The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 1909. THE NAVAL PROBLEM.
Tor the emute that lacks aiHstanct, For \fhJi tcrono '-that needs reciitcmoe, For. Hie future in the distance, A.nd the good thai toe doh do.
■ Mr. Winston Churchill, happily for himself, is by no'means sensitive to jour-, nalistfc criticism, or he would certainly he disconcerted hy. the. vigorous onslaughts of fen made ■-. upon ■• him by newspaper's of - all classes and shades of political opinion at Home. In the pre-: sent instance ifc seems to- lis. that the i punishment which .the young President) - of ,Jhe Board of Trade is receiving is particularly well deserved, This" is' not the:, first time that Mr. Churchill has taken, it upon himself to run counter to the I declared poT-v of his colleagues, and piublicly to '■'. -pudiate the decisions of 'the Premier. Tllere is no doubt about Mr. Churchill's ability; but he is cviI dently quite as irresponsible as his -illstarred father, and even less inclined to submit to the control of party discipline —facts which must make him a shigu-i larly inconvenient political ally. As .to his' contemptuous reference to the "stupid and Vicious errors" on .which Mr. Asquith has based his naval programme, we do not think that even .the Peice Society would venture to prefer Mr. Churchill to the Admiralty and the Premier as an expert in naval strategy or a judge of national duties and responsibilities. When Mr. Churchill says that Britain's superiority over Germany in shfp3, men, and guns is overwhelming, we presume that he is describing the [ situation as it now stands; but what v.-c I are all anxious to know is that our superiority will be maintained ■ during I the next few years. It would be interesting to learn how Mr. Churchill discovered that "the Admiralty is prepared j to prove that Britain in 19-12 would be effectively, superior• to the 'two next European Powers." For it is notorious that even if the four Dreadnoughts now proposed are built, England will only be a libtle in advance of Germany in this type of warship by 1012; and everybody* knows that if it had not been for this naval scare—which Mr. Churchill declares is due to "sheer cowardice"—England would certainly have fallen behind. Mr. Churchill's assurance that there, is "no antagonism on the part of Britain towards Germany" is entirely beside the point. The'danger lies in this, that there are clear and unmistakable proofs of Germany's antagonism towards England, and they constitute the reason and the excuse for England's demand for a stronger fleet. But no . doubt Mr. Churchill's colleagues will be able to show him the error of .his way 3 without taking him as seriously as he evidently takes himself. '•' --
But, while we need not fear that England's naval policy -will stand or fall on Mr. Churchill's "fiat," there is no doubt that as he has observed, it is impossible to base any system.of naval defence on •the old accepted formula. The TwoPower standard is now a meaningless ■phrase, if we extend its application to the -whole world at once. Many advocates of naval expansion at Home have condemned the Admiralty for not building enough warships to keep England ahead,-of Germany and the United States combined. But it cannot be seriously .that it is possible for England to go on'for an indefinite -time building as many Dreadnoughts as Germany and America together; Am soon as ever naval competition becomes a mere question of spending power, it is manifest that England could not hold her own in naval progress with the United States alone, to say nothing of Germany. We do not assume with Mr. Churchill that it is ab-
surd to suppose that the Americans would ever fight the English. Our point is'that it is impracticable "for England to continue" the attempt -to outbuild both America and Germany at the same time, aijd the sooner we realise this truth the 'hetter.' As to any possibility that Geraiiariy and, America, may join forces against, England, we believe that these two Powers are far more likely to find themselves on opposite sides ;in an international war than ranged under a com. ■mon flag or united by a common interest: (But however this, may be,'it is clear that even the naval experts who once championed the Two-Power standard at Home have been forced by circumstances to modify their views. Nor can it be said that any pra'etica'ble. alternative has yet •been suggested- to, supersede tho TwoPower standard. The "two keels for one" theory; which has! been vigorously supported by so ardent a Joyer of peace as Mr. W, T. gtead, would certainly ; in ; volve the country in enormous and possibly unjustifiable expense.- Mt. H. YT. Wilson has pointed out that if this theory,is acted upon, England, in order to mee£ Germany's present programme ; -would Have to lay down between 1909 and 19hl at least. 44 warships and cruis- ; e'rs of the Dreadnought class. To suggest such a policy is admit, .that it is ; impractic£tblei and all: that we can hope for just now is that without committing us to. any theoretical . standard of strength and efficiency, England's' nfulers will hold firmly to their resolve to keep Our navy.: lip to a level'that will; deter any possible antagonist from gratuitously attacking us, and will maintain our Imperial interests secure arid unassailable. ;"' '. . y • ."'
The safety of England from invasion is,'of course, a question that vitally .'concerns; us all; hut it is in Jhe broader 'Imperial aspects .of, theprqWem that our interests 'are more
Apparently there «re.even in this tolerablyi civilised country a certain hum-i her of otherwise intelligent people, who security, .that New Zealand and. Australia have iso long enjoyed Mfrdm foreign, ihterfer- 1 enee or' attack, has .been due to England's protecting : strength alonei, and that this. Imtaunity. cannot be expected to last for ever unless England's naval power is maintained, predomihahty and impregnable.- These facts /are surely inf contestable; yet it is by no :means easy [to; suggest means by which the' Australasian colonies may be enabled' to look forward with absolute certainty to an indefinitely ■ prolonged future of safety land peace. No, one who knows anything ■of the .teachings of history could, |ly contend that if England's naval power: deteriorated, or collapsed, other, nations j would make no attempt to dismember I her Empire. .Even if we ignore for the momenta Germany and our other ConI tinental rivals, we have still'to think of the nations rising'steadily .to '.the .rank of Great Powers in the Far East< I Captain the Australian Naval Director, has recently pointed out that Iby 1911 Japan will possess at least 17 'battleships and is'armoured' cruisers! If we choose, we may speculate upon the [by no means impossible contingency of a "rapprochement" between Germany [and Japan.. The, Anglo-Japanese Alli[ance expires in 1012, and by that time and Japan in conjunction could [marshal a fleet of 44''battleships and 25 heavy cruisers—a force nearly equal in | numerical strength to the navy then I flying the British flag. But even if we reject the suggestion—already carefully considered.by ; diplomats—that- it may be worth Germany's while to get a free hand in China by offering Japan support in other directions, we may reflect senously upon the rapidly increasing strength of the Japanese navy alone. Seven years ago there were in the Pacific four British battleships and two armoured cruisers; to-day we have only four armoured cruisers, of which only one car-: ries guns bigger than the six-inch. The inference that Captain Creswell draws |is that Australia must ho prepared to j defend her own shores, and for that purpose must at once start building a navy. Our view of the position is that it will be for many years impossible for these colonies to afford fleets strong enough to guard us against any conceivable attack, and that our safest course is to do what we can to strengthen the British navy. And this consideration alone is enough to justify the colonial offer of Dreadnoughts, and the enthusiastic support the colonies have given to the ad-1 vocates of a strong navy at Home. |