There are two things that we first have to clarify and establish before we dig into the different warfare doctrines of the four subjects. First Mahan and Corbett were dominant personalities in the field of naval warfare whose doctrines diverge in some while contradict in most areas. Secondly we need make it clear that Douhet and Mitchell were theorists of aerial warfare strategies whose doctrines, like Mahan and Corbett have been largely recognized by experts in their respective fields.
In this paper we will be evaluating their basic doctrines and theories and then would compare and contrasts those ideas in order for us to come up with a well-established, unbiased conclusion of who among them were considered original thinkers. This method would also allow us to have the necessary evaluation of their doctrines which may support our conclusion on who had presented their cases in the most objective manner. In order to do this, we have to evaluate how the authors Jablonsky and Paret presented their cases and then out of these would draw the conclusion on whose case have been presented objectively.
Jablonsky sees several similarities as well as disagreements in the theories of Mahan and Corbett in terms of naval war tactics. According to Jablonsky, Mahan’s naval theory centers on the political-economic argument for sea power1. On the other hand, he summarizes the idea of Corbett by stating that he had linked naval military tactics with that of diplomacy and economic elements of strategy. For Jablonsky, Mahan’s scope of presenting his case is far narrower in comparison with that of Corbett’s.
Based on Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1660-1783), which was written in 1890, the author concentrated on defending his case on the national naval forces on which a sound decision of battlefield strategies should be based on. Mahan contends that victory is all about sinking the other fleet. In order to do this, decision-makers has to understand, Mahan stressed, that diplomacy has to be an integral part of the naval operations.
His presentation of his theories was primarily based on the British history of fighting their trade battles, of which Britain was considered of great strength in sea power during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. His argument was that, British adversaries failed in their own battles because they failed to appreciate the necessity of sea power2. Mahan’s presentation of his argument is therefore historical which means that he made his case by presenting historical facts and have such events analyzed according to his propositions.
His book was not only a history of the naval battles which had taken place in the period; it also drew lessons on why the victor was successful, based on the overall strategy of the governments involved. According to Paret, Mahan was well-established as an evangelist of sea power3. The integration of commerce in Mahan’s theory comes in aspect of assessing that targeting the enemy’s fleet by one’s fleet is one sure way of protecting a nation’s commercial advantage4. But here, we can draw some other ideas that may have been implied in Mahan’s theory.
For example, gaining naval advantage over the enemy is not just for the sole purpose of protecting the naval commercial economy of the nation. Taken in a different perspective, naval strategies and commerce indeed come hand in hand in order that both may survive and eventually gain their edge over the enemies. To make it clear, it is in naval commercial activities (naval trade) that a nation gets much money to sustain its economy. Trade activities take place through the sea and therefore it is largely important that a country should be able to protect its sea territories.
On the other hand, it is in a nation’s economic stand that would define the quality and quantity of military resources that it would provide for its naval protection. It is undeniably clear that naval technologies should be kept updated along with the strategies involved in order to win a battle. Mahan’s thesis was that commerce was fundamental to maritime power, and that the best way to threaten and/or defend it was to engage the enemy’s most powerful forces in decisive battle.
He also maintains that the control of maritime commerce through command of the sea was the fundamental function of the navies. Jablonsky could be right in claiming that Corbett’s scope of sea power is broader with that of Mahan. This is primarily because Corbett focused not on great naval battles but on the use of sea power in a larger context. The context of his theory centers on strategy suited to a maritime power using amphibious warfare that is directed towards the enemies’ delicate peripheries4. Corbett largely presented this strategy in his book England in the Seven Year’s War.
Like Mahan, Corbett presented his case using historical battle events and this time he used England’s. Although both are advocates of gaining sea power to gain victory, Corbett’s strategy was more of a defensive style rather than offensive as advocated by Mahan. Another notable difference with that of Mahan is that Corbett recognizes the limitations of naval power and so his argument was that there should be a well-coordinated land and naval strategies, rather than independent naval action, in order to gain the edge over the enemies.
His concept of naval war strategies was later known as limited war theory which assessed that there exists a dynamic relationship between offense and defense at sea. Corbett in Britain’s traditional way of war adapted this concept. Like Mahan, Corbett believes that commerce was the primary driving force of the Anglo-Spanish war although there was also recognition of other factors such as religious and political matters. He explained that it was primarily the desire of the British for market expansion that King Philip II could not ignore in resolving problems in his territories (now Belgium and Holland).
Because of the trade expansion, Spain’s income derived from America was severely affected and which then ignited the war. Corbett could then be right by concluding that commerce was the main reason why Spain went into war with England. In Corbett’s analysis, the war was initially provoked by the decree issued by the Spanish government which prevented American colonies to trade with English ships. Based on this event, Corbett got its point taken: Britain’s Maritime Strategy was based on commerce.
This was shown in his complete discussion of the step by step actions taken by both warring parties and Corbett stressed that Spain indeed wanted to control England for the purpose of using the English Navy. In fact, Spain even came to the point of arranging the marriage of King Charles V’s son Philip with England’s Mary Tudor. Although religious factors, as mentioned earlier were part of the igniters of the Anglo-Spanish war, it was England’s increase in commercial shipping that strengthened their Maritime Power against Spain.
In his book Drake’s Successors, Corbett stressed that the maritime strategy of England evolved from initially of commercial purposes to an accepted, well-established national method of England’s display of power. Jablonsky said that this particular book had clearly established Corbett as an independent maritime thinker and demonstrated through historical study, the limitations of maritime power. In this book, Corbett concluded that military and maritime strategies were interconnected.
Since England’s tradition was a government-controlled navy, Corbett views its maritime strategy as a combination of the political with the military and required great insight. It is this aspect of Corbett’s theory that reveals his resemblance with the idea of Clausewitz. Finally in his book entitled England and the Seven Years War, Corbett confirmed his argument that although sea battles are the goal of a fleet, these battles must be sought and obtained by the fleet’s “interference with the enemy’s military and diplomatic arrangements.
” Corbett cited France’ establishment of strong sea communications that is well-placed in the Straits and its Mediterranean Frontier and that without it, everything would be useless as defense strategies. While Mahan and Corbett seem to have succeeded in defending their claim of winning the war by strengthening a nation’s sea power, Guilio Douhet and Billy Mitchell have their completely different stand for advocating air power. Guiio Douhet was an Italian military officer who was known to have taken an active part in the Libyan campaign in Tripoli in 1911 to 1912.
Douhet was famous for ardently supporting strategic bombing concept and the military superiority of air power over other forms of warfare. His name was also aired during WWI for organizing Italy’s bombing campaign. Douhet’s ideas however were not immediately accepted by his own country. In fact, he was even jailed after a court martial for having been an open critic of the aerial weakness of his nation. It was until the Italians were defeated by the Australian Air Force at Capoetto that Italian Air Force was able to confirm that Douhet was right.
According to Douhet, command of air should be the first objective during war and having achieved it, subsequent bombing of industrialized and population centers would be so disruptive and destructive that the enemy would be forced to sue for peace. Using this argument, one may even see Douhet as a man who does not aim to win the war in the name of peace but of complete destruction of the enemy. Unlike Corbett, Douhet maintains that control of the air followed by strategic bombing could win a war independent of land and sea power. Having stated his case well enough, Douhet was regarded as the father of air power.
After having been recalled and promoted to Brigadier General’s rank in 1921, Douhet was appointed by Benito Mussolini as the head of the aviation program of his country in 1922. It was also in 1921 that his book entitled Command of the Air was first published. His strategies was also proven to be effective not only by Italian Air Force but also served as basis for the development of aerial strategies of other countries like Britain and the United States. It was this influence and recognition that gave way to the birth of another air power advocate, the American Billy Mitchell.
Mitchell was not however an early advocate of air power because he was originally enlisted and assigned in the Army General Staff after gaining outstanding war records during Philippines and Alaska tours. He even went through private flying lessons in 1916 before he was sent to France as part of the American contingent. Even then, Mitchell’s interest in air force strategies led him to be the top US airman at the end of the WWI. Like Douhet, Mitchell did not make it through full recognition of his theories that easy.
Like Douhet, he was an open critic of the war and navy departments of his country especially on the grounds that the people concerned do not see the possibility of winning the war by mere dependence on air power. Also like Douhet, Mitchell later proved his critics wrong and his theories undoubtedly efficient. Unlike Mahan and Corbett, Mitchell argued that the best way to defend the US coasts from warship attacks is to strengthen its air power. The critics were doubtful of the possibility that an aircraft can sink one battleship. To prove his case, Mitchell agreed to have his theories be evaluated through a live test.
Around June or July of 1921, live tests were conducted using Mitchell’s theories and this event successfully allowed air bombers to sink three captured German vessels including a USS Alabama during the first trial. On the next trial, they were able to sink another two obsolete US vessels. Despite these trial successes, Mitchell’s critics were not completely convinced and so he forced to make his stand be known to the public. For that reason, he was tried in the court martial, found guilty for the violation of the 96th articles of war in December 1925 and was suspended for five years.
Mitchell however decided to resign in 1926. The Pearl Harbor bombing was probably the most prominent event that confirmed the accuracy of Mitchell’s theories. Like the prophet Muhammad who foretold the Middle East war crisis, Mitchell had his own prophecy of the Pacific War as early as 1924. Through a formal report submitted after a trip in Japan, Mitchell estimated that Japan would attack by air and sea on Pearl Harbor from Hawaii at 7:30am of December 7. Mitchell added that there would be an accompanying aerial attack on the Philippines by 10:40am on the same day.
The horrifying actual scenario was that the Pearl Harbor attack happened at 7:55am (Hawaii), which Mitchell was only off by 25minutes. The actual attack in the Philippines occurred on 12:45pm and Mitchell slightly miscalculated by only two hours. It was too late to commend Mitchell for the possible counter attack by the US military forces should they considered Mitchell’s. Should the Pearl Harbor have been prevented, the United States would not have desperately considered nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just to pacify Japan.
Should Mitchell’s theories have been at least studied from the time it was submitted, it should have saved millions of Japanese lives and should delayed the birth of nuclear power for war purposes. Although Paret and Jablonsky considered Douhet as an original thinker in comparison with Mitchell, it was in the latter’s time that such aerial strategies have been delicately needed. Like Douhet, Mitchell insists that the potency of air power in any future conflict and that air power would be the most decisive element in any future conflict.
Unlike any other war strategy advocates, Mitchell believed that strategic bombing could on its own defeat the enemy5. Mitchell as I personally see it was not in anyway a prophet for foretelling the details of the Pearl Harbor attack. His prophecy could not be merely based on a rough guessing of events that is going to take place because the actual report he submitted to the authorities was about two decades early and even the most intelligent person in the world cannot make such a wild guess.
Mitchell got it almost one hundred percent accurate because he has his sound basis for studying the possibilities and he probably have gathered and analyzed enough data for him to come up with his report. His edge with other intelligent personalities in the field of warfare is that Mitchell had his mind wide open to war possibilities and that open mind enabled him to grab the opportunity to take the pieces of the puzzle together.
The problem with his critics was that they seem to have taken things personally against Mitchell and so they were not able to comprehend the truth behind his theories and the wide possibilities of its efficient application to American aerial war strategies. It was just being sad that once in the histories of Italian and American nations, it took Douhet and Mitchell to be jailed first before they have proven their cases right.
Put in another way, Italy and America caused millions of lives and vast amount of properties to be destroyed first before they were able to accept that they have to accept their weaknesses in their warfare strategies and be able to finally realize that they have people in their own nations that can save their future. Upon evaluation of Jablonsky and Paret’s presentation and critical review of the theories of the four authors, this paper argues that Paret have been more objective than Jablonsky in the sense that Paret’s was more of presenting their ideas.
His presentation was backed up with seem to be more factual personal backgrounds of the theories especially their experiences that would relate and somehow gave the theorists the capacity to make their own arguments. Although Jablonsky have also presented the theorists’ ideas by basing on the books written by them, this paper sees that Jablonsky’s method of comparison have drawn some fine lines of advocating one over the others.