Since the Industrial Revolution, the currency of international power has shifted from land to commerce. The incoming global maritime order focuses on compounding wealth by minimizing transaction costs, while the outgoing order of competing continental empires focused on pounding each other.1 The old system destroyed wealth; the new one creates it, as the statistics show. In 2020, an article from the Center for International Maritime Security suggested a 66-70-80-90-99 rule, highlighting that 66 percent of global wealth comes from or near the sea; 70 percent of the globe is oceanic; 80 percent of its population is coastal; 90 percent of goods arrive by sea; and 99 percent of international digital traffic goes by submarine cable.2
As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, the United States began its transition from a continental to a maritime security paradigm and, after World War II, became champion of a maritime world order as the result of a three-phase transformation. The U.S. Navy has played a key role in the transition.
1. By global order, I mean the international legal rules, applying to both state and nonstate actors, and the institutions that develop, amend, and administer these rules.
2. Lars Wedin, “Sweden and the Blue Society: New Challenges for a Small Navy,” Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), 17 September 2020.
3. Francis Bacon, “Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates” in Essays Civil and Moral, cited in Julian S. Corbett, Some Principles of Maritime Strategy (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1911), 55.
4. Cited in Tadokoro Masayuki, “Why Did Japan Fail to Become the ‘Britain’ of Asia?” in John W. Steinberg, Bruce W. Menning, David Schimmelpenninck Van Der Oye, David Wolff, and Shinji Yokote, eds., The Russo-Japanese War in Global Perspective: World War Zero, vol. 2 (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2007), 301–2.
5. Nicholas J. Spykman, The Geography of the Peace, Helen R. Nicholl, ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1944), 57.
6. Hugo Grotius, Freedom of the Seas, Ralph van Demen Magoffin trans., James Brown Scott, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1916), 7.
7. Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (De Jure Belli Ac Pacis), Louise Ropes Loomis, trans. (Roslyn, NY: Classics Club, 1949), 91–92.
8. The cumulative/sequential strategy distinction comes from RADM J. C. Wylie, USN, Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control (1967, reprint; Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989), 117–21.