By Captain Adam Link, USMC
Late last year the question was put forth: what does seapower contribute to landpower? Now it seems an appropriate time for a response given the recent New York Times Op-Ed by Gregg Easterbrook attempting to explain why and how the U.S. Navy is “big enough.” Others have addressed some of Mr. Easterbrook’s arguments more directly, but I’d like to address the bigger picture of what the U.S. Navy contributes to our ability to conduct operations ashore and why we do need a “bigger Navy,” just not maybe in the way we traditionally think.
Seapower may not always be able to “win” a war, but it can certainly lose one and will contribute significantly to victory. Mahan defined seapower as the product of international trade and commerce, overseas bases, and merchant and naval shipping. Mahan focuses much of his effort towards the “blue-water” Navy, while Julian Corbett, in contrast, focuses more intently on the connection between sea and landpower, and the limitations therein. However, both of these strategists are complementary to the aim of explaining the importance of seapower to landpower, and how a “larger Navy” is useful in that regard.
In many ways, the U.S. Navy since World War 2 has become more focused on the “war fighting” functions of a navy, rather than the broader purpose to which a navy can contribute to the strategic objectives of the state. While laudable, the U.S Navy has more to contribute to the projection and protection of American interests abroad than just our ability to launch planes, land Marines, or send in the SEALs. Mahan’s definition of seapower is illustrative of this point. As already stated, Mahan viewed seapower at the intersection of trade and commerce, overseas bases, and merchant and naval shipping. If we are considering how seapower contributes to landpower it is necessary to engage with all of these component parts in turn.Read More