The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1909. THE NAVAL CRISIS.
Tor the cause that lacks assistance, For the wrong thaf needs resistance. For the future in the distance, 'And tlie good that'we can do.
In spite of the categorical denial given by Admiral Tirpita to the charge that Germany has been 'accelerating the construction of her battleships beyond even the liberal limits prescribed in her most recent naval programmes, there seems no doubt that the information on which the British Gdvernmeht is acting is per- ' feetly authentic. As a matter of fact, it was unofficially stated in England nearly a year ago that secret preparations were being made for "rtis.i orders" at c.ll the, great naval ddekyards and iron works in Germany; and,'the "Times" has published conclusive evidence which puts the accuracy of these statements beyond question. Even Mr. Asquith, with a!l : his caution, and with the best of reasons' for preserving diplomatic 6elf-restraint,; has been unable to repress his astonishment at the official repudiation offered 1 by Admiral Tirpitz, and he has politely intimated that he is awaiting further explanations. At the same moment the official • organs r .of the German Government are complaining bitterly that in spite of the most elaborate precautions, England secured news of Germany's secret plans for the augmentation of her navy almost as soon as the orders were issued. Taking this in conjunction with the protest made by certain German "inspired" journals, against Admiral Tirpitz's offer to pledge his Government not to accelerate its shipbuilding programme further, we may reasonably conclude that Germany has been deliberately, trying to "steal a march" on England, and that while publicly announcing that her navy would be strengthened up .to a certain point in a certain time she has secretly been arranging to give us a most unpleasant'surprise whenever the long- . awaited opportunity should come. It is tlierknowledge pf these facts that has united the House of Commons and tho country, irrespective of party, in a demand for a great and rapid augmentation of cur naval strength. And while it is probable that Parliament, in the present lemper of tho nation, will be inclined tr to treat the Naval Estimates with exceptional generosity, we must remember that even if the Tour additional Dreadnoughts promised by the Admiralty aro laid down this year, we will; still be little, if at all, superior to Germany alone in fighting strength in 1912;' while the old definition of the two-Power standard has gone completely by the board. However, the country is evidently on its guard, and we may take some comfort from Lord Roscbery's assurance that the nation will vote anything and everything that the navy needs directly it realises that our naval predominance is seriously threatened. It happens, also, that Lord RoEcbcry, who has promptly followed tho traditional British impulse and written a letter to the "Times," has emphasized an aspect of the question that unfortunately is too often kept in the background. If our naval strength may at any moment prove inadequate to meet the strain thrown upon it, clearly the country is exposed to the riik of invasion; and in case of invasion its only immediate resource would be a strong army. Thus Lord Rosebery passes at once from the naval to the military side of the problem of national defence, and he raises once more the difficult question whether the Territorial army that "last word of the voluntary system," is really sufficient for the purpose. Our own conviction always has been that Mr, Haldane's scheme is bound to break down because there is nothing in it to attract men to tha colours in sufficient numbers. But even if the ranks of the Territorial Army were completely filled, we can see no reason to believe that some 320,000 half-trained men, scattered all over the country, would be a sufficient safeguard against the descent of a large force of well-disciplined European troops, concentrated unexpectedly upon some undefended point of our coastline. No doubt the problem is a difficult one; but when Lord Roberts and the foremost military experts of the day insist that a force of a million men accustomed to tbe use of weapons, and to the 'requirements of field service,.is.needed to secure us against serious risk of invasion, wo may well conclude that the voluntary syetem has finally failed us, and that there is no alternative left but come form of compulsory military training. And if the present naval crisis had no other effect than to impress the general public with the extreme weakness of our military resources, it would be well worth the huge expenditure that Parliament now demands.