Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer Mahan Reconsidered

In This Review

Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer Mahan Reconsidered

By John Tetsuro Sumida
Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1997
164 pp. $24.95
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The connections between the riddles of the Zen masters, the art of concert pianists, and the ruminations of a nineteenth-century American naval captain are not immediately obvious. In this slender, well-wrought volume, however, a prominent student of naval affairs makes them clear. The author has produced a close but concise study of the thought of the great historian, publicist, and (Sumida would argue) theorist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who remains more revered than read in naval circles. Particularly intriguing are the connections drawn here between artistic activity and the nature of command: Mahan criticized the U.S. Navy's emerging preoccupation with engineering and administration. The executive function in naval affairs had, to his mind, far higher tasks and problems. Whether, as Sumida claims, Mahan invented "historically based and broadly focused international security studies" may be debated, but he makes an interesting case. A fine bibliography and analytical index to Mahan's writings fill out a remarkably compact volume.