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Bradley Fiske
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 308 pages of information about The Navy as a Fighting Machine.

It is possible for certain features connected with a navy to be good, even if the strategy directing it be faulty; or for those features to be faulty, even if the strategy directing it be good.  Experience has shown, however, that, in any organization the influence of the men at the top, and the effect of the policy they adopt, is so great that the whole organization will in the main be good or bad according to the kind of men that control it, and the methods they employ.  The better the discipline of the organization, the more completely the quality of the management will influence the whole, and the more essential it becomes that good methods be employed.  Good discipline means concentration of the effort of the organization; and the more concentrated any effort is, the more necessary that it be directed aright.  The simplest illustration of this is seen in naval gunnery; for there the effect of good fire-control is to limit the dispersion of the various shots fired, relatively to each other; to make a number of shots fired simultaneously to bunch closely together, that is to concentrate; getting away from the shotgun effect, and approximating the effect of a single shot.  Obviously, if the fire-control and the skill of the gunners are so great that the shots fall very close together, the chance of hitting the target is less than if the shots did not fall close together, if the range at which the guns are fired is incorrect.  A mathematical formula showing the most effective dispersion for a given error in range was published in the Naval Institute by Lieutenant-Commander B. A. Long, U. S. N., in December, 1912.

So, we see that if the strategy directing a navy is incorrect, we can accomplish little by improving the discipline, and may do harm; when unwise orders have been given in the past, those orders have sometimes been disobeyed with beneficial effect.  Neither would it avail much to improve the details of the material or personnel, or to spend much money; for there is no benefit to be derived from building fine ships, if they are to be captured by the enemy.  If the Russian fleet sent to Tsushima had been weaker than it was, the loss to Russia would have been less.

Inasmuch as strategy, however, includes all the means taken to make a navy effective, it is obvious that a good strategical direction will be more likely to result in good discipline and good material than would a poor strategy.  But this is not necessarily so, for the reason that a strategy may be in the main faulty, and yet be good in certain ways—­especially in attention to details, for which a high degree of mentality is not required.  In the same way, an individual who is short-sighted and imperfectly educated may be a most excellent and useful member of society, provided he is not permitted to use power in matters beyond his vision.  An illustration of how an incorrect point of view does not necessarily injure, but may even benefit in details is shown by certain militia regiments, which are able to surpass some regiments of the regular army in many details of the drill, and in general precision of movement.

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