The 1899 Hague Peace Conference was the first international gathering of major powers to discuss arms control. It was also notable for bringing together two of the era’s greatest naval thinkers, both serving on the delegations of their respective countries: Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan for the United States and Admiral Sir John Fisher for Great Britain. Each took a dim view of the conference, believing that deterrence based on strength was a better guarantee of peace than disarmament. Admiral Fisher made this explicit in the assembly’s most dramatic presentation:
The supremacy of the British Navy is the best security for peace in the world. . . . If you rub it in, both at home and abroad, that you are ready for instant war, with every unit of your strength in the first line and waiting to be first in, and hit your enemy in the belly and kick him when he is down, and boil your prisoners in oil (if you take any), and torture his women and children, then people will keep clear of you.