A retired Navy admiral tells the history of the seas and gives an updated look at their strategic importance.
Stavridis (Dean, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy/Tufts Univ.; The Accidental Admiral, 2014, etc.) knows his maritime history, but equally important is his firsthand knowledge of the seas as a naval officer who has steered ships and served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. The book is organized into separate chapters on each of the world’s major bodies of water: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic oceans, plus the Mediterranean, the South China Sea, and the Caribbean. Two final chapters consider criminal activity on the seas and outline a modern naval strategy for America. The author’s historical summaries are written in broad strokes, with only brief consideration of individual battles. He vividly relates what it felt like as a young naval officer taking a boat through the Panama Canal or the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, and he adds personal authority to his more general points about the different bodies of water. His discussion of the South China Sea and the Arctic Ocean, the two areas he considers most likely to be the sites of future confrontations between major powers, serves as a reminder that America is far from the only nation with a legitimate interest in these areas. His assessments of the South China Sea seem especially apt. Stavridis is optimistic that global rivals can find ways to cooperate with each other and prevent serious conflict, though his citation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a likely engine for cooperation may need revision in light of the current presidential administration. The chapter on piracy, overfishing, and destruction of the environment is sobering, and the final chapter, which outlines the importance of naval power in the coming decades, is a good starting point for consideration of the strategic options open to the U.S.
A highly readable, instructive look at the role of the oceans in our civilization, past and present.