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Principles of Maritime Strategy (Dover Military History, Weapons, Armor) Paperback – 26 Nov 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; Dover Ed edition (26 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486437434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486437439
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 303,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. S. P. John on 18 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought it for my 16year old Grandson, he wants to join the Navy and is very impressed by this Book.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P. W. Martin on 22 May 2009
Format: Paperback
good, solid textbook on naval strategy
easy to read but lots of detail
not necesarily a read-in-one-sitting (though i did) but certainly readable
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Essential Military History 15 May 2006
By Y. Sageev - Published on
Format: Paperback
First published in 1911, "Principles of Maritime Strategy" is an under-appreciated history that is quite readable and one of the first post-Clausewitzian forays into what can be considered modern strategic analysis.

Corbett diverges from most predecessors by viewing naval strategy in the larger context of indirect pressure on both military and economic assets of the adversary. Traditionally, a combatant's goal was to reach a decisive engagement between the lion's share of both fleets. In practice, this type of engagement is rarely possible and only desirable (highly-so) for the stronger side. If a decisive engagement was not possible, then the received wisdom was that naval forces were subservient to land forces, under the beck-and-call of the army to transport units. While these are certainly services that a modern navy provides, they have become secondary to more important roles.

The goal of much of modern naval warfare is often simplistically left at "command of the sea". The problem is that "command of the sea" is not always clear, and that the notion itself is often accompanied by the erroneous "assumption that if one belligerent loses command of the sea, it passes at once to the other belligerent.[87]" Corbett shows that wars can be won by the side with the weaker local force if that navy can maintain maneuvering space, choose location, probe weaknesses and isolate vulnerable targets. A belligerent can be effective if he merely contests command of the sea.

What, in fact, is "command of the sea"? Its purpose is to exert pressure on the enemy's trade and control both his military and political lines of communication. However, one does not necessarily require a free hand to contest them. If land forces are in a stalemate then naval disruption of supply and communication can tilt the balance.

Especially nice is Corbett's view of naval tactics on an abstract level -- less emphasis is placed on the the romantic battle and much more is placed on distribution of force -- that is, "concentration". It is often in practice a significant liability to consolidate forces into a mother fleet. Better is to optimize dispersal in such a manner that a navy can reposition as much force as necessary to a problem location in the requisite amount of time. This optimization of layout and selection of units can be highly complex, depending not only on numbers but on ship speed, communication technology, firepower, coastline, typical weather patterns, and the extent to which the flotilla is armed.

Indeed, the role of the flotilla and the role of cruisers is another important theme. As the flotilla became more comprehensive and capable of self-defense, engagements and attacks on supply became more complicated. Similarly, Corbett documents a decreasing importance of big ships of the line, accompanied by a corresponding reliance on cruisers. Able to move quickly and consolidate rapidly, cruisers better conformed to the requirements of modern maritime strategy. Oddly, Britain seemed to ignore Corbett's advice (and the trend) during her naval buildup prior to WWI. Her Majesty blithely focused on building dreadnoughts -- extremely expensive battleships that actually became defensive liabilities which discouraged engagement, being as they were too dear to deploy.

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the work, however, is Corbett's introduction to the much-maligned and misunderstood Clausewitz. Corbett contends that Clausewitz is correct in his assertion that "war is the continuation of policy by other means", especially from a naval perspective, where the goal is often pressure and not victory, influence rather than control. Even better is Corbett's clarification of what Clausewitz meant by "true war" and "real war". Rather than being the "father of WWI", Clausewitz predicted an era of peace because true war would be so devastatingly complete that no side would engage in it. In other words, Clausewitz more-or-less formulated the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction, but in an era where nuclear weapons were unavailable, Clausewitz erred by assuming that mankind would be deterred by the totality of 19th-century warfare.

Corbett's treatise is short and readable, referencing numerous past engagements to bolster analysis. It should be read by all those interested in military history and strategy.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A canonical text in naval strategy, not for the general reader 17 Sept. 2009
By Mr. Shashank Joshi - Published on
Format: Paperback
Corbett is generally mentioned directly after Mahan in the annals of naval strategy, and the thrust of this work published in 1911 is to modify, not overthrow, Mahan's ideas about 'command of the sea'. I'll just mention three things he adds to Mahan:

1. Navies can 'isolate' bits of land without necessarily securing total command of the seas (i.e. driving off/destroying the enemy's fleet) by attacking lines of supply and so on (p53); this strategy is what enabled the British to defeat much larger military powers and accumulate/defend an empire. It wouldn't work in land war, where an enemy can just shift forces to your point of attack (p54). In other words, Corbett is arguing in favor of the possibility of *limited* war, and underplaying the need to utterly smash an opponent's fleet as the chief strategic aim. This argument is related to his wider insistence that war at sea is different, since lines of communication are harder to defend, and command of the sea consequently varies along a spectrum.

Thus: "Limited war is only permanently possible to island Powers or between Powers which are separated by sea, and then only when the Power desiring limited war is able to command the sea to such a degree as to be able not only to isolate the distant object, but also to render impossible the invasion of his home territory".

2. "Concentration [of a fleet] should be so arranged that any two parts may freely cohere, and that all parts may quickly condense into a mass at any point in the area of concentration" (p152). This is an attack on the Mahanian notion that a fleet should never be divided. Commerce protection matters as much as seeking out the enemy's fleet.

3. Strategic objectives (ultimate goals) will always be on land, so armies and navies can and should act in concert in these limited wars. Specifically, navies can be vehicles or armies, delivering amphibious forces

One disagreement I have with the otherwise excellent review above is the claim that "It should be read by all those interested in military history and strategy" - however important this book is as a historically significant work, I see no reason why a summary of the book wouldn't be adequate. The examples are difficult to follow unless you have a strong grounding in that period of history, and the importance of the book to wider strategy is limited. The prose is better than Mahan's and the arguments more succinct, but I can't imagine this being a fun read for the general reader - I would suggest parts of The Rise And Fall of British Naval Mastery for those interested in a summary, in context.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Naval Theory 5 Feb. 2011
By Peter A. Dotto - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is Naval Classic and a counterpoint to Alfred Thayer Mahan's "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History". Where Mahan was "big navy" and big sea battle proponent and stated that control of the seas was essential for national success and survival, Corbet's view was that you did not need to control all the seas, you only needed local superiorty in the areas that were vital to you. You just needed to control sea lanes of communication. Thus, you could succeed with a smaller navy, if used wisely. A second point of Corbets that was ignored by Mahan is the utility of naval forces in the support of land operations and the advantages of having an amphibious (ship to shore) capability. That's why this book is required reading at Marine Corps schools. It's kind of a dry read and although very pertinent in the 20th century, it seems less so now with fewer and fewer nations investing in large, expensive navies. This book, originally published in 1911, has influnced several generations of naval officers and thinkers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great Primer on Naval Strategy and Military Strategy 18 Feb. 2014
By Bailey - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Julian Corbett's 1911 treatise builds upon the foundation laid by Clausewitz to translate the ideas of military strategy on land into general principals as they apply to the sea. Corbett discusses ways of integrating the land and sea forces mutually to support the political objective. He offers a modern insight into Clausewitz's ideas concerning limited war and bridges the gap between a continental perspective and a global one.

Corbett's ideas remain intensely relevant to any practitioner of the military, strategic, or political arts. I would suggest that every technological development that would appear to change the basic principals of naval strategy has an answer in a countervailing measure, such that the nature of naval strategy has not fundamentally changed, but only broadened, since this was written. For example, cruise missiles, ICBMs and aircraft carriers change the details, but not the nature, of maritime support to the national strategy. I would also offer that many of Corbett's insights are not limited to the sea services, and that all strategists would do well to incorporate his wisdom in forming a complete analysis.

Finally, Corbett's book is a very fine example of high level strategic thought. Whether you agree or disagree with his core concepts, the study is important to broaden your strategic thinking.

This is a key part of any military-strategic library.
Relevant Strategy 19 Feb. 2013
By Al - Published on
Format: Paperback
This was a surprisingly good book, and I think it's much better than Mahan. It's clear that Mahan is popular because he published first and advocated large navys and large fleet actions. Corbett places his emphasis on limited war for limited objectives. He obviously uses Britain's colonial wars as examples of isolating an objective in order to prosecute a limited objective with limited means. Other examples he uses are the Russo Japanese war which provides an almost textbook case of a limited war for a limited objective.

Another aspect of Corbett that I like is how he defines "sea control" and clearly explains how this is limited to only local control and interdiction of SLOCs. Corbett also is a proponent of combined action, or in the terminology of today, joint operations. He goes into considerable detail, with examples, on the uses of sea power to support the ground campaign and protect the SLOCs.

Corbett is heavily dependent on Clausewitz as the base of his theory, a debt which he clearly acknowledges in the beginning of the book. Corbett also explains how Book 8 of "On War" proves to be the most valuable for operational warfighters.
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