Bradley A. (Bradley Allen) Fiske.

The Navy as a fighting machine online

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and to open five ports to foreign commerce, through
which ports opium could be introduced; one in i860,
with Great Britain and France, that resulted in the
capture of Pekin; and one with Japan in 1894. Since
that time (as well as before) China has been the scene
of revolutions and wide-spread disturbances, so that,
even though a peace-loving and non-resisting nation,
peace has not reigned within her borders. The last
dynasty was overthrown in 191 2. Since then a feeble
republic has dragged on a precarious existence, inter-
rupted by the very short reign of Yuan Shih K'ai.

This brief consideration of the trend of people up
to the present time seems to show that, owing to the
nature of man himself, especially to the nature of
large "crowds" of men, the direction in which nations
have been moving hitherto has not been toward increas-
ing the prevalence of peace, but rather toward increas-
ing the methods, instruments, and areas of war; fur-


thermore, that this direction of movement has been
necessary, in order to achieve and to maintain pros-
perity in any nation.

This being the case, what forces exist that may
reasonably be expected to change that trend?

Three main forces are usually mentioned: Civi-
lization, Commerce, Christianity.

Before considering these it may be well to note
Newton's first law of motion, that every body will
continue in a state of rest or of imiform motion in a
straight line unless acted on by some external force;
for though this law was affirmed of material bodies,
yet its applicability to large groups of men is striking
and suggestive. Not only do human beings have the
physical attributes of weight and inertia like other
material bodies, but their mental organism, while of
a higher order than the physical, is as powerfully
affected by external forces. And though it is true
that psychology has not yet secured her Newton,
and that no one has yet formulated a law that ex-
presses exactly the action of the minds and spirits of
men under the influence of certain mental and moral
stimuli or forces, yet we know that our minds and
spirits are influenced by fear, hope, ambition, hate, and
so forth, in ways that are fairly well understood and
toward results that often can be predicted in advance.

Our whole theory of government and our laws of
business and every-day life are founded on the belief
that men are the same to-day as they were yesterday,


and that they will be the same to-morrow. The whole
science of psychology is based on the observed and
recorded actions of the human organism under the
influence of certain external stimuli or forces, and
starts from the assumption that this organism has
definite and permanent characteristics. If this is not
so — if the behavior of men in the past has not been
governed by actual laws which wiU also govern their
behavior in the future — then our laws of government
are built on error, and the teachings of psychology are

This does not mean that any man will necessarily
act in the same way to-morrow as he did yesterday,
when subjected to the influence of the same threat,
inducement, or temptation; because, without grappling
the thorny question of free will, we realize that a man's
action is never the result of only one stimulus and mo-
tive, but is the resultant of many; and we have no
reason to expect that he will act in the same way when
subjected to the same stimulus, unless we know that
the internal and external conditions pertaining to him
are also the same. Furthermore, even if we cannot
predict what a certain individual will do, when ex-
posed to a certain external influence, because of some
differences in his mental and physical condition, on
one occasion in comparison with another, yet when
we consider large groups of men, we know that indi-
vidual peculiarities, permanent and temporary, bal-
ance each other in great measure; that the average


condition of a group of men is less changeable than
that of one man, and that the degree of permanency
of condition increases with the number of men in the
group. From this we may reasonably conclude that,
if we know the character of a man — or a group of men
— and if we know also the line of action which he — or
they — ^have followed in the past, we shall be able to
predict his — or their — line of action in the future with
considerable accuracy; and that the accuracy will
increase with the number of men in the group, and
the length of time during which they have followed the
known line of action. Le Bon says: "Every race
carries in its mental constitution the laws of its des-

Therefore, the line of action that the entire human
race has followed during the centuries of the past is a
good index — or at least the best index that we have —
to its line of action during the centuries of the future.

Now, men have been on this earth for many years;
and history and psychology teach us that in their
intercourse with each other, their conduct has been
caused by a combination of many forces, among which
are certain powerful forces that tend to create strife.
The strongest by far of these forces is the ego in man
himself, a quality divinely implanted which makes a
man in a measure self-protecting. This ego prompts
a man not only to seek pleasure and avoid trouble
for himself, but also to gain superiority, and, if pos-
sible, the mastery over his fellow men. Men being


placed in life in close juxtaposition to each other, the
struggles of each man to advance his own interests
produce rivalries, jealousies, and conflicts.

Similarly with nations. Nations have been com-
posed for the most part of people having an heredity
more or less common to them all, so that they are
bound together as great clans. From this it has re-
sulted that nations have been jealous of each other
and have combated each other. They have been
doing this since history began, and are doing it as
much as ever now.

In fact, mankind have been in existence for so
many centuries, and their physical, moral, mental,
and spiritual characteristics were so evidently im-
planted in them by the Almighty, that it seems diffi-
cult to see how any one, except the Almighty himself,
can change these characteristics and their resulting
conduct. It is a common saying that a man cannot
lift himself over the fence by his boot straps, though
he can jump over the fence, if it is not too high. This
saying recognizes the fact that "a material system can
do no work on itself"; but needs external aid. When
a man pulls upward on his boot straps, the upward
force that he exerts is exactly balanced by the down-
ward reaction exerted by his boot straps; but when
he jumps, the downward thrust of his legs causes an
equal reaction of the earth, which exerts a direct force
upward upon the man; and it is this external force
that moves him over the fence. It is this external


force, the reaction of the earth or air or water, which
moves every animal that walks, or bird that flies, or
fish that swims. It is the will of the Almighty, acting
through the various stimuli of nature, that causes the
desire to walk, and all the emotions and actions of
men. If He shall cause any new force to act on men,
their line of conduct will surely change. But if He
does not — how can it change, or be changed; how can
the human race turn about, by means of its own power
only, and move in a direction the reverse from that in
which it has been moving throughout all the cen-
turies of the past?

These considerations seem to indicate that na-
tions, regarded in their relation toward each other,
will go on in the direction in which they have been
going unless acted upon by some external force.

Will civilization, commerce, or Christianity im-
part that force?

Inasmuch as civilization is merely a condition in
which men Hve, and an expression of their history,
character and aims, it is difficult to see how it could
of itself act as an external force, or cause an external
force to act. "Institutions and laws," says Le Bon,
again, "are the outward manifestation of our char-
acter, the expression of its needs. Being its outcome,
institutions and laws cannot change this character."

Even if the civilization of a given nation may
have been brought about in some degree by forces
external to that nation, yet it is clear that we must


regard that civilization rather as the result of those
forces than as a force itself. Besides, civilization has
never yet made the relations of nations with each
other more unselfish, civilized nations now and in the
past, despite their veneer of courtesy, being fully as
jealous of each other as the most savage tribes. That
this should be so seems natural; because civilization
has resulted mainly from the attempts of individuals
and groups to enhance the pleasures and diminish
the ills of life, and therefore cannot tend to unselfish-
ness in either individuals or nations. Civilization in
the past has not operated to soften the relations of
nations with each other, so why should it do so now?
Is not modern civilization, with its attendant com-
plexities, rivalries, and jealousies, provocative of quar-
rels rather than the reverse ? In what respect is mod-
ern civilization better than past civilization, except
in material conveniences due to material improve-
ments in the mechanic arts? Are we any more artis-
tic, strong, or beautiful than the Greeks in their
palmy days? Are we braver than the Spartans, more
honest than the Chinese, more spiritual than the
Hindoos, more religious than the Puritans? Is not
the superior civilization of the present day a mechan-
ical civilization pure and simple? And has not the
invention of electrical and mechanical appliances, with
the resulting insuring of communication and trans-
portation, and the improvements in instruments of
destruction, advantaged the great nations more than


the weaker ones, and increased the temptation to
great nations to use force rather than decreased it?
Do not civiUzation's improvements in weapons of de-
struction augment the effectiveness of warlike meth-
ods, as compared with the peaceful methods of argu-
ment and persuasion?

Diplomacy is an agency of civilization that was
invented to avoid war, to enable nations to accommo-
date themselves to each other without going to war;
but, practically, diplomacy seems to have caused al-
most as many wars as it has averted. And even if it
be granted that the influence of diplomacy has been
in the main for peace rather than for war, we know
that diplomacy has been in use for centuries, that its
resources are well understood, and that they have all
been tried out many times; and therefore we ought
to realize clearly that diplomacy cannot introduce
any new force into international politics now, or exert
an influence for peace that will be more potent in
the future than the influence that it has exerted in the

These considerations seem to show that we can-
not reasonably expect civiHzation to divert nations
from the path they have followed hitherto.

Can commerce impart the external force neces-.
sary to divert nations from that path ?

Since commerce bears exactly the same relation
to nations now as in times past, and since it is an
agency within mankind itself, it is difficult to see how


it can act as an external force, or cause an external
force to be applied. Of course, commercial interests
are often opposed to national interests, and improve-
ments in speed and sureness of communication and
transportation increase the size and power of com-
mercial organizations. But the same factors increase
the power of governments and the solidarity of nations.
At no time in the past has there been more national
feeling in nations than now. Even the loosely held
provinces of China are forming a Chinese nation.
Despite the fundamental commercialism of the age,
national spirit is growing more intense, the present
war being the main intensifying cause. It is true that
the interests of commerce are in many ways antago-
nistic to those of war. But, on the other hand, of all
the causes that occasion war the economic causes are
the greatest. For no thing will men fight more sav-
agely than for money; for no thing have men fought
more savagely than for money; and the greater the
rivalry, the more the man's life becomes devoted to it,
and the more fiercely he will fight to get or keep it.
Surely of all the means by which we hope to avoid war,
the most hopeless by far is conamerce.

The greatest of all hopes is in Christianity, be-
cause of its inculcation of love and kindliness, its
obvious influence on the individual in cultivating un-
selfishness and other peaceful virtues, and the fact
that it is an inspiration from on high, and therefore
a force external to mankind. But let us look the facts


solemnly in the face that the Christian religion has
now been in effect for nearly two thousand years;
that the nations now warring are Christian nations,
in the very foremost rank of Christendom; that never
in history has there been so much bloodshed in such
wide-spread areas and so much hate, and that we see
no signs that Christianity is employing any influence
that she has not been employing for nearly two thou-
sand years.

If we look for the influence of Christianity, we
can find it in the dafly lives of people, in the family,
in business, in pohtics, and in military bodies; every-
where, in fact, in Christian countries, so long as we
keep inside of any organization the members of which
feel bound together. This we must aU admit, even the
heathen know it; but where do we see any evidence of
the sweetening effect of Christianity in the dealings
of one organization with another with which it has no
special bonds of friendship? Christianity is invoked
in every warring nation now to stimulate the patriotic
spirit of the nation and intensify the hate of the crowd
against the enemy; and even if we think that such in-
voking is a perversion of religious influence to un-
righteous ends, we must admit the fact that the Chris-
tian religion itself is at this moment being made to
exert a powerful influence — not toward peace but
toward war ! And this should not amaze us; for where
does the Bible say or intimate that love among nations
will ever be brought about? The Saviour said: "I


bring not peace but a sword." So what reasonable
hope does even Christianity give us that war between
nations will cease ? And even if it did give reasonable
hope, let us realize that between reasonable hope and
reasonable expectation there is a great gulf fixed.

Therefore, we seem forced to the conclusion that
the world will move in the future in the same direc-
tion as in the past; that nations will become larger
and larger and fewer and fewer, the immediate instru-
ment of international changes being war; and that
certain nations will become very powerful and nearly
dominate the earth in turn, as Persia, Greece, Rome,
Spain, France, and Great Britain have done — and
as some other country soon may do.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, a certain
law of decadence seems to have prevailed, because of
which every nation, after acquiring great power, has
in turn succumbed to the enervating effects which
seem inseparable from it, and become the victim of
some newer nation that has made strenuous prepara-
tions for long years, in secret, and finally pounced
upon her as a lion on its prey.

Were it not for this tendency to decadence, we
should expect that the nations of the earth would
ultimately be divided into two great nations, and that
these would contend for the mastery in a world-wide

But if the present rate of invention and develop-
ment continues, improvements in the mechanic arts


will probably cause such increase in the power of
weapons of destruction, and in the swiftness and sure-
ness of transportation and communication, that some
monster of efficiency will have time to acquire world
mastery before her period of decadence sets in.

In this event, wars will be of a magnitude besides
which the present struggle will seem pygmy; and
will rage over the surface of the earth, for the gaining
and retaining of the mastery of the world.


IN order to realize what principles govern the use of
navies, let us first consider what navies have to do,
and get history's data as to what navies in the past
have done. It would obviously be impossible to re-
count here all the doings of navies. , But neither is it
necessary; for the reason that, throughout the long
periods of time in which history records them, their
activities have nearly always been the same.

In all cases in which navies have been used for war
there was the preliminary dispute, often long-contin-
ued, between two peoples or their rulers, and at last
the decision of the dispute by force. In all cases the de-
cision went to the side that could exert the most force
at the critical times and places. The fact that the
causes of war have been civil, and not military, de-
mands consideration, for the reason that some people,
confusing cause and effect, incline to the belief that
armies and navies are the cause of war, and that they
are to be blamed for its horrors. History clearly de-
clares the contrary, and shows that the only role of
armies and navies has been to wage wars, and, by wag-
ing, to finish them.

It may be well here, in order to clear away a pos-


NAVAL A, B, C 31

sible preconception by the reader, to try and dispel
the illusion that army and navy officers are eager for
war, in order that they may get promotion. This
idea has been exploited by people opposed to the de-
velopment of the army and navy, and has been re-
ceived with so much credulity that it seriously handi-
caps the endeavors of officers to get an unbiassed hear-
ing. But surely the fooHshness of such an idea would
promptly disappear from the brain of any one if he
would remind himself that simply because a man
joins the army or navy he does not cease to be a hu-
man being, with the same emotions of fear as other
men, the same sensitiveness to pain, the same dread
of death, and the same horror of leaving his family
unsupported after his death. It is true that men in
armies and navies are educated to dare death if need
be; but the present writer has been through two wars,
has been well acquainted with army and navy officers
for forty-five years, and knows positively that, barring
exceptions, they do not desire war at all.

Without going into an obviously impossible dis-
cussion of all naval wars, it may be instructive to con-
sider briefly the four naval wars in which the United
States has engaged.

The first was the War of the American Revolu-
tion. This war is instructive to those who contend
that the United States is so far from Europe as to be
safe from attack by a European fleet; because the in-
tervening distance was frequently traversed then by


British and French fleets of frail, slow, sailing ships,
which were vital factors in the war. Without the
British war-ships, the British could not have landed
and supported their troops. Without the French war-
ships the French could not have landed and sup-
ported their troops, who, under Rochambeau, were
also under Washington, and gave him the assistance
that he wofully needed, to achieve by arms our in-

The War of 1812 is instructive from the fact that,
though the actions of our naval ships produced little
material effect, the skill, daring, and success with which
they were fought convinced Europeans of the high
character and consequent noble destiny of the Ameri-
can people. The British were so superior in sea
strength, however, that they were able to send their
fleet across the ocean and land a force on the shores
of Chesapeake Bay. This force marched to Washing-
ton, attacked the city, and burned the Capitol and
other public buildings, with little inconvenience to

The War of the Rebellion is instructive because it
shows how two earnest peoples, each believing them-
selves right, can be forced, by the very sincerity of
their convictions, to wage war against each other; and
because it shows how unpreparedness for war, with
its accompanying ignorance of the best way in which
to wage it, causes undue duration of a war and there-
fore needless suffering. If the North had not closed

NAVAL A, B, C 33

its eyes so resolutely to the fact of the coining strug-
gle, it would have noted beforehand that the main
weakness of the Confederacy lay in its dependence on
revenue from cotton and its inability to provide a
navy that could prevent a blockade of its coasts; and
the North would have early instituted a blockade so
tight that the Confederacy would have been forced to
yield much sooner than it did. The North would have
made naval operations the main effort, instead of the
auxiliary effort; and would have substituted for much
of the protracted and bloody warfare of the land the
quickly decisive and comparatively merciful warfare
of the sea.

In the Spanish War the friction between the
United States and Spain was altogether about Cuba.
No serious thought of the invasion of either country
was entertained, no invasion was attempted, and the
only land engagements were some minor engagements
in Cuba and the Philippines. The critical operations
were purely naval. In the first of these, Commodore
Dewey's squadron destroyed the entire Far Eastern
squadron of the Spanish in Manila Bay; in the second.
Admiral Sampson's squadron destroyed the entire At-
lantic squadron of the Spanish near Santiago de Cuba.
The two naval victories compelled Spain to make
terms of peace practically as the United States wished.
Attention is invited to the fact that this war was
not a war of conquest, was not a war of aggression,
was not a war of invasion, was not a war carried on


by either side for any base purpose; but was in its in-
tention and its results for the benefit of mankind.

The Russo-Japanese War was due to conflicting
national policies. While each side accused the other
of selfish ends, it is not apparent to a disinterested
observer that either was unduly selfish in its policy,
or was doing more than every country ought to ad-
vance the interests and promote the welfare of its
people. Russia naturally had a great deal of interest
in Manchuria, and felt that she had a right to expand
through the uncivilized regions of Manchuria, espe-
cially since she needed a satisfactory outlet to the sea.
In other words, the interests of Russia were in the line
of its expanding to the eastward. But Japan's inter-
ests were precisely the reverse of Russia's — that is,
Japan's interests demanded that Russia should not
do those things that Russia wanted to do. Japan felt
that Russia's movement toward the East was bringing
her entirely too close to Japan. Russia was too pow-
erful a country, and too aggressive, to be trusted so
close. Japan had the same feeling toward Russia that
any man might have on seeing another man, heav-
ily armed, gradually coming closer to him in the night.
Japan especially wished that Russia should have no
foothold in Corea, feeling, as she expressed it, that the
point of Corea under Russian power would be a dagger
directed at the heart of Japan. This feeling about
Corea was the same feeling that every country has
about land near her; it has a marked resemblance to

NAVAL A, B, C 35

the feeling that the United States has embodied in its
Monroe Doctrine.

After several years of negotiation in which Japan
and Russia endeavored to secure their respective aims
by diplomacy, diplomacy was finally abandoned and
the sword taken up instead. Japan, because of the su-
perior foresight of her statesmen, was the first to realize
that diplomacy must fail, was the first to realize that
she must prepare for war, was the first to begin ade-
quate preparation for war, was the first to complete
preparation for war, was the first to strike, and in
consequence was the victor. Yet Russia was a very
much larger, richer, more populous country than Japan.

Russia sent large forces of soldiers to Manchuria

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