20 March 2008

For no good reason....

My thoughts have turned today to the Second World War, and to the consequences of the theories of Admiral Mahan in that context.

Mahan argued against defensive dispositions for a fleet. Deterrent, yes, defensive no.

He believed the best strategy was always to keep the fleet concentrated. A divided fleet can always be defeated in detail. A united fleet can strike decisively when it has to strike, and is a powerful deterrent just by its existence.

He wrote a lot about the French. Their problem for centuries was that they had to have two navies for two different oceans, since they never controlled Gibraltar. This meant that there was always a limit to how much they could concentrate. The English, on an island, faced no such limit.

Unfortunately, too many in the US believed in that. It may have been part of the reason for the creation of the Panama Canal, to grab our equivalent of Gibraltar and be, if you will, non-French. It was also the reason much of our navy was concentrated, in a manner Mahon would have approved of, in Hawaii in December 1941.

Bad plan.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.