Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XXX The First Hague Conference

WITHIN a month of the close of the war and Mahan's return to his home, he had to fake up the cudgels in defense of the War College once more. He made a vigorous reply to the renewed attacks of its enemies in a letter to Secretary Long:

Briefly, what I have to say is this, with all the weight that can be attached to my opinion, that the College stands for, and tends to supply, that in which the Navy is beyond all things deficient (in my judgment); a knowledge, ingrained, of the principles and methods involved in the correct conduct of war; a thing quite distinct from all questions of seamanship, of technology, and of administration, though doubtless affected by each of these. My observation satisfies me how much this is needed.

If you decide the College shall die, so well. If you decide otherwise, it will probably be necessary for you to say decisively to the opponents, or advocates of change, whether at the Navy Department, or the Commandant at Newport that the College must be heavily supported; that they must suppress all indications of opposition whatever their opinions. This, practically, Herbert did, who from the bitterest enemy became a warm and stubborn friend.

Mahan's appeal prevailed, Secretary Long gave the college the support necessary to silence all open opposition, and the persistent hostility gradually changed into a general service indifference, which required fifteen years and a World War to overcome. It is a curious fact that during this period it was easier to interest the average naval officer in any part of his profession than the major branch of "making war."

At about this time Mahan was also trying to persuade Long to establish a General Staff for the Navy. He told

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