Yet even if the degree of probability of war with Great Britain, within say ten years, seems so small that we need not consider her, are there no other great Powers with whom the degree of probability of war is great enough to make it wise for us to consider them?
Before answering this question, let us realize clearly that one of the strongest reasons that leads a country to abstain from war, even to seek relief from wrongs, actual or imagined, is a doubt of success; and that that reason disappears if another country, sufficiently powerful to assure success, is ready to help her, either by joining openly with her, or by seeking war herself at the same time with the same country. As we all know, cases like this have happened in the past. Great Britain knows it; and the main secret of her wealth is that she has always been strong enough to fight any two countries.
It is plain that a coalition of two countries against us is possible now. The United States is regarded with feelings of extreme irritation by the two most warlike nations in the world, one on our eastern side and the other on the western. War with either one would call for all the energies of the country, and the issue would be doubtful. But if either country should consider itself compelled to declare war, the other, if free at the time, might see her opportunity to declare war simultaneously. The result would be the same as if we fought Great Britain, except that our Pacific coast would be blockaded besides the Atlantic, and we should have to pay indemnity to two countries instead of to one country.
A coalition between these two countries would be an ideal arrangement, because it would enable each country to force us to grant the conditions it desires, and secure a large indemnity besides.
Would Great Britain interfere in our behalf? This can be answered by the man so wise that he knows what the international situation and the commercial situation will be ten years hence. Let him speak.
It is clear that the importance to a country of a navy varies with two things—the value of that country’s foreign trade and the probability of war.
It is also clear that, other things being equal, the probability of a country becoming involved in war varies as the value of her foreign trade; because the causes of friction and the money at stake vary in that proportion.
Therefore, the importance to a country of her navy varies as the square of the value of her foreign trade.
In order to answer the question, therefore, we must first consider whether foreign trade—sea trade—is going to increase or decrease.
As to the United States alone, the value of our exports is about ten times what it was fifty years ago, and it promises to increase. But the United States is only one country, and perhaps her increase in foreign trade has been due to conditions past or passing. So what is the outlook for the future, both for the United States and other countries? Will other countries seek foreign trade?