If our estimate of the situation should lead us to the decision that we must prepare our navy in such a way that, say twenty years hence, it will be able to protect the country against any enemy, we shall then instinctively adopt a policy. The fact of having ahead of us a definite, difficult thing to do, will at once take us out of the region of guesswork, and force us into logical methods. We shall realize the problem in its entirety; we shall see the relation of one part to another, and of all the parts to the whole; we shall realize that the deepest study of the wisest men must be devoted to it, as it is in all maritime countries except our own. The very difficulties of the problem, the very scope and greatness of it, the fact that national failure or national success will hinge on the way we solve it, will call into action the profoundest minds in all the nation. We shall realize that, more than any other problem before the country, this problem is urgent; because in no other problem have we so much lost time to make up for, and in no other work of the government are we so far behind the great nations that we may have to contend against.
Great Britain was startled into a correct estimate of the situation ten years ago, and at once directed perhaps the best of her ability to meet it. Certain it is that no other department of the British Government is in such good condition as the navy; in no other department has the problem been so thoroughly understood, and so conscientiously worked out, or the success been so triumphant.
The underlying reason for this is not so much the individual courage and ability of the officers and men, or even their skill in handling their ships and squadrons, as the fact that Great Britain has followed a definite naval policy; so that the British nation has had a perfectly clear realization of what it wishes the navy to do, and the navy has had a perfectly clear realization of how to do it.
The United States has not yet made a correct estimate of the naval situation; she has not yet reached the point that Great Britain reached ten years ago. Great Britain apprehended the danger, and took action before it was too late. Shall the United States take action now or wait until it is too late?