The Navy as a Fighting Machine eBook

Bradley Fiske
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 308 pages of information about The Navy as a Fighting Machine.

And what is “power,” in the sense in which officials, both military and civilian, use the word?  Is it ability to do good service, or is it ability to bestow favors in order that favors may be received, to give orders to others coupled with authority to enforce obedience, or to take revenge for injuries received or fancied?  Of course, “power” is ability to do all these things, good and bad.  But if a man desires power simply to do good service, and if he holds a highly conscientious view of the accompanying duties and responsibilities, will he crave “power” as much as some men seem to do?

It seems fundamental, then, that any strategic plan for preparing the Navy Department for war should be framed with a strong endeavor to leave out the personal element, and should regard national usefulness only.  If this be done successfully, and if good selections be made of the personnel to do it, it will be found that the members of the personnel will think no more about their “power” than does an officer of the deck while handling a battleship in fleet formation during his four hours on the bridge.

In preparing the department for war, one would be in danger of being overwhelmed by the enormousness and the complexity of the task, unless he bore in mind continuously that it is only when we get into details that any matter becomes complex; and therefore that if we can get a clear idea of the whole subject, the principles that underlie it, and the major divisions into which it naturally is divided, we can then make those divisions and afterward subdivide those divisions, and later divide the subdivisions; so that the whole subject will seem to fall apart as a fowl does under the hands of a skilful carver.  The divisions and subdivisions of the subject having been made, the remaining task, while onerous, will be largely a matter of copying and of filling in blank forms.

As all navy departments have means regulated by law such that the actual executive work of recruiting, constructing, and supplying the necessary personnel and material shall be done by certain bureaus and offices, strategy does not need executive power, except for forcing the bureaus and offices to do the necessary work—­should such forcing become necessary.  Strategy being the art of being a general (strategos), one cannot conceive of it as bereft of executive power, since we cannot conceive of a general exercising generalship without having executive power.  It is true that strategy occupies itself mainly with planning—­but so does a general; and it is also true that strategy itself does not make the soldiers march, but neither does a general; it is the colonels and captains and corporals who make the soldiers march.  The general plans the campaign and arranges the marches, the halts, the bivouacs, provisions, ammunition, etc., through his logistical officers, and they give the executive officers general instructions as to how to carry out the general’s plans.

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The Navy as a Fighting Machine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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