The Fleet was Ready

When Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, he oversaw major revisions to the Admiralty’s basic strategic concept for European war, and in the suite of war plans associated with this concept. A shift in the probable enemy of a future war—to Germany from France, for instance—necessitated these changes and, hence, necessitated a change in the strategic naval front, from the South to the East Coast, and from the Channel to the North Sea.  

Read More

The Fleet was Ready

When Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, he oversaw major revisions to the Admiralty’s basic strategic concept for European war, and in the suite of war plans associated with this concept. A shift in the probable enemy of a future war—to Germany from France, for instance—necessitated these changes and, hence, necessitated a change in the strategic naval front, from the South to the East Coast, and from the Channel to the North Sea.  

Read More

The Sage of Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew is often referred to as “the Sage of Singapore.” The Cambridge University-educated Lee was the founding father of that modern independent city-state.  He served as its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, overseeing its rise as the first of the Southeast Asian “tigers.”  He was also one of the region’s most influential international statesmen, renowned for his geopolitical acumen as well as his far-sighted economic vision. When Harry Lee spoke, people listened.

Read More

The Sage of Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew is often referred to as “the Sage of Singapore.” The Cambridge University-educated Lee was the founding father of that modern independent city-state.  He served as its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, overseeing its rise as the first of the Southeast Asian “tigers.”  He was also one of the region’s most influential international statesmen, renowned for his geopolitical acumen as well as his far-sighted economic vision. When Harry Lee spoke, people listened.

Read More

The Maritime Classics and the New Eurasian Age

In another recent book and article, Geoffrey Gresh has addressed what he characterizes as the real competition that has emerged in recent years across maritime Eurasia between the continent’s main rivals—China, Russia, and India—as they vie to achieve great power status and to expand beyond their regional seas. He argues that the rising competition will dominate and shape the upcoming century as each power increases its geoeconomic, geopolitical, and naval embrace of maritime Eurasia from the Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean Seas to the Indian Ocean, Pacific Asia, and the Arctic. In his introduction, he reviews the relevance of Mahan and Corbett to this discussion. But in Gresh's view, what Mahan and geographer Nicholas Spykman never imagined was the melting of the Arctic, the subsequent growing unification of maritime Eurasia’s disparate regions, and the emerging competition between Eurasia’s land powers at sea. That said, Gresh contends that the study of Mahan does have its utility in this context. None of the three Eurasian land powers he examined have achieved global maritime dominance similar to that of the United States today or Great Britain at the end of the nineteenth century, but the work of Mahan in his opus The Influence of Seapower upon History, 1660–1783 helps contextualize those characteristics that assist a great power in achieving global preeminence on the high seas.

Read More

The Maritime Classics and the New Eurasian Age

In another recent book and article, Geoffrey Gresh has addressed what he characterizes as the real competition that has emerged in recent years across maritime Eurasia between the continent’s main rivals—China, Russia, and India—as they vie to achieve great power status and to expand beyond their regional seas. He argues that the rising competition will dominate and shape the upcoming century as each power increases its geoeconomic, geopolitical, and naval embrace of maritime Eurasia from the Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean Seas to the Indian Ocean, Pacific Asia, and the Arctic. In his introduction, he reviews the relevance of Mahan and Corbett to this discussion. But in Gresh's view, what Mahan and geographer Nicholas Spykman never imagined was the melting of the Arctic, the subsequent growing unification of maritime Eurasia’s disparate regions, and the emerging competition between Eurasia’s land powers at sea. That said, Gresh contends that the study of Mahan does have its utility in this context. None of the three Eurasian land powers he examined have achieved global maritime dominance similar to that of the United States today or Great Britain at the end of the nineteenth century, but the work of Mahan in his opus The Influence of Seapower upon History, 1660–1783 helps contextualize those characteristics that assist a great power in achieving global preeminence on the high seas.

Read More

Mahan, Choke Points, and the Panama Canal

The recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the container ship Ever Given is a reminder of the importance of maritime choke points as they concern international commerce and national security. Choke points are primarily the effect of natural geography, which is one of the critical dimensions of strategy. In some cases, however, human agency, especially technology, can affect the strategic importance of natural geographic features and relationships. The shift from sail to steam, then from coal to oil-fired ships. From roads to railways. From horses to internal combustion engines. From the ground to the skies — aircraft to ballistic missiles, to drones, and hypersonic vehicles. Another human agency is the construction of canals in a way that significantly alters the geopolitical terrain.

Read More

Mahan, Choke Points, and the Panama Canal

The recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the container ship Ever Given is a reminder of the importance of maritime choke points as they concern international commerce and national security. Choke points are primarily the effect of natural geography, which is one of the critical dimensions of strategy. In some cases, however, human agency, especially technology, can affect the strategic importance of natural geographic features and relationships. The shift from sail to steam, then from coal to oil-fired ships. From roads to railways. From horses to internal combustion engines. From the ground to the skies — aircraft to ballistic missiles, to drones, and hypersonic vehicles. Another human agency is the construction of canals in a way that significantly alters the geopolitical terrain.

Read More

Clausewitz’s Library

Ensconced within CSD's resource bank of Reading Lists we have an entry highlighting Clausewitz’s personal library, as recorded in his wife Marie's will. It may not be inclusive; and of course, he would have had access to the professional library at the Prussian Kriegsakademie. Military publications naturally constitute a significant number among the volumes, including Vauban’s treatises on fortifications and sieges; Johan von Ewald’s book on light infantry tactics; Henry Lloyd’s history of the Seven Years’ War; Montecucili’s memoirs; a study of Maurice de Saxe; Lazare Carnot’s textbook for engineers; George de Chambray’s account of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign in 1812; several of Georg Wilhelm von Valentini’s military works; Phillippe Henri de Grimoard’s treatise on general staff; and the field manual written by his mentor, Gerhard von Scharnhorst.

Read More

Clausewitz’s Library

Ensconced within CSD's resource bank of Reading Lists we have an entry highlighting Clausewitz’s personal library, as recorded in his wife Marie's will. It may not be inclusive; and of course, he would have had access to the professional library at the Prussian Kriegsakademie. Military publications naturally constitute a significant number among the volumes, including Vauban’s treatises on fortifications and sieges; Johan von Ewald’s book on light infantry tactics; Henry Lloyd’s history of the Seven Years’ War; Montecucili’s memoirs; a study of Maurice de Saxe; Lazare Carnot’s textbook for engineers; George de Chambray’s account of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign in 1812; several of Georg Wilhelm von Valentini’s military works; Phillippe Henri de Grimoard’s treatise on general staff; and the field manual written by his mentor, Gerhard von Scharnhorst.

Read More

Military Education and Mentorship: Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower

Mentoring future officers in the higher realms of strategy is a topic of much discussion within the military community, especially in terms of the applicability of the Classics, and literature more generally. A recently published collection of essays, Pershing's Lieutenants, catalogues important figures who served under General John J. Pershing in World War I, ranging from Marshall, Patton, and MacArthur to Captain Harry Truman. My initial impression is that the essay authors don’t always demonstrate the way in which the experience of the individuals in World War I affected their particular approach to and during World War II — which would have been of the most interest; however, this judgment is admittedly not based on a full read of the book. One of the figures featured in the volume drew my especial interest — General Fox Conner—because of his well-known role in mentoring younger officers, Dwight Eisenhower in particular.

Read More

Military Education and Mentorship: Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower

Mentoring future officers in the higher realms of strategy is a topic of much discussion within the military community, especially in terms of the applicability of the Classics, and literature more generally. A recently published collection of essays, Pershing's Lieutenants, catalogues important figures who served under General John J. Pershing in World War I, ranging from Marshall, Patton, and MacArthur to Captain Harry Truman. My initial impression is that the essay authors don’t always demonstrate the way in which the experience of the individuals in World War I affected their particular approach to and during World War II — which would have been of the most interest; however, this judgment is admittedly not based on a full read of the book. One of the figures featured in the volume drew my especial interest — General Fox Conner—because of his well-known role in mentoring younger officers, Dwight Eisenhower in particular.

Read More

Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government

Churchill’s prescriptions, general and particular, were and are worthy of debate.  He might not have been willing to intervene in Indochina to pull French chestnuts out of the fire, but throughout his career he arguably expected the United States to support the British cause in regions that the United States might regard as peripheral. To American commanders during World War II, he seemed obsessed with fighting on the fringes rather than at the center, and by doing so he drained resources necessary to fight at the center, which defied the ultimate principle of economy. Sometimes, as during the American Civil War, slaughter is necessary to create the conditions for maneuver. But it surely can be said that Churchill’s works deserve inclusion in a list of the Classics.

Read More

Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government

Churchill’s prescriptions, general and particular, were and are worthy of debate.  He might not have been willing to intervene in Indochina to pull French chestnuts out of the fire, but throughout his career he arguably expected the United States to support the British cause in regions that the United States might regard as peripheral. To American commanders during World War II, he seemed obsessed with fighting on the fringes rather than at the center, and by doing so he drained resources necessary to fight at the center, which defied the ultimate principle of economy. Sometimes, as during the American Civil War, slaughter is necessary to create the conditions for maneuver. But it surely can be said that Churchill’s works deserve inclusion in a list of the Classics.

Read More

Colin S. Gray on Thucydides and the Definition of Future Threats

Thucydides leaves us no doubt that the principal threat to the security of Athenians flowed more from the distinctly flawed working of the empire’s democratic politics, especially its procliv­ity to promote crowd pleasing demagogues who were short of competence, high ethical standards, or both, than from vengeful Persians or strategically pedestrian Spartans. Political ruin tends to begin and end at home. Students of international relations need to remember this plain warning from the historical record.

Read More

Colin S. Gray on Thucydides and the Definition of Future Threats

Thucydides leaves us no doubt that the principal threat to the security of Athenians flowed more from the distinctly flawed working of the empire’s democratic politics, especially its procliv­ity to promote crowd pleasing demagogues who were short of competence, high ethical standards, or both, than from vengeful Persians or strategically pedestrian Spartans. Political ruin tends to begin and end at home. Students of international relations need to remember this plain warning from the historical record.

Read More

Are We all Clausewitians Now? Reflections on the Work of John Keegan

“I have not been in a battle; not near one, nor heard one from afar, nor seen the aftermath.”  Thus John Keegan, later Sir John, began his landmark book, The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, published in 1976.  Despite this bit of caution, Keegan’s book was immediately hailed as a classic; one that conveyed what the experiences of combat was like for the participants, above all the common soldier. 

Read More

Are We all Clausewitians Now? Reflections on the Work of John Keegan

“I have not been in a battle; not near one, nor heard one from afar, nor seen the aftermath.”  Thus John Keegan, later Sir John, began his landmark book, The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, published in 1976.  Despite this bit of caution, Keegan’s book was immediately hailed as a classic; one that conveyed what the experiences of combat was like for the participants, above all the common soldier. 

Read More