The General Who Could Have Replaced George Washington
Queries the great Sheldon Cooper: “How would the Civil War have gone differently if Lincoln had been a robot sent from the future?” None can tell. But we can essay some critical analysis about how the revolution would have gone had the Patriots rejected Washington as commander-in-chief and embraced the alternative... Read more
What If Japan Had Never Bombed Pearl Harbor?
Suppose Robert E. Lee had laid hands on a shipment of AK-47s in 1864. How would American history have unfolded? Differently than it did, one imagines. Historians frown on alt-history, and oftentimes for good reason. Change too many variables, and you veer speedily into fiction. The chain connecting cause to effect gets... Read more
What Teddy Roosevelt Taught Mao About Naval Power
Theodore Roosevelt was an avowed Mahanian. He was also a closet Maoist! Or at least, his convictions about strategies for lesser competitors ran parallel to those made popular by Mao Zedong during the Chinese Civil War and Second Sino-Japanese War, as transposed to marine warfare by the Great Helmsman’s... Read more
The Three Strategic Lessons of Guadalcanal
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. The battle is one of seven naval engagements that — together with hard-ground fighting on the part of the U.S. Marines and Army — make up a six-month bloodletting known to history as Guadalcanal. It’s a... Read more
Five Times the U.S. Navy Was ‘Sunk’ in Battle
It’s crucial to remember and learn from defeat. People and the institutions they comprise commonly tout past triumphs while soft pedaling setbacks. That’s natural, isn’t it? Winning is the hallmark of a successful team, losing a hateful thing. And yet debacles oftentimes have their uses. They supply a better... Read more
What Would the Athenians Think of the U.S. Navy’s Mishaps?
U.S. Navy leaders should drink hemlock! Some of them, I mean. Figuratively. That would be the Greek approach to solving the Navy’s woes, at any rate. Take Athens. Ancient Athenians were hypersensitive about individual accountability. Athenians enforced accountability remorselessly, and these radical democrats seldom did things halfway. They went... Read more
How North Korea Crashed the Atomic Club
It appears the fat kid in Pyongyang has backed off his threat to rain missiles on Guam. Still, one can only say: welcome to the second nuclear age. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave — no matter how many treaties nonnuclear states negotiate purporting to ban the... Read more
The Captain of the Carrier USS ‘Franklin’ Is a Case Study in How Not to Lead
Seldom does your humble scribe come away incensed from reading history. The saga of the World War II aircraft carrier USS Franklin constitutes an exception. We normally think of Franklin’s history as a parable about the importance of shipboard firefighting and damage control. It’s about materiel and methods, in other... Read more
How China Could Trick the U.S. Navy With Ultraquiet Submarines
Word has it that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has staged a breakthrough in submarine propulsion. At any rate, that’s the word from marine engineer Rear Adm. Ma Weiming, a specialist in electromagnetic systems. Adm. Ma recently reported on state-run CCTV that shipwrights are installing shaftless rim-driven pumpjets in China’s “next-generation... Read more
No More! It’s Time to Retire the Carrier Strike Group
Let’s do away with the “carrier strike group.” Mind you, I don’t mean scrap the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and logistics ships—the elements that comprise a carrier strike group. Heaven forfend! We need more hulls, airframes and gadgetry of all types to face down the Chinas and... Read more

James Holmes

Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College.