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THE Washington Conference constitutes an attempt to find some relief from the crushing burden of armaments which still weighs upon the world. But the problem must be seen in its correct perspective. Armaments in themselves are not the immediate cause of war, whose origin must be sought in the spirit of rivalry, suspicion, and distrust which plays so large a part in human affairs. But, though armaments may rightly be regarded merely as a form of insurance against war, their growth tends inevitably to foment the suspicion and distrust which gave them birth; and they constitute a secondary sphere of rivalry whose natural outlet for expression is war.

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And yet, by the very nature of things, disarmament is impracticable unless the parties affected can come to some reciprocal arrangement. Lord Haldane in 1912 sought diligently for an agreement with Germany, and the Chancellor was ready to listen; but the German admirals were difficult,' and no basis for limitation could be found. Tirpitz would not give up his Navy Law.* Proud of Germany and confident in her resources, he believed in the day' of his officers' vainglorious toasts, and could not see the real day waiting for them in the Firth of Forth. But in a colossal war fought to the bitter end, victory and defeat become merely relative terms. Victor and vanquished emerge defeated from a war which has shaken Europe to its foundations. The war spells the downfall of Europe's predominance. The old landmarks, material and immaterial, have disappeared. We have spent our wealth; and the one dominant note of our polity-monotonous as the tolling of a bell or the warning blast of a foghorn-must be economy. This must be the focal point of our policy, and it must be constantly emphasised. The question cannot be solved in terms of 'dreadnoughts' alone. Immersed in dreadnought arithmetic, we may forget the tolling of that warning bell, and the dull blast of the

The Navy Law passed in May 1912, which inter alia increased the strength of the battle-fleet from thirty-four to forty-one, and placed three squadrons (instead of two) in active commission.

foghorn may fall on deaf ears. We have mortgaged most of our wealth; and economy is an urgent necessity.


With the downfall of Germany the whole conditions of naval strategy have changed. The Two-Power Standard was a corollary of North Sea strategy; it was an answer to Germany's fleet building at our back door, and with the disappearance of Germany's fleet its meaning too has disappeared. The Pacific is 9000 miles from the North Sea, and its problems are equally far removed. From the point of view of general naval strategy, the circumstances of the North Sea were peculiar. It may be accepted that a navy exercises a predominant degree of control in its own waters where the whole strength and resources of the nation are working close behind it. In the North Sea Britain and Germany's area of maritime control overlapped. Across a comparatively narrow sea, barely 400 miles † broad, two fleets stood opposed, one barring the other's road to the oceans; and behind each there stood, in close proximity, all its maritime resources and all its vast organisation of building and supply. In the Pacific very different conditions prevail; and here it is necessary to make a short digression on the influence of distance on naval strategy.

The maintenance of a fleet in any area involves a vast machinery of auxiliary services. A suitable anchorage must first be selected as a temporary base, easily defended and spacious enough for a large fleet. Repair ships and floating docks must be provided; a stream of oil ships, store ships, and ammunition ships will be moving constantly to and fro; and in the case of serious defects the ships themselves must return under escort to the great building yards. The protection of the base and the security of its approaches will involve the services of scores of mine-sweepers, trawlers, motor launches, and small craft, which can only with great difficulty make a long ocean journey. Now the greater the distance of such a base from the main bases at home, the more difficult becomes the work of maintenance.

* Honolulu is approximately this distance via the Panama Canal. † 320 miles from the Humber to the Jade; 440 from the Forth to the Skaw.

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The fleet approaching an enemy's coast drags behind it a lengthening chain of communications; and it may be accepted that a distance of more than 3000 miles (approximately 8 days at 16 knots) from home would be a severe handicap on the operations of a fleet of any considerable size.

But to operate effectively in enemy's waters a temporary base not more than 600 miles (approximately 38 hours at 16 knots) away from them will be required. Offensive operations by a fleet, therefore, involve the use of a base some 600 miles from the enemy's coast, and if possible not more than 3000 miles from its own. But, when oceans lie between the combatants, these conditions may be impossible to realise; and the fleet that wishes to maintain a force equal to an enemy off that enemy's coast must be prepared to take the sea with a force at least twice and possibly thrice as strong. A United States fleet operating against Japan and working from Guam would be some 5700 miles from its main bases of supply at home, with Japan still some 1350 miles off.

Great Britain, whether she elected to work from Hongkong or Singapore, would be 8000 to 9000 miles from home, a distance which would make it very difficult to maintain a large fleet at a high level of efficiency. In both cases the attacking fleet would be working at a grave disadvantage; and to maintain at the front a fleet superior to the enemy would require a force at least double the enemy's in strength. If, on the other hand, Japan elected to attack, she must face this terrible handicap of oceanic spaces. To attack Great Britain in European waters may be ruled out as impracticable; she could not hope to get further than the Indian Ocean or Australia. In the latter case she would find herself some 3600 miles from her main bases, and would have to mobilise a fleet at least twice as strong as that which the British Empire could assemble in Australian bases. If she advanced towards the American coast she would have to face a journey of 4520 miles.

It will be seen that in working at great distances a much greater proportionate superiority is required in order to maintain an approximately equal force in a distant arena of operations. The necessity for a large margin of strength depends not merely on the distance to


be traversed by ships requiring refit, but also on the fact that the safety of the base is largely dependent on that of the fleet. In these circumstances, unless a large margin of superiority is available, a temporary set-back, involving severe damage to half a dozen ships, might jeopardise the safety of the base and of the whole fleet. This is of course a mere truism of naval strategy, but tends to be lost sight of in the conditions prevailing in the late war, where the main fleets were working in close proximity to their great naval bases.

There is another important factor which weighs the balance in favour of the combatant working close to his own coasts, namely, that he can more easily bring up aircraft to support his fleet. It is true that a fleet can come provided with aircraft-carriers; but these vessels must always be huge and vulnerable, and cannot compete with a complete system of air-defence based on aerodomes. The advantage of air-power remains with the combatant fighting in the proximity of his own coasts; and it may be accepted that invasionary operations have become a thing of the past against the coast of a powerful enemy well equipped with aircraft and submarines. In fact, one tends to revert in the Pacific to somewhat the same relations as must have existed between England and Venice in the 16th century, when neither could attack the other because each was too far away. It is probable that Japan could never seriously injure the United States and that the United States could not defeat Japan.

The tendency, then, of naval and air strategy is to increase the ascendency of a fleet in the waters contiguous to its own bases. The difficulty of waging war in an enemy's waters has increased. It follows that there is a tendency for the control of particular maritime areas to fall into the hands of particular Powers, whose ascendency there can be challenged only by a greatly superior force. The United States tends to exercise an indisputable sway in Panama and the Gulf of Mexico; Great Britain guards the North Sea and the sea approaches to Europe; Japan controls the entry to the China seas. The question remains, how far these conditions tend towards the maintenance of peace. Very effectively, for on this basis it is possible to discover a

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standard of armaments which precludes or hinders the possibility of offensive operations. If the principal Powers can agree to such a standard, then the possibility of war is diminished, for it is in the fear of invasion that its principal menace lies. But here one must emphasise the peculiar conditions of the British Empire. Offensive operations in a naval war must take the form either of invasion or an attack on trade. Great Britain is far more dependent on her trade than any other Power; and the Empire is dependent for its safety on its lines of communication by sea. The United States, as Mr Balfour observed, stand 'impregnable, solid, and selfsufficient'; and a defeat at sea could do them no irretrievable harm. Their great coal and industrial areas lie hundreds of miles inland, practically immune from attack. They are defended by mileage both on land and sea. Great Britain's position is very different. The very existence of the Empire is wrapped up in sea-power; and the safety of the great high-road to India and Australia is indispensable to its security.

But neither peace nor war can be won without a certain element of risk. We have to recognise, too, that a new horizon has risen in naval affairs. For over two centuries we have been the leading naval power, and have acquired the habit of acting as a general providence to the world. We can no longer afford to do so. We must adapt ourselves to different conditions, and the general nature of the proposals put forward by the United States appear to offer us a friendly lead.

In their original form they may be summarised as follows: *

(a) No further construction of capital ships † for a period of not less than 10 years.

(b) All capital ships under construction by the United States to be scrapped.

These comprise 6 post-Jutland battle-cruisers (the Constellation, Constitution, Lexington, Ranger, Saratoga, United States, all 8 16-inch guns), and 9 post-Jutland battleships (Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, all 12 16-inch, and the

• 'Times,' Nov. 18, 1921.

That is, the largest type of armoured ships, including both battleships and battle-cruisers.

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