National Geographic : 1901 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE a powerful instrument of war, more powerful, indeed, than battleships and cruisers, since by its wonderful and in stantaneous communications of thought, it brings distant countries and colonies together in sympathy, which is the only true and permanent tie. ELECTRICITY THE IDEAL MEANS OF TRANSMITTING INTELLIGENCE. The triumphs of science in the last half century have been nowhere more exem plified than in the enormous strides made in the facility of transmitting intelligence. The mails, the telegraph, and the tele phone are civilizing the world. Perfect as is the mail system of to-day, a monu ment to organization, yet its swiftest messenger-steam-is so far outstripped, either on land or sea, by the practically instantaneous electric current, that the tendency, year by year, is to put more of the world's business " upon the wire." Time has an international money value in trade, and a paramount strategic value in war. The fastest mail express, or the swiftest ocean ship, are as naught com pared with the velocity of the electrical impulse which practically annihilates any terrestrial dimension. As the distance increases, electricity surpasses steam in a continuously increasing ratio. A mes sage is to be sent half way around the earth; the minutes required by the tele graph run into weeks and months by the slow process of the mails. Steam time is directly a function of the distance to be traversed, and from the nature of things is twice as long for two miles as for one. If, then, the cable saves six days between Europe and America, it will save more than twice this time between America and the East, and is, from this point of view, correspondingly important and necessary. Since electric ity so far outstrips any other known vehicle for transmitting intelligence, it must eventually carry all the most im portant of the world's information. Strategy has been defined as "the sci ence of combining and employing the means which the different branches of the art of war afford, for the purpose of forming projects of operations and of directing great military or naval move ments; the art of moving troops or ships so as to be enabled either to dispense with a battle or to deliver one with the greatest advantage and with the most decisive results." It is believed that the more the foun dations of successful strategy are ana lyzed, both as the science of conceiving military plans and as an art of executing the same, the more it will become clear that the strategist who is possessed of the most efficient and reliable means of ob taining and communicating information, both of the enemy and his own forces, will have a paramount and insuperable advantage. Maritime nations are at present be ginning to realize that it is not ships and coaling stations alone which measure maritime strength, but also reliable and efficient means of directing, concentrat ing, supplying, or withdrawing those ships upon the great chess-board of the sea. As a means of communication over great distances at sea nothing compares, at the present state of practical science, with the submarine cable. The nation with exclusively controlled submarine communications, not possessed by an ad versary, has an organized service of sur veillance which is not only important during actual war, but which may and will prove a powerful weapon in the diplomatic and preparatory conflict which always precedes a declaration of war, and these communications are a means of securing a first real victory, even be fore war has been formally declared. It may be said, therefore, that the very foundation of successful naval strategy is efficient and exclusively controlled communications, and the lack of them more serious than inferior ships.