THE existing contest between Italy and Turkey, confined as it is to the sea and to the possession of Tripoli, has a double interest. It illustrates on the one hand the gradual, yet perpetual, process by which a higher civilization impinges upon a lower; that is, upon one that is lower in virile efficiency, however in some instances it may have been higher in acquired material comfort, or even in literary and artistic achievement. This tendency can neither be regulated by law, nor brought to the bar of law, without injury to the progress of the world toward better universal conditions, to which end it is essential that the efficient supplant the inefficient. On the other hand, this collision illustrates the importance of the command of the sea. This also, it should be noted, has been incidental and determinative in the progress of the world. Through having this command, Italy thus far has been able to localize the land fighting in Tripoli, and probably can continue to do so; to the great relief of her own resources, and that of a watching and anxious Europe. It is to this second consideration that I am here limited by my subject-"The Importance of the Command of the Sea"-with a somewhat special reference to that importance as touching the United States. The United States in her turn, after having achieved national efficiency, by the quenching of internal discord in a bitter and bloody contest, has found herself compelled inevitably into the same path of seemmg aggression upon less efficient social and political communities to bear her part of the white man's burden as i t has been styled. For in essence this process is not one of aggrandizement, but of responsibility; responsibility not to law, which always lags behind conditions, but to moral obligation entailed by the particular circumstances of the moment of action. This moral side of the question is not irrelevant to the military one of the importance of commanding the sea; for granting the end-the moral obligation-the means, if not themselves immoral, follow as a matter of course. Of such means, command of the sea is one. Napoleon said that morale dominates war; and it is correspondingly true that a sense of right powerfully reinforces the stability of national attitude and the steadfastness of national purpose. If we have been right, morally, step by step, in the forward march of the past few years, we are morally bound to sustain the position attained, by measures which will provide the necessary means. Of these an adequate navy is among the frst; probably, in our case, the chief of all. Here, as always, it is necessary to recur to experience-to the past-in order to comprehend the present and to project the future. Why do English innate political conceptions of popular representative government, of the balance of law and liberty, prevaIl II North America from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacifc? Because the command of the sea at the decisive era belonged to Great Britain. In India and Egypt, administrative efciency has taken the place of a welter of tyranny, feudal struggle, and bloodshed, achieving thereby the comparative welfare of the once harried populations. What underlies this administrative efciency? The British navy, assuring in the frst instance British control instead of French and thereafter communication with the home country, whence the local power without which administration everywhere is futile. What, at the moment the Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed, insured beyond peradventure the immunity from foreign oppression of the Spanish-American colonies in their struggle for independence? The command of the sea by Great Britain, backed by the feeble navy but imposing strategic situation of the United States, with her swarm of potential commerce-destroyers, which a decade before had harassed the trade of even the mistress of the sea. Less conspicuously, but no less truly, to what do Algiers and Tunis, and to what eventually will Morocco, owe redemption from conditions barely, if at all, above the barbarous? To the command of the sea by the nation which already has restored the former two, to be fruitful members of the world community. That South Africa is now a united commonwealth, instead of two opposing communities, such as the North and South of our own country might have been, is due to the same cause; a local preponderance of force insured by sea power. It may safely be claimed that to the navy of the United States chiefy is owing the present Union, instead of the existence of two rival nations vying, or trying to vie, with each other in military preparations, like the nations of Europe. The four years' struggle of the Confederate States might not have ended in exhaustion, had it not been for the blockade, which shut In their cotton and shut out their supplies. Contrast this impressive exhibit, where the command of the sea has been operative, with the history and achievement of those great States which have not possessed it. Contrast Bosnia and Herzegovina for Austria, Alsace and Lorraine for Germany, with the expansion of France, Great Britain, Holland, and with that which Spain once pos now lost through an inefciency, one of the frst symptoms of which was the decay of her navy. The magnifcent efciency of the present German Empire strives now, against almost hopeless disadvantage, for the opportunity to exercise that efciency outside its European limits. Opportunity was lost through the absence of naval force, in the past centuries, when the maritime countries were occupying, and, in accordance with their respective [lolitical aptitudes, were determining the future of immense tracts of the world. Much time must elapse before we shall know the inside history of the still unarranged dispute with France about Morocco; but there is reason to believe that the consciousness of the British navy at the back of France has been one of the large factors in the negotiations. At least it is apparent that bitterness against Great Britain has been even more marked than against France. The lesson for the United States is plain. In the strategic position before mentioned, in remoteness from Europe, ii the rivalries of European nations, we still have a local and international advantage for preponderance in American waters; but it is not so great as to confer certainty without reasonable provision for insuring command of the sea. In the Pacifc, which is equally our coast line, and to which the future mostly looks, we have no similar advantage. Much as I dislike and reject the phrase “supremacy in the Pacifc,” it is true that we there have duties which in case of disputes will require the presence of naval force adequate to command. Duty to the mutual support of our two chief coasts dictates full control of the Panama Canal, which from the military standpoint is the key to any broadly-planned system of preparation for national defence. But obligation is no less on account of the Philippine Islands. Having assumed control of these under imperative circumstances, we are bound in honor to support an undertaking, our fitness for which is attested by results. To them we are responsible for the maintenance of conditions under which material prosperity can advance, and their dissimilar and discordant inhabitants reach a homogeneous civilization and political development which will enable them to govern themselves. To Cuba, though independent, we owe by specifc guarantees the maintenance of a like internal security. These national and international functions can be discharged, certainly, only by command of the sea. The Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean, with the great controlling stations, Porto Rico, Guantanamo, the Canal Zone, and Hawaii, depend upon this command, the exponent of which is the navy, and in which ships and stations are interdependent factors. To place the conclusion concretely and succinctly, the question of command of the sea is one of annual increase of the navy. This question is no t “n aval,” in the rest ric ted sense of the word. It is one of n ational poli cy, n ational security, and na tio n al O bligat iOn . Rear-Admiral, U. S. N. For an A dequate Navy I N common with all who beli eve in the ultimate trium ph of the best in human nature, we look forward con fdently to that enligh tened era, in w hich the exercise of mutual consideration and simple common sense shall have rendered possible the abolition, in part if not in whole, of the world's vast armaments, and the substitution therefor of an international court of arbitration. For those of us who have learned to look upon questions of international moment from the broadest possible standpoint, however, it is impossible to overlook the fact that the question of arbitration and partial or complete disarmament is intimately, nay essentially, bound up with our relation to that populous Oriental world-Mohammedan, Buddhistic, and Confucian-whose teeming millions are only now being quickened to a realization of the dignifed position which, by every right of ancient civilization and their unquestioned mental equipment and physical resources, they seem entitled to fll in the future history of the world_ The awakening of the Orient to a sense of its latent powers-ushered in, as it was, by the stupendous drama of the Russian-Japanese war, and echoed in the present unrest in India and China, and the existing struggle between Christian and Mohammedan armies-may well give us pause and confrm in us the conviction, voiced by our President, the most distinguished advocate of international arbitration, that “until peaceful means of settling all international controversies are assured to the world, prudence and patriotism demand that the United States maintain a navy commensurate with its wealth and dignity." The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, then, stands for an adequate navy, not for aggression, but as a reasonable insurance upon the national wealth of the United States, which, at the last ofdal estimate, in 1904, had reached the vast total of over one hundred and seven billions of dollars. In the absence of an army adequate for our defense, the protection of our lives and property becomes the duty of the navy; and la year we plaeed upon the population and wealth of the United States a naval insurance of one hundred and ffty-six million dollars-a very moderate rate of one and one-half per cent, In view of the fact that because o our geographical location we are free from the burden of such enormous armies as are maintained by conterminous European nations, “prudence and 'patriotism” demand that we carry additional naval insurance, by adding to our line of defense, annually, the four capital ships which are deemed necessary by the Naval Board at Washington. The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN stands for an adequate navy, furthermore, because we believe there is no national institution in which the best traditions and fnest characteristics of the American people are more carefully fostered and conserved. Nor can we recall any institution, public or private, professional or commercial, in which the national ideals are more lofty, or the measure of their attainment so great. Here, at least, patriotism is divorced from material proft, and here the Flag is scrupulously honored as the sublime emblem of all that is noblest in the past history and future aims of the American people. The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN stands for an adequate navy because, as stated by one of the writers in this issue, the navy has been truly designated as a “great American university,” in which nearly 50,000 men and youths are being trained in that “respect for constituted authority” to the lack of which, as much, perhaps, as to anything else, are to be attributed the more serious of our social, commercial and political evils. We believe in an adequate navy, also, because both at Annapolis and in the subsequent routine of ofcial life, the service has developed a body of men who reach a higher professional standard of ethics than can be found, probably, in any of the professions to-day. In his ever-ready subordination of self-interest to the interests of the service, the naval oflcer stands for the fnest traditions of the professional man; and in the matter of zeal and sobriety, we believe that he has reached a higher mark than any recorded in the past history of the United States navy. We speak of sobriety from the standpoint of intimate knowledge, for it was the Editor's privilege recently, as guest in the wardroom mess of one of our ships, to note that, when the wine was served, one-half of the glasses were turned down-this, mark you, on the score that it tended to efciency. Lastly, the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN stands for an adequate navy, because the national funds expended on the construction of ships and their equipment have served to originate and keep alive not a few of the industries of the country. But for the work aforded by the contracts for new ships for the navy, some of the fnest. shipyards in the country would have closed their gates, and the death blow would have been gIven to our all-but-defunct merchant marine.
This article was originally published with the title "The Importance of the Command of the Sea, For an Adequate Navy, and more" in Scientific American 105, 24, 512 (December 1911)