Alfred Thayer Mahan and the Utility of US Naval Forces Today

  • George Baer


This assessment examines both change and continuity in the post-Cold War US naval services. Let us imagine the Mahan of 1890. For Mahan in the late nineteenth century, security was the main issue, achieved by command of the sea through a strategy of offensive annihilation of a blue-water threat with a battle fleet, the Navy acting almost autonomously. The Navy’s other operations — those that are today considered its peacetime concerns, those that are directed beyond the sea towards politics and prosperity, presence, influence, intervention, and the rest — were for Mahan lesser ancillary missions, hidden by the security strategy of battle annihilation and command of the open sea. But now: let us imagine Mahan today in a post-Cold War world where there is only one superpower. Here, for a latter-day Mahan, open-ocean sea control now exists, there is no blue-water security threat, no competing great-power fleet, and the US Navy operates in a joint, peacetime, and littoral environment. With command of the sea attained, how does our Mahan today justify naval forces? What is today’s US Navy for?


Free Trade Marine Corps Naval Force Strike Platform Naval Service 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • George Baer

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