THERE have been so many bewildering developments in the world in the last few years that settled ideas about national strength and national security seem to have been overturned. But although many things have changed, the geographical position of the British Isles in relation to Europe has not. It has been a powerful factor throughout Britain's history. Another prime factor has been the growth of the Empire overseas; but the relation of Britain to the other parts of the Empire has undergone various changes since before the First World War.
Until 1914 Britain acted as the center of a large, widely-dispersed empire, on whose behalf defense questions were settled in London. There were already four self-governing Dominions within the Empire, but the Committee of Imperial Defense in London was recognized as chief organ for the formation of defense policy for the whole--a practical arrangement that had not yet given way before the constitutional developments that were taking place.
There were very good reasons for this. In the first place there was no potentially hostile first-class Power outside Europe. Any danger to Britain and the Empire was bound to come from Europe, and thus the United Kingdom would receive the first impact. Secondly, the Empire depended for its safety on the British fleet, which held command of the seas throughout the world, and could thus prevent danger from Europe spreading to the overseas territories of the Empire. Britain's defense problem therefore consisted in maintaining the security of the United Kingdom and the command of the sea. Help for the center could thus flow inwards without interruption, and expeditions could move with certainty to any desired point. The local defense of all British overseas territories other than the Dominions and India was framed on the idea that local forces could withstand the comparatively minor attacks that might develop during a "period before relief," while sea-borne reinforcements were on the way from the nearest military center.
The forces required to maintain the security of the
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