WE ARE upon the threshold of decisions concerning naval policy which will affect profoundly all the great nations for generations to come; and not the great nations only but also the smaller, whose fortunes depend, as we have repeatedly seen, upon those of the greater. Two things are at stake -- security and economy. Although defense, in Adam Smith's words, may be more important than opulence, economy in providing defense is not to be despised. If an equal degree of security can be procured at a lesser cost, the methods by which it may be obtained are certainly to be preferred.
Whether, as a result of the conferences that are ahead of us, we obtain security with economy -- in other words, efficiency -- depends upon the thoroughness with which the problems are investigated. To say that these problems have not hitherto been investigated with the thoroughness which characterizes all real scientific investigations is assuredly no more than a plain statement of fact. That there has been a great deal of discussion between technicians, on technical matters, is true enough. "Expert" has opposed "expert" in his capacity as a litigant pleading in support of the views of his own particular administration; and statesmen, it would seem, have stood behind their experts without making any very searching examination into their case. The pitiful displays of special pleading at Geneva on the subject of offensive and defensive instruments will be fresh in the minds of all.
The naval estimates of the various maritime Powers already reach very high figures. When the existing ships are replaced by new types, larger, faster and more complicated, it is a mathematical certainty that the cost will rise still higher: and -- to take a special case -- unless the sea routes of my own country are to be in a permanent condition of insecurity, the only alternative to a system of alliances (which may or may not be desirable) is to build vessels in greater numbers than
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