Militarism in a Global Age
Naval Ambitions in Germany and the United States before World War I
Publication Year: 2012
At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States and Germany emerged as the two most rapidly developing industrial nation-states of the Atlantic world. The elites and intelligentsias of both countries staked out claims to dominance in the twentieth century. In Militarism in a Global Age, Dirk Bönker explores the far-reaching ambitions of naval officers before World War I as they advanced navalism, a particular brand of modern militarism that stressed the paramount importance of sea power as a historical determinant. Aspiring to make their own countries into self-reliant world powers in an age of global empire and commerce, officers viewed the causes of the industrial nation, global influence, elite rule, and naval power as inseparable. Characterized by both transnational exchanges and national competition, the new maritime militarism was technocratic in its impulses; its makers cast themselves as members of a professional elite that served the nation with its expert knowledge of maritime and global affairs.
American and German navalist projects differed less in their principal features than in their eventual trajectories. Over time, the pursuits of these projects channeled the two naval elites in different directions as they developed contrasting outlooks on their bids for world power and maritime force. Combining comparative history with transnational and global history, Militarism in a Global Age challenges traditional, exceptionalist assumptions about militarism and national identity in Germany and the United States in its exploration of empire and geopolitics, warfare and military-operational imaginations, state formation and national governance, and expertise and professionalism.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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I have accrued a great many debts during the writing of this book. Its completion offers a welcome opportunity to express my gratitude to those I thank first and foremost the Department of History at Johns Hopkins University, where I began my research for this book; the Center for Euro-pean Studies at Harvard University, where I spent a valuable year as a James ...
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...“Navalism, or naval militarism, is the twin brother of militarism on land and bears its repulsive and virulent traits. It is at present, to a still higher degree than the militarism on land, not only the consequence but also the cause of international dangers of a world war.” Thus wrote the German socialist Karl Liebknecht in his famous indictment of militarism, Militaris-...
Part IMilitary Force,National Industry,and Global Politics
Chapter 1World Power in a Global Age
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At the beginning of the twentieth century, American and German naval elites used the language of “world power” to describe their own nations’ changing places in the world. “Either by reason of our material wealth, force of circumstances, or manifest destiny, we have become a world power,” de-clared Rear-Admiral George Melville to an American public in 1903.1 On ...
Chapter 2Big-Power Confrontations over Empire
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In the German naval elite’s collective imagination, the United States figured as an exemplary world power. Admiral Diederichs, the chief of the German Admiralty Staff, noted admiringly in 1900 that America had “quietly” built so powerful a navy that it was now “well-entitled” to “have a powerful say in matters of global politics.” Two years later Admiral Tir-...
Chapter 3Maritime Force, Threat, and War
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In his history of the war at sea, published in 1906, Vice-Admiral (ret.) Curt von Maltzahn, the former director of the German Naval War College, the Marineakademie, wrote that an “armed peace” characterized the “state community of naval powers” in the current age. “As war aims at the impo-sition of peace on our terms, so the armed peace desires to provide for the ...
Part IIThe Cult of the Battle
Chapter 4War of Battle Fleets
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No other navy invited comparison to the German navy as much as the U.S. navy, noted Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz in a special presentation to the emperor in March 1902. Both navies had “reached the same conclusions about strategy and tactics,” regardless of diverging attitudes toward “organi-zation, training, and administration.” For that reason a “careful observation” ...
Chapter 5Planning for Victory
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The decisive battle between the German and U.S. battleship fleets took place off the coast of New England. A German battle force of twenty-two battleships, five battlecruisers, forty-four torpedo boats, and about fifty sub-marines had rapidly crossed the North Atlantic after the declaration of war. In its wake a fleet of transports carrying an invasion force of more than ...
Chapter 6Commerce, Law,and the Limitation of War
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After World War I, the German political theorist Carl Schmitt was quick to argue that maritime warfare had helped to pioneer so-called total war, a new practice of war among the great powers.1 The conduct of such “total war” had dissolved the boundaries between combatants and noncombat-ants, soldiers and civilians: it was built around the potentially unlimited ...
Part IIIThe Quest for Power
Chapter 7Naval Elites and the State
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In 1904, the Republican assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy, Charles H. Darling, appeared before the House Naval Affairs Committee to denounce a plan for a change in the organization of the Navy Department. This plan, Darling argued, “savors too much of militarism to be consistent with the spirit of our institutions, even in the administration of the Navy Depart-...
Chapter 8Manufacturing Consent
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In an important article on German-American naval competition before World War I, published in 1939, Alfred Vagts, a German émigré historian in the United States, insisted on the commonality of the two navies’ ap-proaches to politics and propaganda. Both had recognized, claimed Vagts, “that they had to make and keep their peoples ‘navy minded’; hence the ...
Chapter 9A Politics of Social Imperialism
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In an oft-cited letter from December 1895, Alfred von Tirpitz wrote that Germany needed to create a powerful navy and promote its maritime inter-ests “not the least so because in the new great national goal and the associ-ated economic gain lies a strong palliative against educated and uneducated Social Democrats.”1 In so doing, the future navy secretary offered a social-...
Part IVA Militarism of Experts
Chapter 10of Sciences, Sea Power, and Strategy
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In his Science of the Army, published in 1872, the German historian and administrative scholar Lorenz von Stein proclaimed the transformation of the officer corps into a corporate body of experts. The corps had become “the holder and representative of the real military professional education and in the latter lies its true and higher justification.” Officers devoted ...
Chapter 11Between Leadershipand Intraservice Conflict
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In his memoirs, written in 1918, Alfred von Tirpitz stressed the harmo-nious relationship among the navy, nation, and parliament that had existed during his tenure as secretary of the navy before World War I. “Almost all differences between Reichstag and government” had vanished early on as the cause of the fleet had become a “natural property of the nation.” ...
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In his polemic The Navy: Defense or Portent? (1932), the eminent radical historian Charles Beard offered a scathing critique of the so-called naval expert. Beard traced the rise of this “new creature of modern civilization” back to the making of navalism in the United States and Imperial Germany before World War I. He related the formation of the “big-navy policy” di-...
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Page Count: 421
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: The United States in the world