Mahan and Corbett agreed on most things

B. J. Armstrong in a piece for War on the Rocks called The Shared Genius of Mahan and Corbett:

Articles in the pages of the leading naval journals include titles like “Going to War with China? Ignore Corbett. Dust Off Mahan!” and “Going to War With China? Dust Off Corbett!” Even here at War on the Rocks, authors are not immune, telling us that “it may be time to demote Mahan’s masterpiece to the second rung, in favor of paying increased attention to Julian Corbett.” This conception of Mahan and Corbett, as strategists, thinkers, and writers in competition, is not only ahistorical — it is astrategic. Kevin McCranie’s masterful new book Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought attacks misperceptions, misreadings, and misunderstandings of the two men and their writing head on. He gives us a clearer understanding of their ideas and their views on strategy and naval warfare. In reality, Mahan and Corbett largely agreed with one another, and reading their work in tandem offers a single school of strategic thought, a school of maritime power.

Armstrong’s piece is a review of McCranie’s book. It seems like a good read.

To me, the greatest difference between Corbett and Mahan is not in their strategic teachings, but in their writing style. Corbett is still today an absolute delight to read. His writings are concise, and the intellectual genius shines through. And Mahan… well I think his work is best read through the interpretive lens of a naval historian.




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