The home bases if properly prepared would exert a powerful effect on a battle near them by equipping the fleet adequately and promptly, and also by preventing a possible defeat from becoming a disaster, by receiving wounded ships before they sank. The wounded ships of the enemy, on the other hand, would have no base near by, and only those inconsiderably injured could probably be gotten home.
OPERATING THE MACHINE
The naval machine, including the various vessels of all kinds, the bases and the personnel, having been designed, put together, and prepared for its appointed task of conducting war, and the appointed task having at last been laid upon it, how shall the machine be operated—how shall it be made successfully to perform its task?
In order to answer this correctly, we must first see clearly what is its task.
War.—War may be said to be the act of two nations or two sets of nations, by means of which each tries to get its way by physical force. The peaceful methods of diplomacy having been exhausted, arguments and threats having been tried in vain, both parties resort to the oldest and yet the latest court; the same court as that to which resort the lions of the desert, the big and little fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, and even the blades of grass that battle for the sunshine.
The vastness of the issue decided by war, the fact that from its decision there is no appeal, the greatness of the forces that nations can produce, the length of experience of war extending through 8,000 wars, and during more than three thousand years of recorded history, the enormous literature of the subject, and the fact that more brain power, energy, and character have been devoted to war than to any other fruit of man’s endeavor—combine to give to the conduct of war an importance that no other subject can possess.
The thing that each side brings forward against the other side is force; “that which moves or tends to move matter.” In all ages, it has been directed primarily against the physical bodies of individual men, threatening each individual man with suffering and death. It appeals to the primal instinct of men, self-preservation, and is the ultima ratio regum, the last argument of kings—and not only of kings, but of all other living things as well.
The first feeling aroused by the threat against life, or physical well-being, is fear; and, therefore, the first force with which to oppose the threat is a force of the same spiritual nature as fear, but opposite in direction. This force is called in the English language “courage.” Without courage every man and every nation would be at the mercy of every man or nation that made a threat against it. The inherent necessity for courage is thus apparent; and the reason is therefore apparent, for the fact that in every nation and tribe physical courage has been esteemed the greatest virtue in a man. In Latin, we know, the word virtus meant courage, and also virtue—showing that the Romans held the two qualities to be identical or similar.