chapter  1
20 Pages

The British strategic assessment of the United States as a maritime power: 1900–1917

ByGREG KENNEDY

When trying to identify what Britain’s strategic policy making elite considered America’s status as a maritime power to be in the period immediately before and during the First World War, it is important to first recognise who constituted the membership of that elite and what that elite’s concept of maritime power (how and why it functioned the way it did) was. 1 The British elite’s membership was a combination of various Departments of State: Treasury, Foreign Office, Board of Trade, Admiralty, Colonial Office, who worked in partnership with key strategic actors in the areas of industry, finance and commerce. This diverse and complex network believed the core values of maritime power to be naval, economic, trade, fiscal, industrial and political power, all focused on exploiting the maritime environment to protect global, imperial national security interests. 2 When faced with the task of having to assess Great Britain’s imperial strategic position and balance that against how a future, general, European war would be fought, that elite was compelled to make an appreciation of how the international community’s alignment, capabilities, and will would react and effect Britain’s ability to maintain maritime dominance and supremacy. 3 Known alliances and coalitions, both friend and foe, were stable and predictable quantities within this strategic calculus. The dangerous variable in the attempt to construct such a strategic appreciation was the place of neutral nations that possessed significant maritime power. The questions created by the existence of such neutrals for British maritime strategists were: who were the neutrals that were significant maritime powers and how would they act under the tectonic pressures created by such a disruptive condition as a general European war.