Le’ Notes #46: “Small navy” strategies – a short summary

In Note #6, I briefly discussed Mahan and Corbett’s views on naval power. What I neglected to cover was, what I call, “small navy” strategies. These are essentially naval strategies used by a weaker power against a stronger power. I’ll be covering the Jeune Ecole and the fleet-in-being strategy. Most of what is written here is a summary of Ian Speller’s Understanding Naval Warfare, Chapter 3.

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Le’ Notes #45: A.T. Mahan on naval preponderance

Short note on Mahan’s thoughts on naval preponderance.

Mahan surprisingly wrote a bit on naval diplomacy though he didn’t actually call it such; it was something that academics would later describe. Most of his thoughts on naval diplomacy are not found in his famous work, The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Instead, it is found in a collection of his stand-alone articles in various periodicals which have been compiled under the title The Interest of America in Sea Power.

Though Mahan tends to be associated with the idea of the “big fleet battle” and the six conditions for sea power, he also thought about  how navies could be used to project political power (well, in this case, American power). However, his prescription for “naval preponderance” tends to be overshadowed by his geopolitical thinking. To extract a sliver of Mahan’s thoughts on “showing the flag”—an idea often credited to him (see here and here)—requires careful scouring of his article titled “The Isthmus and Sea Power”.

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Geoffrey Till – The strategic importance of islands

This SemText summarises Geoffrey Till’s talk at CSIS Jakarta regarding the strategic uses and importance of islands in Southeast Asian maritime security.

Since 2013, China had embarked on a mission to create artificial islands in the South China Sea. In their view, these islands are markers of sovereignty; they mark Chinese influence over the maritime expanse of the South China Sea. Based on satellite data compiled by CSIS AMTI, many of these islands are already equipped with military installations. 

So, one question that could be asked: What’s up with islands? That is what Professor Geoffrey Till addresses in his lecture. I took the liberty of adding some points to his explanation, as he typically delivers his lectures in a very general manner. 

Simply put, there are two main parts of the lecture. First, he talked about the geographic importance of islands and how they contribute to maritime power. Second, he focuses on the emergence of new technologies and how this encourages a shift from “open ocean” operations to the littoral. This is supplemented with a review of trends in naval development in the Indo-Pacific, though it wasn’t too in-depth.

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Le’ Notes #6: Naval warfare and maritime strategy

This post discusses naval thought and maritime strategy from the three renowned thinkers: Mahan, Corbett, and Till.

Ah, maritime strategy. One of those niche areas where I actually didn’t have to read anything for the week’s lecture since I got the basics down. And no, despite the featured image of the Kagero-class destroyer Amatsukaze, I won’t be touching anything Kantai Collection related. I just find Amatsukaze cute, that’s all.

Despite humans being seafaring creatures for a large portion of history (this was especially true for ancient Indonesians and Polynesians), naval thought only became a “real science” when Mahan started out describing elements of naval power. From thereon, we’ve seen naval thought and maritime strategy develop over the years, from warships to merchant fleets.

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