REVIEW of REVIEWS

British-U. S. Naval Rivalry

Empire Editors Discuss “Competition" for Command of the Seas. —U. S. Wants “Biggest Navy.”

February 1 1929
REVIEW of REVIEWS

British-U. S. Naval Rivalry

Empire Editors Discuss “Competition" for Command of the Seas. —U. S. Wants “Biggest Navy.”

February 1 1929

British-U. S. Naval Rivalry

REVIEW of REVIEWS

Empire Editors Discuss “Competition" for Command of the Seas. —U. S. Wants “Biggest Navy.”

LITERARY DIGEST.

MUCH belligerent comment is provoked in sections of the British press and in some journals of the British Dominions over what is called ‘naval competition’ between the United States and Great Britain,” says the Literary Digest. “Some irate Englishmen argue that the United States has not the same need for a big Navy as Britain has, because it has not the same imperial interests, but also there are those who say chaffingly that America is ‘entirely welcome to build until she bursts.’ It will not make the smallest difference to British policy or to any British subject’s feeling of security, thinks the London Daily Express, because the growth of the United States Navy is a matter all Britons regard with sympathetic composure as entirely America’s ‘own affair.’ At the same time this journal declares that “if any other country in the world had proposed to be on an equality with us at sea, no British Government, acquiescing in any such suggestion, could have lasted twenty-four hours.” A very different attitude is that of The English Review (London) which rejoices that America has “openly abandoned her pretence of being content with a mere parity in naval armaments,” and adds:

“It is true that America did not explain to the uninstructed public (when quoting some very misleading figures) the fact that she already had a superiority in post-war 10,000-ton cruisers, and claimed that our cruiser strength, built and building, was superior to her own. But she claimed openly that she had a clear right to a superiority in fighting ships, and the proAmerican press in this country has been left speechless. That is the second thing to be thankful for.

“The Navy question, however, remains, and it is essential to face the issues. Able and sincere men, faced at last with the facts, are trying to persuade themselves that it is immaterial to us whether our battle fleet is equal in fighting capacity to that of the United States. War, they say, is impossible between the two great English-speaking peoples, and therefore why worry? It is not a question to be hastily judged. The issues are too grave. We can follow Holland into political exile, and equal for many generations her record of secure prosperity. But that course is not consistent with our character, our traditions, or the responsibilities we have assumed in breeding on an imperial foundation a people far beyond the capacity of our food supplies. The only question we can honorably consider is whether our present position in Europe and elsewhere can be maintained if we allow ourselves voluntarily and of our own free will to sink to the level of a secondclass naval power. What is the record of other naval powers which have lost their pre-eminence at sea? One and all have passed into obscurity. The reason is not far to seek. Naval power cannot be improvised; and a second-class power, if it be an island, has therefore no alternative but to accept without qualification the bidding of its superior. If England were to place herself in that position, how long could she maintain her Eastern Empire or the integrity of the Commonwealth? An Empire which can only move its army with the concurrence of a rival, however friendly, has ceased to be an Empire.”

Without the ability to protect her food

supplies, it is then asserted, England does not risk her sovereignty—she loses it. Spain, Holland, France and Germany have challenged her right to feed her people and to hold herself free to act as she will in the cause of civilization as she sees it, according to this writer.

“If we had ignored any of these challenges, the world would be the poorer by anything we have had to offer. That is all. Perhaps we have little to offer which is worth the price. But at any rate the price is one which we pay ourselves.

“Are we then to throw down the gauntlet to a great and friendly power and

challenge America to competitive shipbuilding? Of course not. The statesmanlike course is, however, clear. We will disarm on a basis of parity, ship against ship. If America will not accept a strict parity, by which I mean nothing more subtle than an identical number of ships of each class, then she can build as she likes, and when she likes. We, on our side, will do the same and hold ourselves free to make such alliances as we please. But the disarmament project must be carried through or put on one side. We must make the acceptance of a strict parity the condition of entering into any

conference and leave the American people, of whom the overwhelming majority are friendly and pacific, to decide. And let us never forget that America is no longer a detached spectator of European quarrels. She is the great creditor nation, and creditors lose more than debtors in a universal bankruptcy.”

An interesting examination of the matter is presented by the Winnipeg Manitoba Free Press, which assures us that if there be any impasse between Britain and the United States respecting naval armaments, it arises over the construction of cruisers. The British Navy requires, according to the experts, a large number of small cruisers to protect lanes of commerce, and especially cargoes of foodstuffs, but, this daily goes on to say;

“It happens that cruisers of this type are of little value to the United States. Having few coaling-stations throughout the world, and separated eight thousand miles from the bulk of her insular possessions, she needs the largest cruisers permissible under the Washington agreement, i.e., 10,000-ton cruisers carrying eight-inch guns. The two navies are in much the same position as British and American railway companies would be if they endeavored to arrive at a parity in the matter of steam-locomotives. It would be a waste of money for the American railway to buy or build locomotives of the English type. And the British railway company would find locomotives of the American type to be so many white elephants. The obvious course would seem to be for each nation to build the kind of cruiser best fitted for its naval needs.

“However, the problem is not so easily disposed of. The 10,000-ton cruiser is a near-battleship. If the two navies built cruiser for cruiser—the British small cruisers and the American big cruisers— the fighting force of the American Navy would be so much greater that all notion of parity between the two in the matter of armament would have to be abandoned. On the other hand, if the British and American navies had the same number of 10,000-ton cruisers, and the British had, in addition, a flotilla of small cruisers, the United States would have to give up her slogan of ‘a navy second to none.’ Further, if the United States were to waive this point, the cost of a cruiser fleet of these proportions would be beyond the resources of the people of Great Britain.”

Says The Nation (New York):

“No sane person wants war between the United States and Great Britain, but we are moving in that direction at a dizzy pace. At Washington the militarists are using our national miseducation on preparedness to jam through Congress the fifteen-cruiser bill. They are telling our befuddled Congressmen that the failure of the Disarmament Conference leaves only one answer to the British menace, the answer of the biggest navy in the world. Some of them are not content even with this answer; they join with the editor of Liberty in demanding a navy large enough to whip both Great Britain and Japan combined. Such chauvinism always finds its echo in the opposing nation. When the British quote Liberty the Americans quote Dean Inge, who let slip an unguarded remark about the possibility of Europe uniting to pull the American Shylock’s teeth.”