Sea power demands constant cultural upkeep. In a democratic country, the people must approve of expensive assets like navies. Not just seafarers but the government and larger society must embrace the idea that sea power is indivisible from national purposes. For a culture to exhibit staying power, that idea must be a matter of course for political leaders, institutions, and the man on the street. If it is not embedded in their basic assumptions, apathy and neglect—the enemies of maritime endeavors—take hold. Sea power withers when citizens come to view the Sea Services as a wasting asset, a luxury that consumes taxpayer resources while providing scant return on investment.
The conviction that sea power matters stems in large part from how people interpret their past. Yet Americans are notoriously indifferent toward their history—this complicates the task of cultural maintenance. Sea-power advocates, consequently, must miss no opportunity to remind rank-and-file citizens about the ups and downs in U.S. maritime history. The nation has seen its share of both—and the downs teach as many worthwhile lessons as the ups.