To the degree possible, a seapower state seeks to avoid direct participation in land wars, large or small.
There have been only a few true seapower nations in history—notably Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Venice, and Carthage.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Indiana and spent 26 years on active duty in the Navy, deploying in support of combat operations in the Middle East and Yugoslavia, both at sea and in the air.
I did postgraduate work at several universities and served as a strategist and an adviser to senior officials in the Pentagon.
Yet I have always remained, in terms of interests and outlook, a son of the Midwest.
In my writings I have sought to underscore sea power’s importance and the reliance of our economy on the sea.
Despite my experience, I was never able to convince my mother.
She spent the last years of her working life at the Walmart in my hometown, first at the checkout counter and then in accounting.
My mother followed the news and was sharply curious about the world; we were close, and spoke often.
She was glad that I was in the Navy, but not because she saw my work as essential to her own life.
“If you like Walmart,” I often told my mother, “then you ought to love the U.S. Navy. It’s the Navy that makes Walmart possible.”
But to her, as a mother, my naval service mostly meant that, unlike friends and cousins who deployed with the Army or Marine Corps to Iraq or Afghanistan, I probably wasn’t going to be shot at.
Her perspective is consistent with a phenomenon that the strategist Seth Cropsey has called seablindness.
Today, it is difficult to appreciate the scale or speed of the transformation wrought after World War II.
The war destroyed or left destitute all of the world powers opposed to the concept of a mare liberum—a “free sea”—first enunciated by the Dutch philosopher Hugo Grotius in 1609.
The United States and Great Britain, the two traditional proponents of a free sea, had emerged not only triumphant but also in a position of overwhelming naval dominance.
Their navies were together larger than all of the other navies of the world combined.
A free sea was no longer an idea. It was now a reality.