Lest We Forget - 'The Maddest Idea'

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Those founding fathers who saw to the gestation of this great nation were not wrong when they worried that navies are expensive. They were and still are. And those who were concerned that navies can be the instruments of tyranny when their great power is misused were likewise not wrong.

But as citizens of a maritime nation—then and now—we must overcome that reluctance and never lose sight of the supreme importance of a navy, properly used. Our commerce, our influence, our defense, and, ultimately, our very existence are all dependent on our willingness to make the necessary sacrifices to keep our Navy afloat and capable.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to lose sight of this existential reality. Except for those rare moments when great fleets clash in mortal combat, much of what the Navy does is all but invisible. Maintaining an American presence on the high seas and in the far corners of this dangerous and “shrinking” world, ensuring that lines of commerce remain open for the free trade of all, preventing aggression through credible deterrence, and projecting American power when necessary to ensure our continued freedom are all vitally important and yet rarely considered by the average citizen or by their representatives in government.

Lest we forget, on this 239th Navy birthday it is altogether appropriate that we not only celebrate this “maddest idea” but that we also dedicate ourselves to its perpetuation, now and for all time.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several Naval Institute Press books, including A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy and The Battle of Leyte Gulf .


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