James Holmes

My ‘Opening Salvo’

An introduction to the latest blog from the Diplomat, from one of its most accomplished and celebrated authors.

My thanks to the editors of The Diplomat for the execrable faultless judgment they’ve displayed in giving me this—my own blog to hold forth on the true religion of sea power!

I am a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, a former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer, and an occasional dabbler in such arcane pursuits as arms control and nonproliferation. (Click here for a full bio.)

As the title implies, maritime affairs forms the hub of The Naval Diplomat. Like the greats of sea power who once called Newport home—from Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan in the 1890s to Admiral Raymond A. Spruance in the 1940s—I define the term broadly. It is about more than navies. It’s about using ships, aircraft, and pretty much any implement nations have at their disposal to shape their maritime destinies—advancing their interests, purposes, and power.

In today’s world, sea power is mostly about Asia, a region whose economic and military dynamism concentrates minds—both in the region and beyond.

So The Naval Diplomat is mostly about Asia, and mostly about those who do business in great waters and the skies above. One of my heroes is Admiral W. S. Sims, another long-ago Naval War College president. The late MIT and Yale professor Elting Morison dedicated his biography of Sims to the keepers of the “insurgent spirit” in the interwar U.S. Navy. And rightly so. Sims was a technical innovator, an occasional jokester, and a tireless enemy of bureaucratic drift and complacency. He wasn’t always right. He didn’t always get his way. But he kept the service on its toes from his days as a junior officer on the China Station until his death in the 1930s.That’s no small thing.

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The insurgent spirit seems like the right spirit to bring to our own age of uneasy peace—and, I hope, to this blog.