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Great Britain. It has a very direct bearing upon the strength of the Navy, upon which it throws an added responsibility.
The extension of our foreign trade that is now being so urgently advocated in connection with the change of our tariff laws cannot be placed, perhaps, under the same head as the policies just mentioned. But foreign trade certainly does involve relations with foreign nations; and, as a matter of fact, commercial and trade rivalries are most fruitful causes of misunderstanding between nations.
What has just been said does not by any means exhaust all sources of possible wars, as it does not exhaust all of our external relations. Enough has been said, however, to show reasons why war is not an improbability — certainly it is a possibility -- with nations in Europe and Asia. European nations will hardly attack us in force in the Pacific, nor will any nation fronting on the Pacific be apt to attack us in force in the Atlantic. We have, therefore, to anticipate the possibility of war in the Atlantic with a European nation, and in the Pacific with an Asiatic nation.
This leads us to the formulation of a policy for the strength of the Navy. It should be strong enough to safeguard our interests and meet any probable attack in either ocean and not leave our interests unguarded in the other. With reference to the last clause it may be said that a full consideration of the subject should not stop short of the possibility of a simultaneous attack in both oceans, however improbable; a war with allied nations in the Atlantic and Pacific is not impossible. It is especially the duty of men in the military branches of the government to have their eyes open to every contingency.
In considering possible antagonists in the Atlantic Great Britain may be eliminated from consideration. In the first place, it would take us many years to catch up with her in material strength if we tried, and would entail an enormous expense; in the second, war with us would be a blow to her commercial interests and sources of supply that she can ill afford to suffer; and, in the third, we have a hostage in Canada worth many battleships. There are, moreover, powerful interests of a more sentimental nature that are yet very real. No such strong reasons exist for eliminating any other European nation from the list of possible antagonists and the formula, therefore, becomes, in its final and definite statement, that our Navy should be strong enough to meet in the Atlantic the maritime nation of Europe next strongest to Great Britain, and in the Pacific the strongest nation in that ocean.
As affecting the strength of the Navy it is well to keep in mind also the position of the United States in the two oceans. In the Atlantic, aside from the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine, we have a great material interest in Porto Rico, which is our own territory; and toward Cuba and Panama we have a duty in the protection of their independence. Then there is the canal itself. All of these interests are comparatively near to us, and very much nearer than is any European adversary. In the Pacific we are in a different case. There we have Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Guam, the Philippines, and Tutuila, the nearest 2000 miles and the most distant 7000 miles from our coast, and some much nearer possible adversaries in that ocean than ourselves. The distance of our outlying Atlantic interests has vastly less bearing on the strength of our fleet in that ocean than has the distance of our outlying Pacific interests on the strength of the fleet in the Pacific.
If the Atlantic and Pacific were closed oceans the formula reached above for the strength of the Navy would mean that in each there should be maintained a force (that may be called the Standard Atlantic Fleet and the Standard Pacific Fleet, for brevity) sufficient for the duty in that ocean, which is the Twoocean Standard, pure and simple.
Neither here nor elsewhere in this chapter will a concrete estimate be undertaken of the strength in numbers of ships of the “standard” fleets. Such an estimate is not reached by a simple matching of ship by ship, but is influenced also by such considerations as the probable situation of the theater of war, the possibility that the assumed antagonist may not be able to have his entire strength present in that theater for political or other reasons, and the morale of the antagonist. This may not impossibly result in the conclusion that our own necessary strength in ships is less than that of some possible antagonists and greater than that of others. For the present purpose no such concrete estimate is necessary and it is enough to say that the strength should be “sufficient for the duty."
Without the canal the requirements are practically the same as if the Atlantic and Pacific were closed oceans. For, although the possibility exists of reinforcement in one ocean from the other, yet the long distance to be traversed by the reinforcement by whatever route, the difficulties about fueling en route, and the danger, especially to a force coming from the Pacific, of finding the enemy between the reinforcement and the body it is attempting to join, all militate so greatly against a successful issue that it would be imprudent to count upon it.
With the canal in operation, however, a different situation arises. The route of the reinforcements will be shortened from 8000 to 10,000 miles by the canal, and that route will lie on interior lines. Fuel can be taken at stations under our own flag, separated by distances less than those representing the sea endurance of the fleet; the embarrassment arising from the necessity of avoiding any semblance of violating neutrality in fueling will thus be avoided. Junction is possible from 40 to 60 days sooner, and the enemy need not be passed to effect it. Put in another way: Guantanamo is at practically the same distance from the English channel that it is from San Francisco via the canal; or, again, the nearest Asiatic port to Honolulu is only about 1250 miles nearer than Panama, but is about 8700 miles nearer to Honolulu than our nearest Caribbean port by way of Magellan. In the face of such facts it would be difficult to maintain that the canal will have no effect on the strength of the Navy, for that would be tantamount to the claim that the canal has no military value to the United States.
On the other hand, the claim that the canal will double or more than double the effectiveness of the Navy is a great exaggeration. Though such statements probably result from a loose use of language rather than a careful study of the situation, they are dangerous, for they are apt to be taken literally by the layman, and the Navy cannot afford to have such an impression gain ground. To show their fallacy it is only necessary to consider the matter of distances. It is quite true that the canal will enable the fleet to be transferred from one ocean to the other in a few hours, but that is only the beginning of the problem. The added strength that the canal will give to the Navy must be measured by the facility the canal affords in enabling reinforcements to arrive in time to be of use tactically; that is, as a part of the entire force in battle with the enemy. The canal will be of little use if the reinforcements arrive so late that the battle has already been won by the enemy. The Atlantic terminal is about 700 miles from Guantanamo, 1200 miles from the most distant part of the Caribbean, and 2000 miles from New York, no inconsiderable distances in themselves. On the Pacific side the condition is very much less favorable, for the Pacific terminal is about 3250 miles from San Francisco, 4700 from Honolulu, 8000 from Guam, and 9350 from Manila. Merely to be able to get the fleet rapidly from one ocean to another is a great gain, a very great gain; but it is not by any means the whole problem. Allowing the fleet an average speed of 12 knots from departure to destination, which is high, considering the time necessary to coal