To Know McCain, Read Mahan (JOHN BATCHELOR, November 14, 2006, NY Sun)

“War, once declared, must be waged offensively, aggressively,” wrote the sage of American navalists, Alfred Mahan, in his seminal 1890 book, “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783.” “The enemy must not be fended off, but smitten down.”

Mahan is important today because our chief architect of Mahanian policy now forms an exploratory committee to begin his campaign for the presidency in 2008. John McCain, son and grandson of admirals, Annapolis graduate, aviator, and war hero, who is notorious for hectoring the Bush administration on policy issues as wide-ranging as federal judgeships, torture protocols, and pork-barrel spending, is in fact the clearest living expression of Mahanism on planet Earth. He not only inherits Mahan’s core philosophy of American imperial power through naval supremacy and global commerce, but also inherits the duly famous combat legacy of his Mahanian grandfather, Vice Admiral John S. “Slew” McCain, who commanded the fast carriers that defeated the Japanese Imperial navy — steaming to the rescue at Leyte Gulf — and who invented through experiment the naval air tactics that have guaranteed American foreign policy since World War II.

Mr. McCain brings to the campaign many gifts, such as curt candor and a savvy tolerance of new ideas, but his overwhelming strength is that he thinks, plans, and acts according to Mahan. In this, Mr. McCain is in a potent line of presidential actors, starting with William McKinley and his Mahanian Spanish War, continuing to the Mahanian champion Teddy Roosevelt and his globalizing Great White Fleet, and including Franklin Roosevelt, who studied Mahan while still at Groton, and the Cold Warriors Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the two Bush presidents, both of whom asserted Mahanism by protecting American energy resources in the Persian Gulf.

If the Republicans choose Mr. McCain for 2008, and if Mr. McCain survives the crusading candidacy of Hillary Clinton, he will take the oath of office in 2009 with the salty ghosts of all the triumphant Mahanians of every ocean on the reviewing stand.

Wouldn’t Senator-elect Webb, who quit the Reagan Administration in a huff when he realized we weren’t going to have a 600 ship navy, be the leading Mahanian?



  1. Lou Gots says:

    Ah. Here is the mystery of military Spencerianism. The system which surpasses is the one which combines freedom to create and innovate with the discipline and will to make use of what has been created. Ordered liberty, we usually call it–a delecate balance of freedom and folkish strength.

    The “God, guns and guts” ethos of the United States pulls this off, and fortunately for humanity, none other does so. Sea power is very expensive. No politicized economic system can begin to afford it. The FORMER SOVIET UNION failed utterly in this regard, and no else is even in the game. Consider that 100% of the CV’s and CVN’s on tghe vace of the earth are American. There are a tiny number of VSTOL/Helo carriers in the hands of other countries, but these, even if they worked, which for the most part, they do not, are close to one-third the size of a real aircraft carrier..

    Sum it up this way, Neither totalitarians nor decadent democracies can muster the economic strength or will to produce real sea power. Academics may sputter about the causes of the end of history: Alfred Trayer Mahah proveds the answer.

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