Navies and Peace

An American View

AWAR between the United States and Great Britain is not "unthinkable" in the intellectual sense as long as navy calculations and controversies are based on or continually take account of fleet conflicts -- as long, that is to say, as "parity" is of vital importance, and as long as each naval staff stickles for a kind of "parity" which would give it fleet or commerce-destroying superiority. When people say that such a war is "unthinkable" they mean that its consequences would be so evil as to stagger the imagination; we cannot think them out for very repugnance and horror.

People still think of war as a struggle to a decision between armies on a battlefield, something as decisive of an issue as the battle at the North Inch of Perth between the Clan Chattan and the Clan Quhele, or another Trafalgar. But a great modern war runs no such course. All citizens are combatants, for all produce engines of destruction or means of subsistence. Rousseau's distinction between the combatant state and its soldiers on the one hand and the non-combatant citizens on the other is no protection against bombing aircraft. A great modern war is a strangulation of all that nourishes the life of the enemy -- trade in any case, production if sources can be reached -- destruction made as deep and therefore as permanent as possible. The overcoming of an enemy's will, which constitutes victory, comes from the crippling or ruin of his economy; this was the life-nerve for which each side was aiming in the World War, submarine against blockade.

Equal navies starting from remote bases will not go out to fight; they will play "prisoner's base" with each other. The increased speed and mobility of modern vessels, the protection afforded to a fleet by aircraft coming out to meet it, make retirement on a base much more secure than heretofore. Neither an American nor a British fleet could invest the other, nor "contain" it in the correct

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