Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Implementing the Seapower Strategy

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Implementing the Seapower Strategy

Article excerpt

An ideal of war-some would call it a principle-is to achieve perfect collaboration between all commanders, vertically and laterally. But prosecution of war entails decentralized authority and responsibility, and so a corollary to the ideal of collaboration-or cooperation-is inevitable friction between willful military and civilian leaders who have different styles, outlooks, and intentions.

Said another way, successful collaboration connects upward, laterally, and downward. Upward unity of purpose is difficult, because politics and warfare must arrive at a goal-driven, united logic while communicating with different grammars. Lateral unity of action is difficult, because different services see the same problem through different lenses and aspire to different solutions. In our global world the collaboration between different services is difficult, because they are not just the American armed forces. Collaboration by the American sea services is uniquely critical, however, and most of what follows is intended to promote well coordinated actions within and among the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Examples of friction from operations in Iraq are perhaps too close to us now, but there is a plethora of historical examples that show the ideal of cohesive action to be unattainable. World War II has spectacular cases of willfulness. General Dwight Eisenhower's wartime genius was to foster cooperation and unity among disparate factions. He brought together fractious French leaders in North Africa. He worked with the navy and air force component commanders he was given for the D-Day landings. He neutralized the egos of Bernard Montgomery and George Patton during the Allied drive through France after the breakout from the Normandy beachhead. At all times he retained the confidence of Prime Minister Churchill, President Roosevelt, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Eisenhower is veritably the exception that proves the rule that collaboration is hard to achieve.

World War II is for two reasons an apt, neutral laboratory to study the challenges of collective action. The first is that the war is dissimilar to American circumstances today and cannot be parroted as a template. Both world wars are, in fact, precedents to be avoided in establishing ways and means to deal with our contemporary emerging peer, the People's Republic of China. second, the two great wars illustrate the global reach of seapower. Neither war could have been won without achieving maritime dominance and exploiting operational maneuver from the sea.

A strategy has now been constructed in less passionate peacetime circumstances to foster collaboration. It has been vetted by the operational and sea service commanders who are affected by and must follow its tenets. The new maritime strategy serves as an agreed point of departure that will not eliminate contentiousness in the future but will be the cornerstone of implementation, of the determination of affordable resources, of training to carry it out with the forces in hand, and of the design of future sea service forces.

I refer to the pithy document recently promulgated by the Commandants of the Coast Guard and Marine Corps and the Chief of Naval Operations, entitled "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower." It is the result of a broadly based, collaborative effort to develop what was often referred to as "a new maritime strategy." This article elaborates on the document's great significance toward establishing a new Seapower Strategy to guide the nation's maritime operations, as well as what it does not say and the extensive work still to be done.


First in importance, the new Seapower Strategy restores the primacy of seapower in American security policy. Though the sea service leaders cannot proclaim a national maritime strategy, they have demonstrated the logic of seapower and its value in "fostering a peaceful global system comprising interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people and governance. …

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