Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, Corbett (1911)





Central Proposition:

-Command of the sea (control of maritime communications and passage) is the primary objective of naval strategy because (it exerts pressure on the enemy) seeks decision on land or reinforces decision on land (BIG idea here is that it is NOT navy alone bringing about the is MARITIME, as in ARMY and NAVY). Ultimately, the army achieves the peace. Winton reads this as an early manifesto for jointness.


-control the LOCs to maintain own comms/trade but destroy disrupt enemy's

-enemy fleet destruction is a subset of the controlling of LOCs, since they enemy fleet will be/should be protecting their trade

-disrupts support/movement of enemy military (army) forces

-prevents access to addl resources (financial, mil, etc); erodes power to resist

-brings decision closer either directly (military disrupted, supplies cut off) or indirectly, by strangling the national life.

Corollaries to the command of the sea: -Preventing the enemy from securing command of the sea is equal in priority to securing it for oneself if you are not strong enough to secure it yourself (xxix)

-Destruction of the enemy fleet is important insofar as it enables command of the sea, but not as the chief object of naval strategy (also, there is more than one legit object in war)

-command of the sea in a normal state is contested/disputed; no one "owns" the sea

-weaker form of warfare (limited, not tending to extremes, not seeking enemy overthrow) is usually the preferred maritime strategy; because it is not seeking to destroy enemy fleet wholly but only to degree needed for command of the sea (more than that is wasted effort); because maritime ops offer opportunity to pursue the stronger form of war, strategic offensive and tactical defense (Moltke; Corbett call is major strategy and minor strategy) by taking a territory and then defending it

Other important points: -Nature of war determines the methods employed (limited or unlimited), and in naval warfare (because "men live on land, not at sea") the object is limited

-Qualifies Clause' ideas about limited war for a territorial object (which he says Clause thought of in terms of continental war); Corbett has two conditions that must be met for war to be limited, bc he says that there is no surety in continental warfare that BOTH will perceive the object as a limited one. See note from Chapter 4 Limited Wars and Maritime Empires. LIMITED WAR IS ONLY PERMANENTLY POSSIBLE TO ISLAND POWERS OR BETWEEN POWERS SEPARATED BY SEA, AND ONLY THEN WHEN COMMAND OF THE SEA CAN BE ACHIEVED SUFFICIENTLY TO ISOLATE DISTANT OBJECT AND PROTECT HOME INVASION. (para, 57)

Reading notes:

-Must select a 'map' of war theory that we use to guide our development of maritime strategy. (15)

-Theory is not just about self-education to advise judgement on the battlefield (which is heavily dependent on genius), but also about convincing those around the "council table" of a plan of action through clear conceptions and the exposition of the inherent relations of things. (para, Claus, 6) Theory provides the common vehicle of expression through which naval, military, political considerations can be addressed. (8) Theory of war is the common ground between naval and military strategy. This relationship suggests that navy and army should be coordinated in action, used as one weapon, and directs us to assign the proper function to EACH in a plan of war. (10)

-Paramount concern of maritime strategy is to determine what the fleet forces will do in relation to the land forces/mutual relations of army and navy in a plan of war. (15-16) Naval strategy determines movements of the fleet. (15)

-Naval ops alone cannot "win;" they only offer the process of exhaustion..."since men live upon the land, great issues between states at war have always been decided by the army." (para, 16)

Chapter 1/Intro (How he presents Clausewitz to his audience)

-by first presenting his conclusions in concrete form (17); let's make a war plan. Logical follow on is, "a war plan for what?" Must first answer this question. Take or prevent taking from another state? Etc. The Ministers decide this... in essence, we must ask them what the policy is that they are pursuing, and where and why do you expect it to break down and take up arms? (18) Thus we arrive at 'war is policy by other means.'

-As Clause say, statesmen most critical decision is determining the nature of the war to be fought, which determines the stakes of the object, and then the means. (28)

-Corbett says that Jomini and Clause agree on the fundamental theory of war as an extension of politics by other means. (30)

Chapter 3 Nature of Wars-Offensive and Defensive

-Corbett asserts that Clausewitz came to the resolution that the dual nature of war was limited versus unlimited in Book 8 of On War (and he notes this in his note in 18xx), and that the nature of the war had implications in the METHODS employed. An unlimited object would call forth the enemy's whole war power and decision could not be reached until this power was crushed. In a limited war, complete destruction of the enemy's force was beyond what was needed to achieve the object (45). The value of the object's attainment, limited or unlimited, was influenced by moral factors; how dear the object was to the people, how much they were willing to risk for it, etc. (41-42)

-Great evidence from Clause on 48-49.

-Suggests that Jomini came, separately, to this same conclusion. (45)

Chapter 4 Limited War and Maritime Empires

-Claus conception of limited war was the conquest of "frontier" territory from a continental neighbor. Corbett does not agree that this would really be limited, because the land is organic to the country and therefore perceived to be important, and also bc the enemy may use ALL of his available force directed toward that object (likely escalating war to unlimited). Corbett concludes that to be a truly "limited object," two conditions must be satisfied: 1. object must be limited in area AND political importance, 2. strategically isolated. (55) He then concludes that it is difficult to find these conditions met ANYWHERE between continental states....BUT between maritime states....Cuba in the Spanish-American war is the example. (56)

-Central prop of this chapter (57): limited war is only permanently possible to island powers or powers separated by sea, and then only when the acting power is able to achieve command of the sea sufficiently so that he can isolate the war's object and also protect his home territory. (para) Corollary is that "limited wars do not turn upon the armed strength of the belligerents, but upon the amount of that strength which they are able or willing to bring to bear at the decisive point." (58)

Chapter 5 Wars of Intervention

-Clause does not fully reconcile where the concept of "war limited by contingent" (an ally provides an auxiliary force to one of the primary belligerents in a war) fit into his schema.

-Corbett suggests this is a method, not a different form of war

-Corbett calls this type of action "applying the limited form to an unlimited war" (65)

-In continental warfare, this form rarely differs from unlimited war, but in maritime warfare, the contingent may be able to protect a limited theater (as the British did in 1813ish) (66) Corbett says that even in cases where the British fleet could NOT isolate/secure a limited theater of operations, it was the THREAT of the British fleets actions on behalf of their ally that had the same effect (NOT the fleet's actual performance). (67)

Chapter 6 Conditions of Strength in Limited Wars

-Central prop: It is legitimate and sometimes correct to aim directly at the ulterior object of the war. (74) If the major strategy is offensive (Moltke's "strategic offensive", minor strategy is defensive (Moltke's "tactical defensive"), which would be correct to use when we are not strong enough to use the more exhausting form and when the object is limited, it suggests there is NOT ONE LEGIT object of war, and that the objective is NOT the destruction of his armed forces. Instead, the object is the occupation of some distant territory and the defense of it from the enemy. (73-74)

-Example of this is the Russo-Japanese conflict in 1904, in which the Japanese thwarted Russia's attempt to annex Korea by isolating Korea by sea, besieging Port Arthur, where the Russian fleet was positioned, and then siezing the capital through a land invasion. (78-87)

In my mind, all of the propositions in Chapters 4-6 is premised upon Corbett's determination in Chap 3 that truly limited continental war is not reliably certain, and so must not be considered limited. Naval warfare is distinctly different in this regard because it allows his two conditions to be met. Corbett says (77) that Clause continental outlook prevented him from realizing that there would e cases when the object was so limited in character that the lower form of war (strat off; tact def) would be EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT. This is prevalent in maritime warfare, however.

Chapter 1, Part II Theory of the Object, Command of the Sea

-Object of naval warfare must always be directly or indirectly either to secure command of the sea or to prevent the enemy from securing it (91)

-Sea is not like land; it is not owned or commanded; default is contested command (91)

-Command of the sea means control of maritime communications, for commercial or military purposes. The object of naval warfare is the control of communications, not the conquest of territory, as in land warfare. (94) Land comms in land strat refer to the comms of the army, not the WIDER COMMS that are part of the life of a nation. (94)

-Power to strangle the whole national life (94)

-Disrupting commerce (blockade or seizure) is legitimate like requisitions on land are legit; this enables you to exert pressure on the citizens and their collective life, which is the ultimate ends of battles, but with less destruction. (97) The primary method for bringing victory or preponderance at sea to bear on the enemy's population to secure peace is by capture or destruction of the enemy's property. (99)

-Economic pressure ashore can only be exerted as the consequence of victory, AT SEA IT CAN BE EXERTED AT ONCE. (100) This is justified for two reasons: 1. it is an economy of means to use defensive positions for attack and 2. interference withe the enemy's trade haas two aspects. First aspect is it is a means of exerting secondary economic pressure and second aspect is it is a primary means toward overthrowing the enemy's power of resistance. (102)

-Command of sea exist in various degrees: general or local, permanent or temporary (103-104). Even permanent, general command is never absolute.

Chapter 2, Theory of Means, Constitution of Fleets

-Fleet constitution relates to the prevailing maritime theory of the day

-Evidence of continual evolution of capabilities and functions of sea craft beget their own requirements.

Chapter 3, Theory of the Method, Concentration and Dispersal of Force

-Contrary to the prevailing view, for naval warfare, concentration is less valuable as an operational maneuver than on land. Concentration at sea provides the enemy with an easy target, offers opportunity for a decisive blow, and also lowers chance of intercepting the enemy. Dispersal is more valuable for maritime ops...the enemy cannot strike you where he cannot find you or attack you. Even if destruction of the enemy fleet is the chief objective, concentration means less flexibility to attack.

Chapter 2, Part 3 Conduct of naval war - methods of securing command

-Two methods: decision (by battle) or blockade (two types: open or closed, commercial or military) (207-208)

Chapter 3, Part 3 Methods of Disputing Command

"Fleet in being;" mobility is the primary means of defense in maritime ops, so use it to avoid decisive action by strategic or tactical activity until situation changes in your favor. Or can use defended or defensible geographic positions to keep fleet in being, in additon to mobility. (211)

Chapter 4, Methods of Exercising Command

-Ops when we are using the sea or preventing its use, but are not directly seeking command of the sea

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