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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: July 2016

Introduction

Summary

This Festschrift, made up of papers given at a conference held at All Souls College, Oxford, in April 2014 to mark Professor John B. Hattendorf 's impending retirement from the Naval War College, is meant to reflect the respect and affection in which he is held by a great number of scholars and naval officers from all over the world. It is also meant to reflect the nature and breadth of his studies, which present a challenge to the editors as we attempt to draw out some common themes. It is tempting to side-step the topic and declare ‘Strategy and the Sea’ to be nothing more than a sufficiently generic label for Professor Hattendorf 's career. But as Lawrence Freedman identifies in his recent survey of all things strategic, ‘[S]trategy remains the best word we have for expressing attempts to think about actions in advance, in the light of our goals and our capacities.’ The difficulty in defining and discussing strategy is not, therefore, a hurdle to be overcome but rather a characteristic to be embraced. The contributions to this volume encompass all three elements of Freedman's definition: how to think about actions in advance, how to define goals and how to understand capabilities.

Often the most straightforward decision, at least in the abstract, for leaders on the eve of war is to determine whether their navy's actions will be primarily defensive or offensive. Roger Knight and Agustín Guimerá both question the perceptions of the eighteenth-century British and Spanish navies as being primarily offensive and defensive strategic tools, respectively. When considered together, Knight and Guimerá demonstrate the significance of a strong defensive perimeter as a prerequisite for effective offensive operations. Paul Kennedy picks up on the same theme in discussing naval strategy in terms of contested space. The statesmen responsible for the grand strategy in each of the three wars he discusses defined their goals this way. How could Britain make inroads into Napoleon's continental space? What was the use of a battle fleet in the First World War when faced with new asymmetrical technologies that limited its ability to patrol the enemy's coast? How could the Allies realise the goals of the Casablanca Conference and take control of the vital contested space of the North Atlantic?