16 SEPTEMBER 1905, Page 21

THE most disturbing fact about our military problem is that

it is never settled. Persons and systems change, like uniforms and military nomenclature, with amazing rapidity ; War Minister succeeds War Minister, and the advent of each is hailed with the conviction that here at last is the genius who is going to rescue our military system out of chaos and give us the Army that we need. Nevertheless, Session after Session goes by without any material improvement at all in a condition of affairs which is universally admitted to be fraught with the gravest danger to the Empire.

It is difficult to understand how this should be. Lord Roberts and others tell us that it is because of the general indifference of the public] to the Army question. We do not believe that the indifference is as great as Lord Roberts thinks. On the contrary, we should be inclined to say that there has been no public question of recent years in which the nation as a whole, and not the specialists and enthusiasts only, has dis- played a more consistent and unflagging interest. There is possibly more in the view that our Army and oar Army system in themselves are out of touch with the people, and that this is because successive Secretaries of State have allowed themselves to sink their attributes as the representa- tives of a democratic people in willing or unwilling obedience to the conservatism and prejudice of a military caste. Probably, however, the real explanation of the futile and contradictory nature of our many and abortive schemes lies in the fact that in all our discussion of the military problem we have had neither the courage nor the inclina- tion to go back to first principles, and to think out what, in our own quite peculiar political and geographical situation, is the Army that we need. We are as con- vinced as ever that individually we should make rather good fighting men if only our energies were properly

• Military Operations and Maritime Preponderance : their Relations and Interdependence. By Colonel C. E. Callwell. London : W.:Blackwood and Sons. [15e. net..1

the soldiers and statesmen with whom the actual decision rests. They appear to be incapable of original thought.

Either, like Mr. Balfour, they are attracted by the comforting doctrines of the extreme " blue-water school," or, like the National Service League, they are galvanised into thinking in

millions by their admiration for Continental systems, which, as Colonel Callwell shows us, have nothing in common with the proper strategical conceptions of an island Power. The real cause of our chronic failure to provide a satisfactory Army has been our entire inability to understand ourselves.

The value of Colonel Callwell's volume is that he provides us with one more opportunity to learn the truth from a dispassionate review of our own military history. In an exhaustive survey of those military operations of all history which depend upon, and gain their terror from, their relations to the sea, Colonel Callwell has attempted to do for the land forces of a maritime nation what Captain Mahan has done for its fleet. Thanks very largely to Captain Mahan, the vital importance to Great Britain of the command of the sea is now a commonplace ; but it is less readily recognised, in spite of the late Lord Salisbury's famous dictum, that decisive results cannot be obtained by a Navy alone, while what is equally obvious is scarcely remembered at all,— namely, how formidable, out of all proportion to its numbers, is an army which can descend from the sea at any point that it chooses on the enemy's coast. Colonel Callwell, in a treatise which deals not with land campaigns alone, or sea campaigns alone, but with the relations of naval to military strategy, completes the teaching of the American seaman from the landsman's point of view. There is, he writes, " a connection between land and sea power which sailors and soldiers alike are apt to overlook, and which extremes of naval and military thought sometimes try and ignore, a connection which is, from the point of view of strategy, of the utmost consequence to maritime States when engaged in war." And so in his examination of an amazing number, not merely of amphibious operations proper, like the capture of Minorca or the descent on Ostend in 1798, but of campaigns which, like the Peninsular War or the American Wars of Independence and Secession, might indeed be defined as land campaigns pure and simple, but would have been impossible if one side had not been based upon the sea, by showing us which succeeded and which failed, and why, he leads us clearly to perceive the lines in which, as a maritime Power, our British strategy should be cast.

He shows us, for example, how even the Navy, which is paramount at sea, may have to trust to land operations if maritime contest is to be abiding and assured ; for the weaker side at sea will not face a naval action, but will retire into its fortified ports, to remain there on the alert and watch for an opportunity. He shows us also how that opportunity will come far oftener than it did in Nelson's day, when a blockade, if not unintermittently maintained, was for all that a very real thing. The conditions being absolutely changed by the introduction of steam power, not only is a. fleet hidden within a fortress safe against attack from a fleet outside, but the fleet outside can at no time prevent the fleet inside from putting to sea if it wills it. And so, in order to get at and destroy the enemy's floating forces, an army, as at Port Arthur? must be brought into play. Meanwhile, that army need not be big. A relatively small one operating with the sea as its base can wear down a stronger one, and Colonel Callwell quotes the cases of Sebastopol and the Peninsula. The Crimean War resulted in a victory for the Allies because Russia could not bring her superior strength to bear upon the meagre and attenuated forces of her opponents, and Napoleon's armies wasted away before Wellington's weak divisions for precisely similar reasons. Superiority at sea will enable us to select the theatre of operations by land, and, without unduly stretching our lines of communication, to force our enemy to fight on our own terms. Yet without an army organised for this purpose our superiority at sea will never bring an enemy to his knees. The general situation is summed up as follows :—

" There is a dangerous idea prevalent in this country that because a dominating Navy is the best safeguard for its security, the complement of sea-power, military force, is of altogether


secondary importance to a State so situated. The attitude taken up by soldiers of prominence on the subject of home defence, an attitude which has helped to throw the true functions of the Army so long into the background, has contributed to this. An insular Power with great fleets at its command may be justified in trusting to its cruisers and battleships to guard not only its sea-borne trade, but also to ensure its shores against invasion.

But that is defence, mere passive defence Naval resources unaided cannot, under the ordinary conditions which arise in warfare between maritime nations, inflict upon an enemy the amount of injury necessary to bring about a collapse. Command. of the sea is merely a means to an end, and that end is the attain- ment of the object for which the war was undertaken. Sometimes war is undertaken for the express purpose of conquering territory. If so, military force must perform its share in the struggle. Sometimes it is undertaken to destroy naval forces which have grown into a menace to future prosperity. If so, sea power unaided may be unable to accomplish the task. Sometimes

the war arises out of some quarrel and the purpose which either side has in view is to achieve such a measure of success as will lead up to an advantageous peace. Success means injury to the enemy in the form of exhaustion financially, of securing some national guarantee at the enemy's cost, or of acquisition of hostile territory. And this kind of success is generally beyond the scope of naval force to accomplish, unless, indeed, the struggle be protracted to a dangerous length, and unless the victorious belligerent is prepared to emerge from the struggle ruined, if triumphant."

Of course this is all very obvious, and in a measure Colonel Callwell is inclined to overlabour the obvious. But it is better to overlabour it than to overlook it, and what he elaborates are not the facts, but the proofs.

It is impossible in this review to touch upon any of the side-issues raised in the four hundred and forty-four pages of the volume. It would probably have gained by compression, more especially since those who would most benefit by it are just those who will be most disinclined to embark upon so exhaustive a treatise. But there are many passages where the views expressed, if not altogether quite new, are exceedingly suggestive, and at least at variance with strict orthodoxy. Thus in his discussion of the vexed questions of " ulterior objects," and of the doctrine of the " fleet in being," the case against Captain Mahan is exceedingly well put. The arguments, again, which are adduced in defence of the raids and descents under the elder and the younger Pitt, and even of the Walcheren Expedition, are new and interesting, and will, we think, cause a re-examination of the text-book doctrine that these ex-

peditions were all prompted by faulty strategical conceptions..

But where Colonel Callwell excels is in the amazing variety and aptness of the examples by which he illustrates his arguments, and not seldom in the way in which he is able to throw an absolutely new light upon the influence of geographical considerations upon military history ; for in-- stance, in his discussion of the precise effect of the Black Sea upon the Russo-Turkish Wars of 1828-29 and 1877-78, or of the St. Lawrence upon Wolfe's conquest of Canada. And the Committee of Defence, with its comfortable belief in the possibility of raids but not of invasion, might with advantage study the arguments and instances by which Colonel Callwell proves, as we think conclusively, that " a maritime country is as a rule worse situated to repel invasion from over the sea than a country which has only to repel invasion by Colonel Callwell, as a student of war and a soldier on the Active List, keeps sternly aloof from present-day polemics. But where he concludes his examination of his proofs by laying down the principles which, in his opinion, should govern the military system of an island Power, he makes a most valuable contribution to the question of the hour. He points out that the amount of ship transport, even for a great naval Power, is limited, and, moreover, that great bodies of troops cannot be trusted on the water till " maritime preponderance" at least is secured. Consequently--

"An organisation which does not admit of the despatch of troops across the sea in anticipation of war is a danger ; an organisation which aims at mobilising troops ready for the field more rapidly than they can be despatched to the scene of action is an anachronism. It is pleasant to murmur Eriegsmobil in the ear of an attendant aide-de-camp, and to know that within a week army corps upon army corps will be converging along the lines of a cunningly contrived system of strategical railways towards that borderland where a mighty conflict is impending. But what boots all this bustle if the frontier be the sea ? There is nothing to be gained by the power to place troops in the line of battle faster than they can be despatched to the theatre of opera- tions. The rate at which troops can be mobilised in condition to take the field depends upon their relative state of preparedness .

for war in time of peace ; but it is the troops maintained in a high condition of efficiency which cost most money, and which, when the element of time is taken into consideration, may give least value for that money. That element of time is a factor of paramount importance, and it governs the situa- tion. If time be available—if, from the conditions of the case, it must be available—troops maintained in a state of comparative inefficiency in peace can be raised to the highest standard before they are wanted, and troops of this class are, if properly organised for the functions which they have to fulfil, far cheaper than those kept fit for action at a moment's notice. An insular Power which frames its military system with a view to the immediate readiness of a great army for service oversee is organising what it does not want, and what it cannot nse, and is squandering its financial resources without adequate return, owing to a misapprehension of strategical conditions. . . . . . . The essence of amphibious strategy lies in compact-

ness and mobility of the forces employed An insular Power should, in fact, base its military system on the principle of having many categories in a progressive stage. The corps in the first category may be ten times as efficient at the moment when war breaks out as the corps in the fifth category, and it will cost ten times as much in peace time. But the organisation should be such that, by the time the fifth category is required, its component parts, progressing from a rudimentary acquaint- ance with the soldier's art, shall have attained the standard of excellence which is expected of the regular soldier, and that they shall be able to take their place in line of battle with credit to themselves and their country."

The allusions are so plain and so topical that the wine needs no bush.