Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought
At the turn of the twentieth century, Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Stafford Corbett emerged as foundational thinkers on naval strategy and maritime power. Important in their lifetimes, their writings remain relevant in the contemporary environment.
The significance of Corbett and Mahan to modern naval strategy seems beyond question, but too often their theories are simplified or used without a real understanding of their fundamental bases.Labeling a strategy, operation, or even a navy “Mahanian” or “Corbettian” tells very little. Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought provides an in-depth introduction and a means to stimulate discussion about the theories of Mahan and Corbett.
Although there is no substitute for opening the actual writings of Mahan and Corbett, this requires time, not just to read but most importantly to understand how states exploit the sea in the strategic sense. Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought takes the reader from their grand strategic foundations of sea power and maritime strategy, through their ideas about naval warfare and strategy, to how Mahan and Corbett thought a navy should integrate with other instruments of national power, and finally, to how they thought states with powerful navies win wars. This window into naval strategy provides twenty-first-century readers an understanding of what navies can and perhaps more importantly cannot do in the international environment.