A Study of the American-Japanese Naval Sea-Power in the Pacific

by Hector C. Bywater. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1921. 8vo, x 334 pp. With maps and a chart. $5,00.
No subject is at present more deserving of intelligent understanding by the American public than the one covered in this book. The success of the coming conference on reduction of armaments will depend upon a satisfactory solution of the Pacific problems which the author Very clearly explains.
Proceeding first to show that the centre of naval contention has now definitely passed from the North Sea to the Pacific, the author next considers the conflicting policies of the great sea powers in that area, and in the course of doing so invites attention to the disquieting fact, not sufficiently well known, that while ‘ to outward seeming Japan is a constitutional State whose political institutions are modeled more or less closely upon those of the Western communities, actually her form of government is autocratic in the extreme. . . . The real governing power is vested in the Oenrō, or Elder Statesmen, whose number does not now exceed five.’ He shows further not only that this oligarchy has the power to decide between peace and war, but that it follows the ‘cardinal principle . . . that a people which is kept preoccupied with trouble abroad will have neither the time nor the inclination to brood over its domestic grievances.’ Touching upon the religio-patriotic teachings prescribed for the Japanese people, he quotes Mr. Putnam Weale as saying: ‘So long as a privileged military caste supports and attempts to make all-powerful the man-god theory, so long will Japan be a danger-spot.’
A thorough and accurate comparison of naval and military strength covers all phases of a highly technical study in a way which the lay reader should find easily understandable and most interesting, and which the student of war will recognize as authoritative in its assemblage of facts. Comparison is made of fleet-strengths, actual and prospective; of repair and supply facilities; of available bases, and of lines of communication. The writer reaches the conclusion that the keys to our success in a Pacific war are the Panama Canal, Hawaii, and Guam, and decides that, unless, and until, we have made Guam impregnable, we cannot successfully dispute the imperial course of Japan in the continental Far East, nor can we defend the Philippines.
The only points that appear to be overlooked in this study of ‘possible features of war in the Pacific’ are the possibility of defending our Western possessions by aircraft, and the possibility of utilizing the Caroline or Marshall Islands as an advance base for our fleet. With this reservation, it is not too much to say that all factors in Pacific sea-power have been treated fully and accurately, and from them logical conclusions have been drawn.
Following a full discussion of the naval strategy of the Pacific and the probable course that a war between the United States and Japan would take, the larger aspects of such a conflict arc dealt with in a final chapter entitled ' War or Peace? Political and Economic Factors.’ Starting here with the postulate that the Anglo-Japanese alliance would not apply in a war between the United States and Japan, Mr. Bywater questions the further usefulness of this alliance. lie finds that, in a war with America, the Western Empire would be without powerful friends in either Europe or Asia, and has herself insufficient economic strength to withstand the strain of a long war. He concludes his book by drawing a comparison between Japan of to-day, and the Junker-driven Germany of 1914, and expresses the belief that Japan has everything to lose and nothing to win by her present ‘policy of aggressiveness. ’
The reading public is fortuuate in having presented to it at this time a. treatise so thoroughly excellent, by a writer both authoritative and impartial.
WILLIAM S. SIMS.