Recent Thinking on the Theory of Naval Strategy

  • John B. Hattendorf
Part of the St Antony's book series


At the beginning of the Second World War, American naval strategists still based their fundamental concepts on the ideas that Alfred Thayer Mahan had expressed fifty years earlier. With Mahan, they shared the belief that the essential problem in naval warfare was to obtain ‘command of the sea’. In other words, the way to protect oneself from the dangers which threaten across the vast, neutral expanse of the ocean is to deprive an opponent of his ability to move at sea. Mahan believed that there were two effective ways to do this. One could destroy an enemy fleet in a battle at sea, or one could blockade it in port in order to prevent its use. Fundamentally the Mahanian concept of sea power was based on the idea that the best defence is an offence. ‘Command of the sea’, which opens and assures the free use of the ocean to the victor, provides security by denying the use of the sea to the opponent.1 The Navy that the United States built up so dramatically after 1940 was designed to perform this function.


Foreign Policy Nuclear Weapon Offensive Operation Nuclear Deterrence Recent Thinking 
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© John B. Hattendorf and Robert S. Jordan 1989

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  • John B. Hattendorf

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