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THE BALANCE OF NAVAL POWER AND THE
In the last few weeks there has been a remarkable development of the naval situation in Europe. We have become familiar with the rapid progress of the German Fleet. Now AustriaHungary, hitherto possessing a fleet of insignificant proportions, has prepared a programme of naval expansion, and Italy, the least prominent and possibly the least enamored of the signatories to the Triple Alliance, has decided to follow the Austrian lead. The Triple Alliance has had the breath of life breathed into it. Hitherto even at its period of greatest strength, it has been a combination of military strength; in future, if opportunity occurs it will manoeuvre great fleets with a common purpose. If the new naval ambitions are realized, the balance of naval power in Europe will be seriously disturbed, and not to our advantage. The facts and fears of the moment merit the closest examination in order that the British people may understand the present standing of the British Fleet, and the responsibilities which the new factors in the situation may cast upon them.
Naval warfare is a matter of foresight, intelligence, organization, and, lastly, money. Six months ago the
Prime Minister stated that the Government accepted the Two-Power Standard and interpreted it as meaning a preponderance of 10 per cent. over the combined strength in capital ships of the next two strongest Powers. This was a pledge-definite as a pledge can be--as to the provision of one type of ship, but as to what that type is no two authorities are agreed. But the main point is that this formula is based purely on things seenon ships-and these alone do not constitute naval power. Ability to go in
and win a naval war does not mainly depend on the possession of war matériel in proportions corresponding to such a formula. This method of comparison did well enough ten or twenty years ago, and is a rough and ready--very rough and ready-rule for to-day. Times have changed, and it is essential to look deeper into the problem. The principles upon which Germany fought and won the war of 1870 are now being interpreted in naval terms, and Austria-Hungary is about to assist in this task. This is the dominating factor in the naval situation. Naval strength is not simply a matter of mathematical calculation: it is a question of organization, of the application of the old proverb-si vis pacem, para bellum.
A cursory study of the history of the modern British Fleet shows that it has been created as a result of a series of panics, wasteful, undignified, and illogical, but apparently as essential to the maintenance of our naval supremacy as the explosions of a gas engine for supplying power. These agitations have always been concerned with ships, and especially battleships. The cry is always for battleships and yet more battleships. For instance, during the past few weeks the nation has had Dreadnoughts on the brain. It has suddenly realized that Germany is building a large number of vessels of this type, and that if we are to hold our own in this respect large sums of money must be devoted in the course of the next ten years to what has been described as the rebuilding of the British Fleet. It might be imagined that this is an entirely new experience. The fact is that the British Fleet has been in process of rebuilding over and over again ever since iron replaced
wood and steam superseded sail power. For half a century there has never been a time when this essential work has not been in progress, and it is an irony of fate that before the fleet has been refashioned in accordance with one naval fashion another has taken the stage. Mechanical science has progressed so rapidly that the naval designer has been unable to keep pace with it. Year by year for many decades it has been rendering good, well-found ships obsolete; but this process has been no more rapid in naval construction than in industry, where it has come to be recognized that periodically machinery and plant must be scrapped in the interests of efficiency and economy. When a great manufacturer admits that his machinery has become out of date and decides that he must replace it by new machinery if he is to hold his own, he is applauded in the business world for his foresight and business capacity. If he is the first in his particular branch of industry to realize the necessity of the change, he is held up as an example to others. The same business principles apply to the Navy.
The maintenance of our naval supremacy is as much a productive industry as the manufacture of boots and shoes or broadcloth, because adequate defensive preparations are an essential element in our national life owing to the commercial and political rivalry which exists between nation and nation, and which may lead to war. No practical man regrets the money which he pays for the insurance of his house against the risk of fire, although he cannot thereby, however heavy the premium, guard his property against destruction. He can merely insure that the destruction will be made good out of the accumulated funds to which he has periodically contributed. Fire insurance and other forms of prudential provision, such as
a reserve fund for the replacement of plant and machinery, have come to be recognized as essential expenses on the part of the manufacturer and trader. The British nation's expenditure upon the fleet comes into the same category. But whereas the combined influence of fire insurance and the most costly equipment of fire brigades cannot prevent destructive outbreaks of fire, if the British Navy is maintained at adequate strength it is essentially a preventive force, while on the other hand it also serves as an advertising medium for the nation and the nation's trade. During the long years of maritime peace the British Fleet has been a standing and effective advertisement of British prestige, and as occasion has offered it has been peacefully employed in advancing civilization, protecting the weak from the strong, stamping out slavery, and driving piracy from the, seas. The British Fleet has been the most powerful liberalizing agency ever created -as history proves-and yet it is the advanced Liberal who complains of the "burden of armaments."
In the circumstances it is not surprising that the British people should be seized by panic whenever they feel that their naval supremacy is threatened from this quarter or that. Twenty years ago the great rival Power on the seas was France; later on the Russian Fleet, the British Navy's own child, increased steadily in strength year by year, and at last Great Britain was faced by these two great nations in definite and unfriendly alliance. By a series of explosions of public opinion successive Governments were forced into the necessary activity, and ships, and sometimes men, were provided to meet this combined competition by these Powers. British action was confined mainly to the accumulation of material and increasing the number of officers and
men. During these years of naval contest there was no considerable improvement in the efficiency of the British naval force, no intellectual advancement finding expression in better preparation for war. A mere balancing of ship against ship, officer against officer, and man against man by a process of numerical calculation supplied a rough and ready system of assessing relative naval strength.
Germany has now become the most active naval Power in Europe. The old formulae no longer apply. The German Navy is of new creation; it is essentially a modern fleet, without those accretions of naval lore which have been handed down from the sail era. Germany started in the race for naval power unencumbered, and from the first decision to make herself one of the great naval Powers of the world, she definitely set aside as more or less meaningless the old principles upon which during the long period of maritime peace it had become the custom in Europe to judge the relative naval power of the great nations. In the draft of the Navy Bill of 1900 appeared the following remarkable statement:
of war. The minimum extent of commissioning in peace time would be the permanent formation of a fleet comprising the best and most modern vessels, as an active force constantly commissioned, i. e. a force in which all the battleships and cruisers are in commission. The fleet will form the school for the tactical training in the double squadron, and in the case of war will bear the first brunt. As regards the second fleet, which will comprise the older battleships, it will have to suffice if one half of the number of its vessels Of course, only are in commission. for the purpose of practice in larger bodies, it will be necessary to commission certain further vessels temporarily for manœuvres. In the event of war this second fleet, the reserve fleet, protected by the active battle fleet, will have to supplement the inferior training of its various crews and the insufficient practice in manœuvring in large bodies, by making good this deficiency after
In this State document was enunciated a new standard which must increasingly govern the calculations of the relative strength of the Powers. German naval authorities admitted that, even when the strength of the fleet had been increased by the building of new ships and the enrollment of additional officers and men, the matériel and personnel judged separately by the old formulæ would still represent Germany as one of the lesser naval Powers. This numerical inferiority it was announced, would be compensated for by a higher standard of training in time of peace, and it might have been added a higher standard of organization for war on the lines familiarized by Moltke than had hitherto been adopted by any of the fleets of the world.
A few months later Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, in writing of the war of 1812-15, dealt with this subject at greater length and with admirable lu cidity. Commenting upon the fortune of the British during these operations,
he recalled the fact that the British, accustomed to almost invariable victory over foes-the undisciplined French after the Revolution-who were their inferiors alike in gunnery and seamanship, neglected their own gunnery and sunk into a condition of ignorant confidence that even without preparation they would "pull through somehow." In the meantime, however, the American Navy was trained by years of sea service including much scrambling warfare with the Algerines; "and," added Mr. Roosevelt, "the American captains, fully aware of the formidable nature of the foe whom they were to meet, drilled their crews to as near perfection as might be. In such circumstances they distinctly outmarched their average opponents and could be encountered on equal terms only by men like Broke and Manners." Summarizing his conclusions, formed after a period of service in the Navy Department of the United States, which had merely moulded his general observation as soldier and statesman, Mr. Roosevelt added this significant statement:
There is unquestionably a great difference in fighting capacity, as there is a great difference in intelligence, between certain races. But there are a number of races, each of which is intelli
gent, each of which has the fighting edge. Among these races the victory in any contest will go to the man or the nation that has earned it by thorough preparation. This preparation was absolutely necessary in the days of sailing ships; but the need for it is even greater now, if it be intended to get full benefit from the delicate and complicated mechanism of the formidable war engines of the present day. The officers must spend many years, and the men not a few, in unvaried and intelligent training before they are fit to do all that is possible with themselves and their weapons. Those who do this, whether they be Americans or British, French, German, or Russian,
will win the victory over those who do not. Doubtless it helps if the sailormen-the sea mechanics as they are now called-have the sea habit to start with, and they must belong to the fighting stocks. But the great factor is the steady, intelligent training in the actual practice of their profession. . . . Among brave and intelligent men of different race stocks, when the day of battle comes, the difference of race will be found to be as nothing when compared with the difference in thorough and practical training in advance.
Herein lies the new standard of naval power by which, and by which alone, the sea standings of the nations of the world can be judged. Preparedness for war presupposes the supply of an adequate number of ships and sufficient crews to man them, but the ships and the men are merely the material out of which naval power may be created.
Almost simultaneously with this change naval nomenclature has become hopelessly disordered, and the citizen who casually interests himself in sea affairs not unnaturally becomes confused as to the issues. He learns that there may be battles without battleships, as at the Yalu; cruises without cruisers, as in the case of the world-cruise of the fleet of the United States; torpedo warfare without torpedo craft, as occurred when the Huas
car was sunk. He finds on reference to any naval handbook that battleships may be inferior in gun power to vessels frequently designated as cruisers; and that cruisers may be found in the great fleets which are distinctly inferior in speed to battleships. He discovers that torpedo boats, such as those most recently added to the British Fleet, may be larger and swifter than many destroyers; that there are torpedo-boat destroyers which are bigger and more powerful than torpedo gunboats; that there are submarines, which he has come to regard as "little