In fact, the insistence on the anti-starvation theory is absurd. Has any country ever fought until the people as a mass were starving? Has starving anything to do with the matter? Does not a nation give up fighting just as soon as it sees that further fighting would do more harm than good? A general or an admiral, in charge of a detached force, must fight sometimes even at tremendous loss and after all hope of local success has fled, in order to hold a position, the long holding of which is essential to the success of the whole strategic plan; but what country keeps up a war until its people are about to starve? Did Spain do so in our last war? Did Russia fear that Japan would force the people of her vast territory into starvation?
No—starvation has nothing to do with the case. If some discovery were made by which Great Britain could grow enough to support all her people, she would keep her great navy nevertheless—simply because she has found it to be a good investment.
The anti-starvation theory—the theory that one does things simply to keep from starving—does apply to some tropical savages, but not to the Anglo-Saxon. Long after starvation has been provided against, long after wealth has been secured, we still toil on. What are we toiling for? The same thing that Great Britain maintains her navy for—wealth and power.
The real reason for Great Britain’s having a powerful navy applies with exact equality to the United States. Now that Great Britain has proved how great a navy is best for her, we can see at once how great a navy is best for us. That is—since Great Britain and the United States are the wealthiest countries in the world, and since the probability of war between any two countries is least when their navies are equal in power—the maximum good would be attained by making the United States navy exactly equal to the British navy.
In a preceding chapter I endeavored to show why it is that the necessities of the naval defense of a country have caused the gradual development of different types of vessels, each having its distinctive work. If those different types operated in separate localities they would lose that mutual support which it is the aim of organization to secure, and each separate group could be destroyed in turn by the combined groups of an enemy. For this reason, the types or groups are combined in one large fleet, and an admiral is placed in command.
The command of a fleet is the highest effort of the naval art. Its success in time of war demands in the admiral himself a high order of mind and nerve and body; and it demands in all the personnel, from the highest to the lowest, such a measure of trained ability and character that each shall be able to discharge with skill and courage the duties of his station.