Is a bigger fleet too expensive? Compared to what? In 1783, taken to task for profligacy for building up the Royal Navy in the aftermath of a pricey war in North America, British prime minister William Pitt the Younger proclaimed—in the words of historian Herbert Richmond—that “no one could wish more than he for economy, but the best economy that any country could practice in time of peace was to keep up such a force and take such measures of defense as would be most likely to render that peace permanent.” Pitt positioned Great Britain for high-seas success during protracted wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. His farsightedness and political resolve are worth emulating.
If you think peacetime preparation costs a lot, try war.
James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific. The views voiced here are his alone.