limited distances from its bases. This operating radius depends, in large measure, upon the degree of attrition which the fleet in question can afford to suffer. If Belligerent A is relatively much stronger than Belligerent B, the former can, with safety, afford to have a generous number of his combatant ships away from the firing line, under repair or overhaul at his operating bases. Under these circumstances, A can operate effectively at greater distance from his bases than he can if B is more nearly his equal in strength. That was the situation of the British at Scapa Flow, with their principal bases many miles to the south. Had the German fleet been substantially equal to the British, it would have been deemed unwise to have permitted any great number of major ships to be absent from the Grand Fleet for extended periods and at such distances.
With A and B more nearly matched in strength, and with each growing relatively stronger as his line is forced back toward his bases, neither belligerent can afford such attrition in ships away from the line. The ideal situation for the continuation of a state of armed peace would obtain where neither of two rivals could advance to the attack of the other without placing himself in so disadvantageous a position as to make his attack ineffective, if not self-destructive. Unfortunately, for world peace, few naval powers are thus paired.
About each major naval base there may, therefore, be struck arcs to a radius equal to the effective operating radius of the fleet, under the conditions which it is to encounter and considering the strength of the enemy which it is to meet. Within these arcs the fleet may operate without excessive attrition. Beyond these arcs it operates with jeopardy, contingent upon the adequacy of the floating repair facilities in its train. Lines drawn tangent to these arcs, and therefore more or less parallel to the coast line between, constitute what may be called the “naval frontier” in the waters in question. This is what Lord Curzon is reputed to have meant by his term, the “defensible frontier of empire,” the most distant line in a given direction which can be held unquestionably against all comers.
Two such areas of naval influence may, of course, be combined temporarily by treaty, in united operations between allies. Conversely, when two such areas overlap, there results a naval competition for the supremacy of those waters, which may or may not involve actual conflict. It is the possibility of such combined action on the part of A and B, in uniting their naval spheres, which might justify C in maintaining a two-power navy, or in demanding “parity in security.”
The naval frontier of the United States, with reference to Europe, lies somewhere midway across the Atlantic, at such times as our fleet is actually in the Atlantic. In a hypothetical contest with a European naval power, our fleet could venture certain distances into the Atlantic from its bases. This frontier, securely held, would insure our eastern coast line against enemy reprisals. Beyond that line, our fleet could not advance with impunity against a foe with a sizable naval organization.
While our naval authority is appreciable up and down both coasts of South America, for protection and police purposes, we could not, of course, operate against a first-rate naval power very far to the south of the Canal Zone, provided a first-rate naval power ever wished to dispute with us in those waters.
In the Pacific, our naval frontier may be placed 2,000 miles or so to the west of Pearl Harbor, but certainly not beyond the 180th meridian for major operations, since no naval facilities worthy of the name exist either at Guam or in the Philippines. This naval frontier would have been very differently positioned had not the United States, with the generous gesture of the idealist, waived aside its fortification rights in the far Pacific Islands, in order to gain the assent of the other powers in the Washington conference, to reduced tonnages of combatant ships. Even now, our naval frontier may be placed at that distance from the coast only by reason of the concentration of the entire fleet in Pacific waters. Were the fleet to be divided between the two seaboards, both the Atlantic and the Pacific frontiers would, of necessity, be greatly retracted.
Our naval frontier is thus an enveloping line about the three Americas, extending some 1,500 or 2,000 miles off our coasts, excepting where Pearl Harbor results in a salient thrust westward into the Pacific, a like distance from Hawaii.
The British, with their widely, but intelligently, distributed bases, present a quite different geometrical figure, despite the shorter cruising radius of their lighter ships. Their naval establishment depicts the far-flung naval frontier of a consistently imperialistic nation, such as we have never been at heart, and probably never shall be in practice. During the past few years, however, the British have established, in effect, a new naval frontier in Asiatic waters, with reference to their Singapore base, with a corresponding removal of emphasis from Hongkong.
The Japanese naval frontier may be similarly drawn, at a similar radius, about their archipelago, with a salient to the southeast, encompassing the former German mandated islands, depending upon the extent to which they are, or might be, fortified and developed as naval operating bases.
These international naval frontiers, thus crudely and rather theoretically sketched, are predicated upon the strengths of the navies of the three major powers which now obtain. With the termination of the Washington limitations, if the three navies expand or contract in their former ratios, the positions of these three naval frontiers would be but little altered. Were one of these three naval powers to expand out of relation to the present treaty ratios, somewhat different locations for all three frontiers in the Pacific would obviously result.
Now let us return to trace our “diplomatic frontiers,” if we may continue the terminology which has been used for the discussion of the naval frontiers. These are determined by word of mouth and the strokes of the pen in the treaties which define our international relationships, rather than by ship tonnages and cruising radiuses.
Parenthetically, it may be said that our foreign policies have been subject to the same wide swings and variations in attitude which have ever characterized our naval policies. Thus we have experienced both the near-imperialism of a McKinley and the broad internationalism of a Wilson, with the “big stick” of a Theodore Roosevelt between. These fundamental, and at times embarrassing reversals of policy, which foreign statesmen often choose to misunderstand, are but the inherent changes of administration to which a democratic form of government is periodically heir. As a result, our diplomatic frontiers refuse to stay fixed, save in a few directions.
We have had the one really permanent policy of non-interference in European affairs since the days of our first President. This has recently been reaffirmed in non-adherence to the World Court, by the present-day Senate. This policy draws a quite definite diplomatic frontier in the Atlantic, midway between the United States and Europe, in a position more or less co-linear with the naval frontier in that portion of the world.
Nearly as old as our disposition against entangling European alliances is our equally positive adherence to the Monroe Doctrine. As originally conceived, it was to be a mutual safeguard for the struggling new Western republics against the operations of the Holy Alliance, at a time when the United States itself was a new entity, struggling to establish security in its European relations. With the coming of that security to the United States, the Monroe Doctrine assumed an altruistic aura toward our weaker sister republics to the south. Fortunately, of late, there has been a healthful turn away from the shadow of paternalism, and toward a soundly co-operative understanding among the Americas. Be that as it may, the policies growing from the Monroe Doctrine draw a diplomatic frontier of major importance about the southern continent. Moreover, this is a frontier which the American people would defend, determinedly, against all encroachment.
Coming northward in the Atlantic, from South America, this diplomatic frontier passes across the mouth of the Caribbean, to the eastward of the Virgin Islands, to join the mid-Atlantic line between the United States and Europe.
Beyond that line we now have only the most general, non-aggressive interests. In decades past, we had an active eastern diplomatic frontier which stretched out, for a time, with the support of the naval arm, to include the Barbary States, and somewhat later the Gold and Ivory Coasts, with their slave trade. These interests have long since been dissipated. We have never concerned ourselves with “maintaining the open door” of the Mediterranean, nor have we felt called upon to “preserve the integrity” of Africa against partition by European powers, although the distance from Dakar to New York is but half that from Shanghai to San Francisco.
Nothing which had occurred to the eastward of that line, since the Barbary piracies and the slave running, had provoked us to belligerency, until the violation of our neutral commerce plunged us into the World War. Nothing that transpires beyond that line need again involve us, until our very neutrality, perhaps, leads us into some future European conflict.
In short, to the eastward, in the North and South Atlantic, the frontiers of our diplomatic and naval policies closely coincide.
Turning to the Pacific, however, we find our diplomatic frontier far over the horizon, beyond the reach of our naval arm. A long established foreign policy has forced our diplomatic frontier completely across the ocean to the Asiatic shore.
If the duration of a policy assured its enforcement, our Asiatic relations would indeed be secure, for our first foreign trade contacts with China date back to President Washington’s appointment of Major Shaw, as Consul, in 1790. If consistency toward a diplomatic policy guaranteed its observance by others, ours would be held inviolable by the foreign office of every major power having Asiatic interests. We have, for more than a century, stood for the open door in China, for the preservation of her territorial integrity, and for an attitude of good will and helpfulness toward her. It is unfortunate that mere seniority of interest will not suffice to establish diplomatic authority in the face of opposing naval influence.
In our early contacts with China and the Orient, diplomatic policy’ did coincide with naval policy. This wholesome coordination, however, was not continued. Even in 1853, Commodore Perry’s establishment of an advanced base in the Bonin Islands was negatived and countermanded by diplomatic policy, precisely at the moment when that diplomatic policy itself was being forced out to an extreme frontier in the Japanese treaty negotiations.
With the almost total abandonment of all naval policy, following the close of the Civil War, the separation of Asiatic foreign relations and their naval support was marked by an ever widening cleavage. Since then our procedure in the Far East has been increasingly diplomatic and less naval, more memoranda and fewer guns.
The acquisition of the Philippines, toward the close of the century, reopened the prospect of our assuming a permanent position of importance in the Far East. We began to be considered a world power with imperialistic leanings. Growing diplomatic prestige in the Orient was not followed, however, by a proportionately strong naval establishment, and Cavite remained the little naval station that it was, rather than becoming the strong operating base for a major fleet, 6,000 miles from its home waters. Our naval activities record but one recovery of vitality since 1898—our showing of force in support of our diplomatic position during the Boxer uprising and the relief of the Peking legations.
Following the World War, our diplomatic interests toward Europe temporarily extended themselves into general participation in the many backwaters and eddies of the Versailles Treaty and the birth of the League of Nations. When mandates were in the making, however, and a strong naval policy would have secured the allotment of the German Pacific islands to the United States, a weak naval policy prevailed and we waived aside the vantage points which the Carolines, the Marshalls, and the Marianas offered, and suffered them to be mandated to Japan. Nevertheless, our diplomatic activities in the Far East moved on apace, shortly after, with futile protests on our part against threatened Japanese infractions of the sovereignty of China.
In the negotiations attending the Washington conference, our diplomatic policy took an outstanding position of world leadership, in establishing the naval ratios and in concluding the Five-Power Pacts, upon which was to hang the future peace of the Orient. Our naval policy again retired, however, in our acceptance of the treaty stipulations against the strengthening of our fortifications to the west of Pearl Harbor. This was followed, almost immediately, by the serious physical reduction of the naval establishment itself, to a point far below the Washington ratios. Despite these naval “retirements,” our diplomatic policy became even more aggressive under the promptings of the Shanghai incident and the Manchurian penetration. Japan’s unhalted consolidation of her positions on the Asiatic mainland indicates, only too clearly, that our diplomatic front has out-distanced its naval support beyond all reason.
British policy in the Orient, both diplomatic and naval, has, to the contrary, shown a tendency toward gradual withdrawal to the south. During the World War, their Asiatic efforts were, in general, limited to Australian waters and the approaches to the Indian Ocean. Of late they have indicated their intention to support their diplomacy from the Singapore base, as a center of operations, rather than from some point farther to the north. The Anglo-Japanese Treaty, upon its expiration, was not renewed. Diplomatically the British were but slightly involved in protesting the invasion of Manchuria and the establishment of the Kingdom of Manchukuo. Unofficially, however, they were considerably nonplused by the firmness of our diplomatic protests, totally unsupported as they were by naval force.
As distinguished, therefore, from the situation in the directions of Europe, Africa, and South America, we find our diplomatic policy in the far Pacific deliberately over-reaching the naval arm by thousands of miles. This is an impossible situation, by all of the tenets of history and common sense. The sooner the fundamental limitations which naval policy imposes upon successful diplomatic policy are recognized, and observed, the smoother will run our international relations in all waters.
Two lines of unequal length may be equalized either by shortening the one or by lengthening the other. The limitations upon successful diplomatic policy in the Pacific may be removed by a lengthening of the naval arm. Or, holding to a fixed naval force, the diplomatic policy may be cut back until it is comparable with its supporting naval establishment. Either procedure would make for consistency. Either procedure would bring us to conformity with the theorem which is the text of this discussion, that successful diplomatic policy is limited by the adequacy or inadequacy of the naval support which it enjoys.
On paper, the established naval policy of the United States requires that the Navy be maintained in sufficient strength to support the national policies and commerce, and to guard the over-seas and continental possessions of the United States. In practice, that policy has not been given the physical establishment necessary for the discharge of its obligations, and diplomatic effectiveness has been sacrificed accordingly.
At this moment, therefore, we are confronted with two possible courses, particularly in the Pacific. One course heads for an expansion of the naval arm to the point where our naval supremacy’ in sea power will be unquestioned and our diplomatic positions will be unequivocally accepted. This implies moving the naval frontier out to coincide with the far more advanced diplomatic line. The alternative course calls for a withdrawal from aggressive participation in international affairs outside our present naval frontier.
Those who advocate the first of these courses are stigmatized as “imperialists” by their opponents, and charged with holding to antiquated political-economic slogans of world domination which are claimed to have been made totally obsolete by new theorems of international relations. Those who would lay the other course are derisively called “Little Americans” by the first group, and accused of striving to deny to a great and growing nation its natural destiny as a world naval power.
Nevertheless, between the two, there would seem to be no tenable middle course which does not point us into increasing international misunderstandings, if not dangerous antagonisms, brought about by unsupported diplomatic positions.
To determine which of these two courses should or will be chosen as the national policy, by the people of the United States, is far too ambitious an undertaking to be attempted in a brief discussion. Suffice it to say that the course which is determined upon, during the next few years, will fix our destination for a century to come, if it does not fix our destiny for all time.
It need scarcely be said that many elements, economic, political, psychological, and sociological, will determine which of the two courses the American people will actually lay. These forces push and pull in divers directions. Their resultant cannot be determined by an application of graphic-statics. At best we may but examine some few of the more important of these factors and attempt to appraise the scope of their influence in fixing the direction in which we are to travel.
Without indulging in argumentative details, there are certain generalized statements which, after thoughtful consideration, may be set down as acceptable facts in the analysis.
(1) As a nation we are not militaristically minded.—As individuals we rebel against discipline imposed upon us by others. We have no predatory instincts. We cannot picture the United States launching an aggressive war. We have the wealth to build and maintain a fleet which would dominate the seas, but we have never brought ourselves even to take the necessary action to establish and continue naval outposts in distant waters, against the protests of others. We frequently exhibit an international idealism which has, on several occasions, threatened to jeopardize our national security.
(2) We are not an imperialistic nation at heart.—Having established our own independence from a great imperialistic nation, much to our relief, the rank and file of the American people are sincerely uncomfortable when they find themselves, even for a short season, in the unfamiliar role of overlords to backward peoples. We have never truly borne the “white man’s burden.” Such a color of imperialism as we have known came to us late in our national life, after the Spanish-American War. Before that we had been too busy, perhaps, subduing our own continent, to worry about wild races overseas.
A considerable portion of our people have felt called upon, for 35 years, to apologize for our dependency government in the Philippines. Another numerous but uninformed group have roundly berated our interference in the fiscal and governmental problems of Haiti and Nicaragua, and in other South American situations.
We do not want over-seas colonial responsibilities, however much we may want over-seas markets. Had we been inherently imperialistic we would have seen to it that the former German island groups came to us as a war reparation, or at least would have had them under our mandate. Our reaction at that time was, however, that the mandates would have meant petty annoyance to us and a possible invitation to trouble.
Many of our people feel that the old forms of militaristic imperialism, which have persisted since the days of the Pharaohs, have gone forever. British imperialism, the last of its kind, they observe, has resolved itself into a commonwealth of nations, loosely but effectively bound into a whole by ties of loyalty to a symbol. The present Italian imperialism toward Ethiopia is, to them, totally inexplicable.
(3) Our population is rapidly approaching stability in numbers.—The most authentic statistical-biological method indicates that the United States will attain to its maximum population, about 170 millions, during the next three decades. We shall, therefore, never be confronted with the population pressure problems which have urged other nations out into imperialism. We shall never be driven into establishing colonial populations overseas, to permit those who remain at home to send down their roots.
However one may feel, personally, in the matter, none of the three factors thus far discussed indicates the slightest tendency favoring an imperialistic or militaristic extension of our naval arm to the far-flung perimeter of our present diplomatic frontier in the Pacific.
Another, and quite different group of facts, reflecting the economic aspects of the situation, also carries weight in the minds of many of our fellow-citizens.
(4) The historic forms of world trade empires are gone forever, they feel that such empires as the Dutch, the French, and the British typify. Only in certain commodities and manufactures, favored by natural resources and advantageous circumstances, can a nation now hope to command a world market. Dwindling over-seas operations and abandoned trading bases indicate only too definitely, to them, that even the most adequate naval support will no longer serve to sustain the breath of life in a commerce which has ceased to be economic. The United States appears, to them, to have come upon the world stage too late ever to assume the part of a great commercial empire, with “trade following the flag.”
(5) The foreign trade advantages of a generation ago, which our phenomenal mechanization gave us, are being discounted, by a similar industrialization which is penetrating and permeating our one-time dependent foreign trade customers in all parts of the globe. The economies of mass production, as they are gradually embraced, are serving still further to reduce their already low labor costs, compared with ours, in this strongly competitive field. In cotton manufacture, to cite one instance, China now operates four million spindles. Our high standard of living is seen by many as a well-nigh unsurmountable handicap in this competition.
(6) The prospect of a tremendous overseas trade with the Orient, for which we have struggled to keep an open door, is fast disappearing.—Outside of the Orient there are practically no more “wild” peoples whose needs for manufactures have not been fully exploited, or who are not under option to some imperialized government. Asia, with a quarter of the population of the globe living at sub-Western standards, alone still offers these opportunities. The eyes of the great industrialized nations have been turned in that direction for three generations and more. Oriental competition and oriental industrialization, however, under an oriental standard of living, are now flooding the oriental markets with manufactures as fast as their slowly advancing needs move them in the direction of Western standards. Of late, oriental products have even threatened our home markets in certain lines. If the Oriental can undersell the Westerner in the West, how can the Western manufacturer hope to undersell the Oriental in the Orient?
Looking forward to the not too remote time when all of the now undeveloped nations of the world industrialize to the point of largely providing their own essentials, there is a somewhat advanced school of trade economists who propose the limitation of manufactures within each country to the quantity which that nation can consume internally and without export. They would, of course, grant exceptions for specialties strongly favored by natural resources.
(7) We are substantially self-supporting in natural and manufactured products.—Unlike the nations in the past who have faced this same decision on trade expansion, the United States has no pressing deficiencies in major natural resources. If we had to send ships abroad for essential materials, we would see to it that their holds were filled with exports, outward bound. We normally import considerable quantities of raw materials, because in time of peace it is much cheaper to do so, and because it offers a channel for reciprocal purchases from us. The bulk of these imports could be secured within our own borders, however, were over-seas supplies to be cut off. Manganese has been discovered and rubber is being synthesized. Coffee might be grown and nitrates may be manufactured. In time of war emergency, all of our wants could be more or less satisfactorily met, or substitutes could be developed.
Thoughtfully appraised, these last four factors point in the same direction as the first three. We have neither the national necessity nor the economic opportunity to establish a world-wide trade empire along the old imperial lines. This likewise is a comparatively new view point, growing out of the changing circumstances which the universal depression has brought forcefully to our attention. If these deductions are in fact sound, they must be treated as realities, and we shall have to adjust our national planning, both diplomatic and economic, to conform to the naval policy which we have apparently determined upon for the future.
It is indeed true that our industrial installations are geared for a production considerably in excess of our normal domestic consumption, and that accordingly we must export our surplus, if our industrial equipment is to produce at or near its installed capacity. Desirable as such export trade would be from our domestic industrial standpoint, it loses its potency as an argument for a world commercial diplomacy, when these over-seas markets are apparently to shrink or even to cease to exist for us, in the years ahead.
But if we, as a nation, choose not to establish a trade empire under commercial diplomacy and naval persuasion, following the mid-Victorian model, this does not imply that our foreign trade may not continue with freedom where it moves in conformity with economic law. Our export trade with Europe has always been in response to natural markets, and in no sense to naval pressure or diplomatic domination. The same may be expected to hold true in other quarters, and in the Orient specifically, so far as our exports can compete economically with Asiatic products. The Philippines, even though they attain to political autonomy, may still be held for trade in those goods which they can secure from us advantageously. On the other hand, only through the most strenuous naval insistence could we hope to force others to trade with us, to their economic disadvantage, and then precariously.
(8) As a nation we have never convinced ourselves deeply of the necessity for a merchant marine.—Those at all conversant with naval problems know that any fleet, in time of war, must needs be augmented with fast tankers, supply ships, and transports. Those who witnessed the accumulations of over-seas freight which cluttered our warehouses for lack of carriers in 1914, likewise know that dependence may not be placed in foreign bottoms when a war emergency finds us aligned with the neutrals. Such naval-minded people have always appreciated and will always advocate a national merchant marine adequate to those needs.
Unfortunately there are other millions of our population who live beyond sight of salt water, and who reason, fallaciously enough, that they have nothing to gain from the development and operation of a strong merchant marine. They totally discount the axiomatic truths regarding the interdependence of the Navy and the Merchant Marine, nor are they open to conviction in the matter.
As a result of our lack of unanimity and real understanding we have never established and held a consistent merchant marine policy with suitable subsidies to wipe out initial cost handicaps and operating differentials. The Merchant Marine may be made to reach anywhere that the trade plus a subsidy make it economic to reach, despite the lack of naval support. The extent of the subsidy is not infrequently the governing factor. Nor have we realized, generally, the far-reaching effects of certain hampering and restricting legislation on our statute books. These handicaps may be removed only through a wider acceptance of the true meaning of the Merchant Marine by the nation as a whole. Fundamentally there must be a prompt and permanent reversal of our habitual indifference if the Merchant Marine is to be built to a tonnage adequate to the support of our Navy, even in its present limited sphere of action.
Collectively, these eight factors, diverse as they are, indicate most clearly that the people of the United States, judging from the attitudes and reactions which have been characteristic of them to date, will probably never decide to lay the course which presupposes a naval establishment of the dimensions required to assure the success of a strong international diplomacy, in particular an open door policy in the Orient.
Right or wrong, these are the reactions common to many of our people, which in the mass go to make the public opinion of which our maritime policies are but the reflections. Those who have reacted to these conditions differently have written and spoken unceasingly of the essential character of sea power. They have earnestly advocated an adequate navy, with suitable bases overseas, an efficient merchant marine, an effective diplomacy, and all of the other elements which go to give maritime stability to a nation. Their educational efforts have been efficacious to a degree, but not to a degree sufficient, thus far, to consolidate the nation as a whole back of a well-rounded program of maritime development.
If these conclusions respecting the attitudes of the American people are correct, we may not expect our naval arm to be greatly lengthened beyond the tonnages of a “treaty navy,” for the present, at least. We therefore have a naval establishment of more or less known size, to introduce into the historic naval-diplomatic equation, and to solve therefrom the position of our defensible diplomatic frontier. Given a naval establishment of the size which will doubtless obtain for a considerable season, the problem is to find what limitations it imposes upon our diplomatic policy, provided that diplomacy is to be successfully and adequately supported.
Primarily, we may not continue our self-assumed protectorate over Chinese sovereignty and inviolability, lying far beyond our naval frontier as it does. Our unsupported protests, upon past occasions, have been productive only of the enmity which has always been the reward of the impotent meddler. At times it has seemed that even the Chinese have resented our uninvited protection. In spite of our century-old position to the contrary, we must, now, frankly aver that we have no concern with what Asiatics do to Asiatics.
Neither may we, from our Western Hemisphere, oppose an Asiatic policy for Asiatics, while we stoutly advance a Monroe Doctrine for the Americas. We must restrain ourselves, diplomatically, within our naval frontier, when Asiatic crises appear, with the same indifferent composure which we have bespoken of European nations when diplomatic actions were being taken by the United States in the Americas. Japan has indicated by every means at her disposal that she is committed to a policy of hegemony in the Orient, and that nothing short of a superior force can divert her from what she considers to be her rightful destiny. In this we must acquiesce diplomatically, since our chosen naval policy limits us of necessity to such an attitude.
We may no longer insist upon an open door in China, when our own door is closed to others by exclusions and tariffs. Not that the exclusions and tariffs are not justified from our point of view, but rather that nothing may be demanded which lies beyond our naval frontier. That diplomatic no-man’s-land is reserved for reciprocal agreements of mutual advantage, to be abandoned by either party when the mutual advantages which gave them birth cease to be mutual.
Our placid disregard of these restrictions which our naval policy imposes upon our Far Eastern relations has been explained in the past in various ways by the Japanese people. At times they are philosophical, assuming that our actions are but the repercussions of a domestic political situation. At other times they are resentful of what appears to be our determination to circumscribe their reasonable national expansion. Successful international relations should not require frequent and continuing explanations.
In the matter of the Philippines, a consistent naval-diplomatic policy presupposes that, following their attainment of independence, we shall dismiss all thought of responsibility for their sovereignty. Lying so far beyond our naval frontier, we could not effectively protest their seizure by another power. Nor should such a circumstance concern us deeply, since the naval policy upon which we have determined, if our analysis of popular opinion is correct, has positively localized successful diplomatic action to the Western Hemisphere. This will be an extremely difficult state of mind to maintain, should such an eventuality arise, but we shall have to hold to it, unless we revise our naval convictions promptly. The tedious operations which would be involved, should we later reconsider and undertake systematically to force our naval frontier out, from island to island, across the Pacific, costly alike in life and treasure, would scarcely be in keeping with the nonchalance with which we have recently decided to withdraw from them, both politically and economically.
In a word, continued peace in the Pacific, as it does in any other waters, rests solely upon a matching of our diplomatic and naval frontiers. Continued disregard of naval policy by diplomatic policy is fraught with growing irritation and deepening pique on both sides of the Pacific, and that is the stuff of which wars are hatched. Were it to be announced, however, that our diplomatic frontier had been drawn back, permanently, to coincidence with our naval frontier, the Pacific situation would be clarified instantly.
In the Atlantic, where the two defensible frontiers now coincide, no change in the status need be made. To the contrary, in restricting our diplomatic actions to the Western Hemisphere we would be greatly strengthening, through concentration, the pan-American policies for which we have stood so long.
Such a limitation of interest to the Western Hemisphere might be highly pragmatic for us, under the circumstances. It would rhyme with the Monroe Doctrine. We would remain unentangled with Europe. It would fit our anti-militaristic, anti-imperialistic ideals. The Western Hemisphere with its 16 million square miles of land and its 200-odd millions of population would scarcely be a “little America” in the derisive sense.
To adopt the Western Hemisphere as our logical area of influence might, of course, be construed critically, by our international rivals, as a strategic retirement, the easiest way out of the dilemma. It would, at any rate, be the deliberate choosing of the most advantageous course, considering the limiting elements of our naval-diplomatic situations, as we find them. To devote ourselves to the security of the Americas, to foster their economic advancement, and to grow with them in the fruition of an all-American, all-Western culture, would, at least, be nothing for which we need apologize, nationally. It would be a task sufficiently complex to test our best abilities, even though it be less than the world-wide leadership to which other great maritime nations have aspired.
Thus to limit our diplomatic interests to the Western Hemisphere is the only course consistent with the past and present attitudes of the majority of the people of the United States toward their Navy, their Merchant Marine, and colonial- dependency problems in general.
Your feelings and my feelings in these matters are perhaps quite different from those of the majority of our fellow countrymen. This discussion is not, however, an exhortation for greater sea power and broader international responsibilities. It is, rather, a dispassionate analysis of the opinions which actually obtain in this country today, and the decisions which may well grow therefrom.
There persists, nevertheless, this minority body of thoughtful opinion, who ask a baffling question, “Will the American people, when they awake to the full import of their decision, ever be satisfied to limit their participation in international affairs to the Western Hemisphere?”
If the answer of the American people to that question is to square with their naive disregard of the Navy, the Merchant Marine, and the other elements of a worldwide sea power, that answer must be “Yes.”
If the answer is to be “No,” the American people must at once revise their general attitudes toward these fundamental factors, which are of the essence of real sea power. If they are to regret, some day, their retirement from the more distant diplomatic frontier which they have essayed to hold during the past three or four decades, they must at once augment the naval establishment sufficiently to support that more distant line. If they are some day to feel that the influence of the United States should be exerted in the interests of stability in international relationships, of straightforward statesmanship and world peace, they must give expression to those ideals now, in naval tonnage and over-seas bases.
If the American people are ever to realign themselves in these particulars, they must effect their realignment promptly, and hold to it determinedly. The contestants in the race for maritime supremacy are crowding the course. The desirable positions off the starting buoy are few in number, and only one may have the weather gauge. The regatta rules have stood unchanged for centuries. They are the same rules under which the Greeks sailed at Salamis and the British at Trafalgar. We must abide by the rules or suffer disqualification from the race. Some day the rules may be changed but thus far they remain unaltered. The foremost of these stipulates that the frontier of successful diplomacy, both political and economic, is ever circumscribed by the frontier of naval policy. The gestures of international states- craft are meaningless, without the support of a naval establishment adequate to give them meaning. When the naval frontier shall have been drawn, the frontier of successful diplomacy is unequivocally set.
The decision as to where these lines shall lie for all time rests with the American people of the present generation.
We must not delude ourselves with the hope of making war impossible, we must be content to try and make it difficult and obviously wrong. When we do so we shall have attained the maximum of human power and wisdom in this direction.—Guizot, 1871.