One of the lessons drawn was “the folly of ineffectual resistance.” Doubtless a clearer lesson would have been “the folly of ineffectual preparedness”; because, when the decision as to resistance or non-resistance is forced upon a nation, the matter is so urgent, the military, political, and international conditions so complex, and the excitement probably so intense, that a wise decision is very difficult to reach; whereas the question of what constitutes effectual preparedness is simple, and needs merely to be approached with calm nerves and an open mind.
Inasmuch as the psychic element in defense is the strongest single element, it is apparent that if the decision is reached to prepare an effectual defense the nation must be absolutely united, and must appreciate at its full value the debilitating influence of opposition to the measure; for, no matter how much money a nation may expend, no matter how many lives it may sacrifice, its defense cannot have an efficiency proportional to the effort if a considerable number of its citizens are permitted to oppose it.
In our own country there has been so much talking and writing recently about defense, that there is danger of the question coming to be considered academic; though no question is more practical, no question is more urgent.
Defense must defend.
Every country that has a satisfactory navy has acquired it as the result of a far-seeing naval policy, not of opportunism or of chance. The country has first studied the question thoroughly, then decided what it ought to do, then decided how to do it.
Naval policy has to deal with three elements: material, personnel, and operations, which, though separate, are mutually dependent. A clear comprehension of their actual relations and relative weights can be obtained only by thorough study; but without that comprehension no wise naval policy can be formulated, and therefore no satisfactory navy can be established.
The most obvious thing about a navy is its material: the ponderous battleships, the picturesque destroyers, the submarines, the intricate engines of multifarious types, the radio, the signal-flags, the torpedo that costs $8,000, the gun that can sink a ship 10 miles away.
The United States navy ever since its beginning in 1775 has excelled in its material; the ships have always been good, and in many cases they have surpassed those of similar kind in other navies. This has been due to the strong common sense of the American people, their engineering skill, and their inventive genius. The first war-ship to move under steam was the American ship Demologos, sometimes called the Fulton the First, constructed in 1813; the first electric torpedoes were American; the first submarine to do effective work in war was American; the first turret ship, the Monitor, was American; the first warship to use a screw propeller was the Princeton, an American; the naval telescope-sight was American. American ships now are not only well constructed, but all their equipments are of the best; and to-day the American battleship is the finest and most powerful vessel of her class in the world.