That question had never occurred to me until I was driving along the Mass Pike yesterday to the Motel 6 in Springfield, and thinking about Paul Kennedy's analysis of the strategic positions of France and England in the 17th century.
The British strategic situation was relatively easy to discern: As an island, it was clear that it had foremost had to be a seapower. But France had both land and sea to consider. Moreover, like the United States, it had to weigh how to protect two major non-continuous coasts. The result for France, writes Kennedy, "was to cause an ambivalence in national strategy for the next few centuries, for it was never clear to her leaders how much attention could be devoted to building up sea power as opposed to land power."
Anyone know of a good essay that explores this dilemma in the context of the French and the Americans? Does the United States need to be foremost a seapower or a landpower (or an airpower or a cyberpower)? It is like we have five coasts.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.