SEA POWER: The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans


by Admiral James Stavridis (New York, Penguin Press, 2017)



This superbly written book was a delight to read.  James Stavridis, a four-star admiral and  USNA graduate class of '76, was for four years the NATO Supreme Allied Commander.  It was President Eisenhower who was the first to hold this position and Stavridis was the first non-general. 


His book will appeal to the lay reader as well as to those, who like our class, have a military background, regardless of their branch of service.  My sister-in-law was never in the military except with her husband when he was a U.S. army doctor in Europe.  She found the book both fascinating and absorbing and added to her extol was her appreciation that there was no jargon. 


The book is divided into the "seven seas": Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean,  the Mediterranean Sea, South China Sea, Caribbean Sea, Arctic Ocean plus the Outlaw Sea ("oceans as crime scenes").  And with each sea, the Admiral in effect becomes a tour director interspersed with antidotal experiences throughout his naval career, and not without humor in some situations.  Each sea covered  is loaded with gee-whiz facts, historical and colorful.  For those of us who have spent much time in trying to protect our fragile environment, it was so rewarding that Admiral Stavridis' broad views on behalf of our planet were right in line with most scientists re both the land and the sea.


For starters, USNA grads who are readers will get short refresher rundowns on naval history in all the seas.  For some of us his focus on certain seas should not only bring back military memories, both good and bad, but nostalgia for later vacation trips.  Because of our Princeton Nature Tours' extensive tour trips to all seven continents we particularly prized the chapter on the Arctic Ocean.  Our first visit in 1993 took us to the Chukchi Sea where we were stopped by the pack ice just south of Wrangle Island in the Russian Far East.  Our second visit was in 2001 and while observing many Polar Bears, we were stopped by the pack ice of Svalbard.  The following day, we went to the western side of the Svalbard land mass where we reached 80.42 degrees north.


The author reminds us in his sobering summary, "A Naval Strategy for the Twenty-first Century", that as an island nation we must continue to strive to be a great sea power.   And in it, he discusses how and why our sea power goals have changed since the writings of Alfred Thayer Mahan, and with it the challenges we now face.  This is a book that deserves as wide an audience as possible.



Tom Southerland