20 March 2011

George F. Will, Washington Post Op-Ed: “The Blue National Soil of China’s Navy”

George F. Will, The Blue National Soil of China’s Navy,” Washington Post, 18 March 2011.

When some Chinese naval officers crossed the Pacific to visit the Naval War College here on an Atlantic-lapped island, they gazed reverently at a desk used by Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914). This compliment to America’s preeminent naval strategist has scholars here wondering whether Mahan’s Chinese readers are taking from him lessons similar to those Theodore Roosevelt derived.

How could they not? Mahan did not make TR bellicose; nature did that, immoderately. But Mahan supplied a theory for Roosevelt’s metabolic urge to throw around his nation’s rapidly growing weight.

Mahan and Roosevelt met in 1887, when Mahan was president of the college and the future president — an amateur naval historian and general know-it-all — was a guest lecturer in his late 20s. From Mahan’s 1890 book, “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783,” Roosevelt learned that a powerful navy is indispensable to a nation with great commercial interests and an interest in geopolitical greatness.

China certainly has the former. Does it have the latter? …