Rotten to the Core?
How America’s Political Decay Accelerated During the Trump Era
The passage of the Neutrality Act in 1936 and the strong support recently given in Congress to the Ludlow Resolution (providing that war can be declared only if approved by a national referendum) are merely two manifestations of the great strength not only of American isolationists but of that considerable body of public opinion which is determined to have peace at almost any price.
But as the United States has sought to withdraw more and more into its shell it has felt the urge to make that shell strong. The pending Army and Navy annual supply bills tentatively call for the expenditure in 1939 of about $980,326,812, an increase of more than $50,000,000 over the national defense budget for 1938. That already constitutes one of the greatest peacetime armaments budgets in American history. On top of this, on January 28 the President urged Congress to authorize a largescale, long-range expansion of the Navy and a further modernization of the Army at a total estimated cost of $1,300,000,000 over and above the regular annual defense budget.
These apparently contradictory trends -- the one pacifist and the other militarist -- are not so incongruous as they might appear on the surface; they represent in fact a reversion to that old policy enunciated earlier in the century by another Roosevelt -- "speak softly and carry a big stick." In the first postwar decade when the nations were toying with disarmament the big stick was whittled down considerably. Our national defense policy followed the familiar pattern of our history, except that in addition to the usual disarmament "by neglect" we were practising disarmament by precept and by treaty.
But those days are done and the time for a really big stick has come again. Ever since President Roosevelt took office in 1933, the Army, the Navy and their air forces have been steadily increasing in size and power. Today, under the impetus of the world armament race, the process is being accelerated at an even faster tempo.
The Navy, our first line of defense and the more important of our armed services, is to receive the lion's share not only of the proposed 1939 annual appropriations but of the extraordinary funds recently requested by the President. The naval budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 1939, calls for the expenditure of $553,266,494 (these figures, as approved by the House at the date of writing, may be modified slightly by the Senate), of which about $138,000,000 (plus almost $45,000,000 carried forward from last year) is earmarked for: (1) continuing the construction of some 65 men-of-war now building; (2) modifying, altering and improving some nine other new vessels already commissioned; and (3) starting the construction of 22 other vessels. The 65 vessels now in various stages of construction will probably cost another $200,000,000 to $300,000,000 and the 22 new ones yet to be started will add about $300,000,000. Over and above these whacking sums the President has requested an additional extraordinary appropriation for the next fiscal year (the exact amount is still unspecified) with which to start immediate construction on two more battleships and two more cruisers. More important, he requested Congress to provide for a 20 percent increase in the "existing authorized building program for increases and replacements in the Navy."
The President's recommendations, certain to receive Congressional approval, mark the first departure from our naval policy as it was defined at the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22. In the treaty entered into at that conference, the principle of limiting warships in size and number was put into practice for the first time in the world's history, and the now famous ratios of naval strengths were established -- United States, 5; Britain, 5; Japan, 3; France and Italy, each 1.66.
That treaty, modified and extended until the end of 1936 by the Treaty of London (1930), committed us in principle to bluewater parity with England, long the mistress of the seas. Under these agreements we were entitled to a total strength (including the increases permitted by so-called "escalator" clauses) of some 1,262,000 tons of modern or "under-age" fighting ships in the five principal categories (capital ships, carriers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines), as compared to Britain's 1,277,000 tons and Japan's 839,000 tons. But it was a right of which we never fully availed ourselves. Not until after Japan's seizure of Manchuria, Hitler's flouting of the disarmament restrictions in the Versailles Treaty, Italy's renaissance in the Mediterranean, and the general worsening of the world's political and economic situation, did we attempt in earnest to build up to treaty limits and to replace our large number of obsolescent ships. The legislation making this possible by providing for the construction of some 102 ships by 1942 was the Vinson-Trammell Act of 1934. That law authorized the building of the Navy up to the limits permitted by the treaties, and the constant replacement of obsolescent ships to keep it at that level.
The Washington Treaty and the Treaty of London died at the end of 1936, except for a few largely evanescent qualitative restrictions, and with them died the dream of disarmament. Most of the world's sea Powers thereupon commenced work on construction programs designed to give them fleets far stronger than their former treaty navies. The United States, however, continued merely building replacements and only such additional ships as were provided in the program initiated by the Vinson-Trammell Act (itself based upon the defunct treaties).
Such was the situation until recently, when the sinking of the gunboat Panay -- coming as it did as a climax to a steadily deteriorating world situation -- led President Roosevelt to recommend a general 20 percent increase in the Navy's modern tonnage. His message not merely signalized the abandonment of old limitations and ratios, but our determination to stay in the race and not to be crowded out on the turns. It marked, therefore, the most important change in our national defense policy since the war. The President's program, calling for some sixty-nine ships totalling more than 400,000 tons, was immediately translated into enabling legislation by Representative Carl Vinson of the House Naval Affairs Committee, and introduced as an administration measure.
The number and tonnage of ships now in commission (both modern and obsolescent), and of vessels now on the ways, are as follows:
This total tonnage compares with that of other Powers approximately as follows: British Empire -- 381 ships, 1,757,743 tons; Japan -- 236 ships, 957,000 tons (including two 43,000 tons, 16-inch gun battleships believed to be building); France -- 200 ships, 648,000 tons; Italy -- 291 ships, 624,000 tons; Germany -- 139 ships, 439,000 tons.
The number of ships now being requested is as follows:
Signatories to the naval treaties were supposed to scrap old ships when they were replaced by new ones. Our Navy, like other navies, is now retaining most of its old tonnage and is modernizing the larger units such as capital ships and airplane carriers. Consequently, nearly all of the ships listed in the preceding tables as either building or requested will be additions, not replacements. Thus, it can be seen that the present program calls for considerably more than a 20 percent increase in fighting tonnage; for instance, by 1943-44 we should have some 21 capital ships in commission (with others building) as compared to the 15 we have today -- an increase of about 40 percent.
But combatant ships and guns form only one element of sea power, albeit an important one. "The distinguishing feature of a naval force," writes Mahan, "is mobility." One of the fundamental aims of the present program is therefore to increase the fleet's mobility by replacing its obsolete, slow and short-range auxiliary vessels with new and higher-speed seaplane tenders, destroyer tenders, repair and other ships possessed of large cruising radii. Twenty-two auxiliaries are among the vessels recently requested by the President; the money for six others has already been appropriated. Furthermore, private yards, with the aid of government subsidies and under the direction of the Maritime Commission, are to build 12 high-speed commercial tankers which will be available for use by the fleet in wartime, as well as 12 specially-designed cargo vessels. The new program also provides some $15,000,000 for the construction of a few small "experimental" vessels under 3,000 tons -- a mosquito fleet of torpedo craft, submarine chasers and probably small auxiliaries.
The American Navy has long been "air-minded." The President's program therefore quite naturally proposes very substantial increases in the strength of the air arm. A grand total of some 3,000 naval planes and two more carriers are authorized by the new bill, an increase of 950 planes above the estimated requirements of the old treaty Navy and an actual increase of approximately 1,500 planes above the number (both modern and obsolete) in commission today.
The new Navy will require a far larger force to man it than did the old. The appropriation bill for 1939 carries funds to provide 110,000 enlisted men, 30,000 more than in 1934 and an increase of some 5,000 above the present year. It is expected that eventually fleet and shore establishments will require the 137,485 men already authorized by law. There also are ambitious plans to enlarge the reserve establishment; Naval R. O. T. C. college units are to be doubled in number; and it is hoped eventually to create a merchant marine reserve of 5,000 officers and 35,000 men.
As the number of ships in commission increases there will be a need for between 2,000 and 3,000 more regular officers. Some feel that the need is not so much for more officers as for a reallocation of officers, in order that there be fewer posts ashore and a longer continuity of command afloat. Shifts are at present so frequent that a battleship, the world's most complicated fighting mechanism, may have a new commander every twelve to eighteen months, while command of the fleet is rarely held by the same man for more than two years. There is also considerable criticism of the Navy's present rigid system of promotion which has forced the retirement of a considerable number of experienced men at the very time when a great expansion of the naval service will necessitate the addition of more officers. There seems no doubt that the present system of officer selection has adversely affected morale. Nor does the fleet's terrifically severe work schedule create calm nerves or contentment. There is a saying in the Navy that if we went to war "all an enemy fleet would have to do would be to stay out of our way for a couple of months and we would defeat ourselves." By then, it is inferred, ships and men would be so worn out that they would fall an easy victim to the fresher enemy.
In some aspects of training, particularly in the employment of naval aviation with the fleet and in the practical working out of vast strategical problems in annual war games, the United States Navy seems well ahead of other navies. Nevertheless, there are a few sour notes. Some observers feel that the fleet needs more cruising in small units; that it is tied too much to its Californian bases and to the Commander-in-Chief's apron strings; in short, that it is too "domesticated." There also has been some question as to our gunnery efficiency in comparison with that of other navies. The remarkable performance of a German cruiser in practice firing near the fleet's West Coast bases a few years ago considerably startled our officers and spurred them to new gunnery efforts. There is now noticeable a fortunate trend away from the prescribed artificial target practices of the past in favor of "shoots" more closely approximating actual battle conditions. But we are still handicapped in comparison to other navies by the short-term enlistments of our men and the rapid turnover of the officer and enlisted personnel composing our gun crews.
There is a great deal more to sea power than the tangibles of ships and guns and the intangibles of morale and training. Our industrial capacity (although not our shipbuilding capacity) probably is potentially greater than that of any other nation; but labor troubles, the price-fixing and profit-limiting provisions imposed on ship builders by the Government, and the red tape and divided responsibilities of the politically-entrenched bureaus in the Navy Department constitute obstacles which have retarded our naval construction program to such an extent that today practically every ship being built is weeks or months behind schedule. Assistant Secretary Edison has been trying to slice through some of the snarls of red tape; but each bureau is jealous of its prerogatives, and though the Navy Department has been threatened in the Maas Bill with the creation of a General Staff, the tempo of ship building has not been much accelerated.
Another cause of worry is the greatly increased cost per ton of man-of-war construction: last year the cost of ordnance materials alone rose an average of 24 percent. The cost of a 35,000 ton battleship has been revised in the past two years from an original estimate of $50,000,000, first to $55,000,000 and now to a still tentative figure of $71,000,000. If the threat of Japan's secret building program (supposed to include two 43,000 ton ships with 12 16-inch guns and two 40,000 ton ships with 10 16-inch guns) should force us to abandon the 35,000 ton limitation agreed upon at London in 1936, the cost of a battleship would be still further increased, probably to nearly $100,000,000. And the outlay would be boosted higher still by the technical problems involved in constructing 40,000 to 50,000 ton ships able to pass through the 110-foot-wide locks of the Panama Canal. Without a doubt such ships can be built, but the normal ratio of length to beam would have to be altered and it would take additional expenditures to prepare them for all the exigencies of modern naval war. Plainly, if we cannot reduce construction costs we shall be considerably handicapped in the race for bluewater supremacy.
The Merchant Marine, an important wartime auxiliary to the combatant fleet, is another weak link in our first line of defense. The indiscipline and inefficiency which exist on some of our commercial vessels, as well as the obsolescence of many of the vessels themselves, are receiving the attention of the Maritime Commission. Plans are being evolved for the construction of a large merchant fleet. The Navy is attempting to assist in the creation of an adequate auxiliary service by organizing a Merchant Marine Naval Reserve containing both officers and men, but so far it has met with very limited success. Mention must also be made of the Coast Guard, with its mosquito fleet of some 275 vessels, 1,900 small boats and 50 planes. These become part of the regular Navy in time of war.
With regard to bases, the chief point to note is that we naturally possess a great many more aviation facilities today than we did twenty years ago. Though much work still remains to be done at Hawaii ($37,000,000 more must be spent by 1944), Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu already are probably impregnable to any foreseeable attack. Also receiving increasing attention are the bases at Guantanamo (Cuba), Culebra Island (Puerto Rico) and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, where an air squadron of the Marines has recently been stationed.
General MacArthur's development of the Philippine Army has not been paralleled by a similar strengthening in our Philippine naval base. During the period the Washington treaties were in vigor, we could not legally improve that base. It is generally believed, therefore, that in case of war with Japan the latter could quickly conquer the Philippines (with the possible exception of the army fortress on Corregidor, which might hold out a year or more) without needing to use an expeditionary force of more than 100,000 men. Guam, where a squadron of patrol planes is to be stationed, is isolated and largely defenseless in the midst of the Japanese mandated islands. But we have established stepping stones in the form of air bases across the Pacific and around its eastern rim, and these are of growing importance in the strategy of that ocean. A new small base was recently established at Sitka in Alaska and another is planned for Kodiak Island in the Aleutian area. Midway and Ocean Islands as well as Guam are now under naval jurisdiction; together with French Frigate Shoals they help to extend the range of our patrol squadrons based on Pearl Harbor by 1,000 miles or more. Baker, Howland and Wake Islands (around which elements of the fleet are expected to manœuvre for the first time this spring) and other diminutive Pacific atolls are now being utilized both as stations for the trans-Pacific clippers and for naval purposes.
Taking into account all factors, tangible and intangible, we probably are justified in concluding that if the Navy is expanded to the full limits requested by the President, its fighting strength will be increased from 50 to 75 percent. Even as it stands today there is no doubt that the Navy is far better prepared to fight than it was in 1934. Nobody can say, however, how the picture will be modified in the next few years by the construction programs of other countries. But in any case there is certain to be a tremendous absolute increase in the fighting strength of the American Navy between now and 1943-44. Whether its strength will increase relative to the strengths of other sea Powers remains to be seen. Much depends upon our ability to speed up our shipbuilding program and to assimilate a new glut of contracts in yards already clogged with orders. Unless we can build ships far faster than we have been doing since 1934, we shall fall behind in the race for sea power, at least as compared to England. She has been building cruisers in from eighteen months to two and a half years, whereas in the United States we take three or four years. The strength of our fleet as compared to that of the Japanese fleet is likely to increase slightly. Both England and the United States will probably become somewhat stronger in Far Eastern waters: Britain by virtue of a strengthened Hong Kong and of Singapore, plus the squadron of capital ships she expects eventually to station there; the United States largely by virtue of the development of those aërial stepping stones enumerated above and because of the increased cruising radii of our modern ships.
Since 1935 the Regular Army of the United States has increased from 118,000 to a current strength of almost 165,000 enlisted men; yet its expansion program has just started. Next year's appropriation bill for the military establishment tentatively calls for the expenditure of approximately $427,000,000, to which the President's recent message suggests adding $16,000,000 more. With these moneys the Army plans to continue its long-range program of reorganization and modernization initiated by General Douglas MacArthur shortly after President Roosevelt first took office.
Military thought in the American Army, like military thought everywhere, is in a complete state of flux. The results are painfully evident. If, for instance, the Army adopts the new organization for the infantry division now being tested, we shall have to embark upon the most complete reorganization of our land forces since the World War -- perhaps since the Civil War. The development of the tank and the armored car -- mechanization -- and the replacement of the horse and mule by the truck, the automobile and the motorcycle -- motorization -- are only two of the chief elements of change. Additional are the substitution of modern weapons with increased fire power for the old reliables, and the growth of air power, which has given Mars seven league boots, and thereby greatly complicated the problem of supply.
In many ways, then, the Army faces problems more difficult of solution than those of its sister service. Its plans must therefore be more flexible and it must constantly try to adapt itself to the lessons taught in Ethiopia, in Spain and in the Far East.
The Army still seems to hug firmly the old concept of mass, yet it has definitely accepted the implications of the machine age. In its industrial mobilization plan -- which incidentally sets up a dictatorial government in accordance with the inevitable totalitarian character of any future war -- the Army has earmarked some 12,000 factories as potential wartime producers of munitions and equipment. As Colonel Sanderford Jarman of the War Department recently revealed, wartime man power is to be raised largely by conscription. Without waiting for war, however, the military authorities desire an immediate increase in the personnel of the Regular Army above its present strength of around 165,000 enlisted men and 12,309 officers (exclusive of about 6,500 Philippine Scouts). They would like 2,000 more officers and from 10,000 to 15,000 more enlisted men -- chiefly to provide pilots and ground crews for more planes, a larger anti-aircraft personnel, and more men for specialized duties. The National Guard is being raised to a total strength of 210,000. With the Guard and the Regular Army as a basic force, the United States could probably mobilize on M-day (mobilization day) some 375,000 men, of whom probably about 40,000 would be stationed in our overseas possessions. More than 1,000,000 men, Colonel Jarman disclosed, would have to be procured for the land forces in the first four months of war, and of these, 300,000 would be needed in the first month. Present plans call for voluntary recruitment of that number in order to cover the lapse of time between the declaration of war and the functioning of the draft machinery.
But the greater the number of trained reserves available, the less dangerous the gap between M-day and Draft-day; hence one of the Army's major efforts is directed towards building up an adequate reserve. The officer reserve is well organized and fairly well trained. There are about 96,545 officers on the reserve roll (the objective is to have 120,000) -- enough, together with Regular Army commissioned ranks, National Guard officers and R.O.T.C. personnel, to officer an army of about 1,250,000 men. But there is practically no enlisted reserve -- only 3,189 men. The Army would like to see the enlistment of 150,000 trained men (75,000 in the next four years) at a retainer fee of $24 a year. Some 115,000 of these 150,000 reservists would, it is contemplated, be incorporated immediately after the outbreak of war into the Regular Army to bring its strength up to 280,000. The rest would be used to provide key men for the inactive units and reserve regiments. To provide for the "better establishment" of this enlisted reserve, the President in his recent message asked for the immediate appropriation of $450,000, a sum sufficient to enlist about 18,000 men during the next twelve months.
In matériel the Army's efforts have been directed not so much towards expansion as towards the modernization of present equipment, the development of new weapons and the substitution of these for old ones. In the air there has been great progress since the formation of the semi-autonomous General Headquarters Air Force in 1935. As for its airplane strength, though the Baker Board goal of 2,320 Army planes still lies far in the future, the Army has today about 1,000 machines of all types, with perhaps another 700 on order. Technically we are probably ahead of the rest of the world in aviation development; but there is a serious shortage of flying personnel, and there is some divergence of opinion as to the soundness of the Army's present policy of having fewer giant planes, such as the Boeing B-17 famous "flying fortress," rather than more medium-sized machines.
The Army's most serious shortage today is probably in antiaircraft equipment. It takes several months to manufacture material of this sort, and since it could not be easily procured from commercial sources in time of war, supplies must be accumulated in time of peace. The President has, in fact, asked Congress to authorize $8,800,000 for the purchase of more anti-aircraft apparatus. Such a sum will not go very far, since eight three-inch modern anti-aircraft weapons, with fire control equipment, cost considerably more than half a million dollars. It should nevertheless help to equip Regular Army units and to initiate the equipment of National Guard batteries. The Army (including the National Guard) has today only 42 modern mobile anti-aircraft guns, exclusive of those in our insular possessions and the Canal Zone, and not all of these are manned. The present program calls for completing the equipment of another Regular Army anti-aircraft regiment (which will be the fourth such regiment serving in the United States proper) and for providing the essential items needed by the ten National Guard regiments, the latter now having among them only 14 modern large-caliber guns, with 13 more on order.
In Coast Artillery we are somewhat better off. Panama and Hawaii are strongly defended, though more large-caliber seacoast guns are needed by the latter. Increased attention has also been paid in recent years to modernizing the fortifications along our West Coast. In next year's Army estimates approximately $1,000,000 of the nearly $3,000,000 asked for coast defense is earmarked for the construction of seacoast batteries, and another $358,000 for the procurement and installation of fire control equipment. A five-year program for improving our coast defenses -- particularly for mounting long-range batteries of eight and sixteen-inch guns and for more railway artillery -- was started last year. However, this program, to cost about $ 15,000,000, is confined to the West Coast; it would take another $34,000,000 to modernize equipment on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Our Field Artillery is still glutted with World War equipment, though much of it has been modernized, as for instance the famous old French 75 mm. guns, of which we have some 4,000 on hand (plus about 400 others of American manufacture). Approximately 1,400 of these have been equipped with adapters, balloon tires, etc., and can now be towed at high speeds behind trucks. This process of renovation will be continued with funds from next year's appropriations. A 75 mm. howitzer, new to our Army, has been adopted and a few are already in service, while the old 155 mm. howitzer has been modernized. During recent field tests in Texas, it rumbled along behind powerful Biedermann towing trucks at 60 miles an hour. Still another new type of gun, the 105 mm. howitzer, has recently been developed. Only seven of these have so far been manufactured, and already trouble has been experienced with their carriage. But though still only an experimental weapon, it will very likely find a place in the army of tomorrow.
Modern weapons of small caliber for infantry use are scarce. The stout old Springfield is to be superseded by the Garand semi-automatic rifle, invented by a War Department ordnance employee, which the Springfield Arsenal, ironically enough, is now turning out at the slow rate of 77 a week. This new rifle costs about $88, which can probably be reduced to $56 if real quantity production is undertaken. The Army is woefully deficient in anti-tank weapons: the best in service are the old infantry 37 mm. and the 50 caliber machine gun. Research and experiment are, however, expected to produce a new and suitable weapon before long. Machine guns of several types -- including the Browning, now used as a semi-automatic rifle, and the 30 and 50 caliber models -- are available in quantity. On the other hand, there has been a very considerable deficiency in munitions and reserve ammunition. To remedy this shortage, Mr. Roosevelt asked for $2,000,000 in his special message. This sum will provide, of course, but a tiny drop in the bucket of modern war: 150,000 men fighting a major engagement can shoot away $2,000,000 worth of ammunition in one day. At Passchendaele the British, laying down the greatest barrage in history, fired four and a quarter million shells, worth about $1,100,000,000.
Our mechanization program has progressed rapidly in recent years. To replace the obsolete wartime Renault tanks, the Army is making at the Rock Island Arsenal a ten-ton light tank, thought to be superior to the light tanks of other Powers. There are now more than 400 of this type on hand. The basic program calls for from 900 to 1,000 light and medium tanks in the Regular Army and National Guard, plus about 230 armored cars. No really satisfactory medium tank has as yet been developed. All in all, the tank presents most difficult problems, for any one of several anti-tank guns can easily penetrate the armor of any tank now in service in any army. Yet to give the tank vastly thicker armor would be to decrease its mobility and therefore its utility. Furthermore, the use of the tank has not yet been clearly worked out: tank tactics preoccupy practically every military magazine in America.
The Army has never been unduly worried about the progress of its long-range scheme for replacing most of its animal transport by motor truck. The United States now possesses one-third of the world's roads and two-thirds of the world's cars; its motor industry is so well developed that wartime needs in standard commercial vehicles could easily be met at the outbreak of hostilities. This obviates the necessity of creating a large peacetime reserve of motor vehicles. The War Department does not intend to motorize completely any existing or contemplated units. Its policy is merely to equip them with enough vehicles to move their artillery, field kitchens and other apparatus, and to maintain them as mobile but not completely motorized units. Under this program, the Army will motorize all its supply and transport trains as well as about 70 percent of its field artillery. For these purposes some 7,000 more vehicles will be needed eventually.
One of the Army's principal aims -- one which will probably be achieved this year -- is to carry out a thorough tactical reorganization. The overwhelming preponderance of military opinion here and abroad still considers the infantry to be the "queen of battle." The infantry division therefore remains the basic unit in every army. But in ours it is the old, cumbersome division. In the World War it had an approximate strength of 28,000 men, and since has merely been reduced to 22,047. It is largely equipped with animal transport; its mobility is further hampered by the presence of units belonging to the various supporting services. Such a ponderous division may have been well adapted for hammering against the German trench system on the Western Front; but in view of modern developments in arms and tactics, it is believed to have outgrown its usefulness.
Last fall a new and smaller division with a wartime strength of 13,512 officers and men was tested on the plains of Texas. This new "streamlined" division, as it is called, is largely though not completely motorized. It demonstrated a high degree of mobility and efficiency during arduous three-months tests. Supporters of this "P. I. D." (Proposed Infantry Division) therefore believed that due to the increased efficiency of modern arms it has the same or even greater fire power than the larger old division, and that because of this increased fire power it is able to cover the same length of front. It is predicated upon the belief that, to quote an Army press release, the "division of future wars will overcome massed man-power by science and strategy in the form of swift and accurate movements." Another release describes it as designed for an "open warfare situation." Some military observers, pointing to Spain, declare there are no grounds for believing that mobile, highly-motorized and mechanized forces can dissolve the stalemate of trench war. But the tests of the "P. I. D." are so attractive in theory and have been so successful in practice that little doubt remains that divisions of this type -- probably numbering between 10,000 and 12,000 men, and partially motorized -- will replace some or all of the old divisions. This will entail the most complete reorganization which the Regular Army and the National Guard have undergone in several decades.
In number of soldiers under arms and in reserve the American Army stands twentieth in the world today. But from the professional and technical point of view it merits a far higher rating. In military efficiency it is probably inferior to the French and German Armies but superior to the British and to the Japanese. There are American prototypes of "Colonel Blimp," die-hard conservatives, whose only contribution to the military art is an occasional remark: "The army's shot to hell!" But the keener American officers -- and they are numbered in the hundreds and perhaps even the thousands -- are the equal of those in nearly any army. All in all, they are capable and hardworking. Since the Army's promotion system is based largely on seniority, there is much deadwood; as at the beginning of the World War, quite a few senior officers now in service would probably have to be retired for physical disability or other reasons at the start of hostilities. And politics lays its hand on the Army even more heavily than on the Navy, particularly in the selection of the Chiefs of Bureaus and the Chief of Staff. The War Department also has far too many bureaucratic habits and far too much red tape.
It is, of course, impossible to know in advance what use we might have to make of our Army and Navy, other than to defend the territory of the United States -- continental and insular. According to the Vinson Bill now before Congress the Navy must be "adequate" to protect both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, our insular possessions, "our commerce and citizens abroad," and to "support our national policies." In reality, however, neither the Army nor the Navy is at present being prepared to implement any such far-reaching policy. Presumably we have no aggressive designs in any quarter of the world. But what about our existing interests in the Far East and in South America -- will we under any circumstances fight to protect them? If so, shall we find it necessary or expedient to undertake joint operations with other Powers in defense of common interests? If so, in what areas and to what extent? Or is it rather our intention to strengthen the Army and Navy to the point where they can singlehanded enforce any policy the American Government believes to be worth fighting for, without needing or accepting outside help? These questions -- and the many others which they suggest -- cannot, of course, be answered here. But we must keep in mind that they exist; otherwise any discussion of the proposed Army and Navy expansion programs is quite unrealistic.
The Army and Navy are at present prepared to defend both coasts of the United States against simultaneous invasion, and at the same time to protect Hawaii, Panama, Alaska and probably South America from any attacks that can reasonably be foreseen. But they cannot -- either with our existing defense establishments or with any now contemplated -- defend the Philippines or Guam; they cannot keep the Open Door in China from being slammed in our face; and they cannot protect our commerce and citizens everywhere. The question before the American people, therefore is: Shall the Army and Navy be strengthened sufficiently to enable them to do any one, or all, of those things?