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THE PANAMA CANAL

PART IV

THE NAVY AND THE PANAMA CANAL

BY

HARRY S. KNAPP
CAPTAIN U. S. NAVY

THE NAVY AND THE PANAMA CANAL

The formal opening of the Panama Canal is so nearly at hand that the time is appropriate for a discussion of the effect of the canal upon the Navy.

Because it has the widest appeal the question of how the canal will affect the strength of the Navy will be considered first and at most length. To those outside of professional circles it has a more direct and personal application than any other, because upon the answer will depend the appropriations that the taxpayer must provide. The canal has been an expensive undertaking for the United States, and the people of the country, in thinking of its bearing upon the Navy, naturally anticipate that its completion may considerably modify the appropriations for the upkeep of the naval establishment. Everybody is familiar in a general way with the shortening of sea routes via the Panama Canal from our Atlantic to our Pacific coast; for instance, that the direct distance from New York or Philadelphia to San Francisco is reduced from about 13,000 miles via Magellan to about 5000 miles via Panama, or that the distance from New Orleans to San Francisco is about 9000 miles less via the canal than via Magellan. From such general and obvious knowledge it is an easy step to the conclusion that the strength of the Navy with the canal may be much less than it would necessarily be without the canal; or,

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what amounts to the same thing, that the appropriations for the Navy may be greatly reduced as soon as the canal is opened. Recently, within a week of one another, the writer has heard two members of Congress publicly refer to this very matter, one of them saying, in effect, that the canal would increase the effectiveness of the Navy two or threefold, while the other thought its effectiveness would be doubled. The writer, while prepared to admit that these remarks were rather an after-dinner façon de parler than the expression of a deliberately formed opinion, yet believes they indicate a somewhat general impression that careful study of the situation will not justify.

A prerequisite to the formation of any intelligent conclusion on this question is an understanding of the conditions that govern the strength of the Navy. The ultimate, dynamic use of the Navy is to beat the enemy in war; the everyday political use of the Navy in peace is to avert war by reason of its existence ready for war. Neither purpose will be served unless the Navy be adequately strong in material and personnel, and unless the personnel be trained and efficient; the Navy itself is responsible for trained efficiency, but the country at large, through Congress, is responsible that adequate strength be provided.

Wars do not merely happen; they usually result from the clash of some definite policies. In an attempt to fix the strength of our Navy the national policies of our government that affect other countries are a prime factor to be considered. The United States has the following definite policies in its external relations:

First, the avoidance of entangling alliances; second, the Monroe Doctrine; third, the Open Door in the Far East; fourth, Asiatic exclusion; fifth, the control and protection of the Panama Canal itself. Where any of these policies affect adversely the interests of other nations there is the possibility of friction, and where friction arises there is always the possibility of war.

The first of the policies mentioned above may be dismissed with a word, for it is distinctly one of abstention, and so is not apt to be the cause of diverse interests. Its effect is, however, that we must play a lone hand, and that effect is not without a bearing on the strength of the Navy. The second policy was recognized in a manner by England in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty of 1850, and to a greater degree in the HayPauncefote treaty of 1901. But other nations do not accept it as international law, and it is not infrequently the subject of unfriendly comment. The Monroe Doctrine may be the occasion of friction, and so of war, with European nations, and there is a possibility that it may be with Japan, or at a later day with China. The relation of the Monroe Doctrine to the Navy was pointedly indicated by Mr. Secretary Meyer, when he said in effect, for his words are not before the writer, that the Monroe Doctrine is just as strong as the Navy and no stronger. The third policy is one that may cause friction with both European and Asiatic nations. The fourth concerns our relations with Asiatic nations only. The fifth policy is a result of a duty we have assumed single-handed for manifest reasons of advantage, and we consulted no nation about it excepting

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