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War Plan Tan

War Plan Tan covered operations against Cuba. Alfred Thayer Mahan, writing in Naval strategy compared and contrasted, argued strenuously for the strategic importance of Cuba to the United States.

The United States has a long ocean frontier, broken at Mexico by the interposition of land, as the French maritime frontier is broken at the Pyrenees; yet the coast lines, like the French, possess a certain maritime continuity, in that ships can pass from end to end by sea. In such cases, it may be said without exaggeration that an ocean frontier is continuous. The United States has one frontier which is strictly continuous, by land as by water, from the coast of Maine to the Rio Grande. There are in it, by natural division, three principal parts: the Atlantic, the Gulf, and the Straits of Florida. While the peninsula of Florida did not rank very high in the industrial interests of the nation in the early years of the 20th Century, a superior hostile fleet securely based in the Straits of Florida could effectively control intercourse by water between the two flanks. It would possess central position; and in virtue of that central position, its superiority need not be over the whole United States navy, should that be divided on each side of the central position.

It was this condition which made Cuba for the first century of America's national existence a consideration of the first importance in our international relations. It flanked national communications, commercial and military. To avert further European colonization or control entirely, and European intermeddling as far as possible, summed up American policy. Extension of national control had for its chief motive the exclusion of European influences, by preoccupying the ground; of which preoccupation Louisiana and the Floridas afford successive instances. This tradition passed on to Cuba; it would have been impossible for the United States to acquiesce in the transfer of the island to a strong naval state. Even Jefferson regarded as desirable to include it within US schemes of national extension, averse though he was to any acquisition that might induce a naval establishment.

Cuba and Puerto Rico, in the hands of one state, as they then were, would make military access to the Isthmus in time of war dependent, for the United States, upon an extreme circuit, at least as wide as through the Anegada Passage; after which the rest of the road to the Isthmus is more or less flanked throughout by the position of the two islands. In short, the possession, or military control, of Cuba and Puerto Rico, or even of Cuba alone, by an enemy of naval force equal to the United States, would be an absolute bar to American influence at the Isthmus.

Granting adequate naval force, the occupation of Cuba alone gives command of the Yucatan and Windward Passages, and thereby, through the inert barrier of Haiti, extends control over all the northern entrances to the Caribbean as far as the Mona Passage.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:36:33 Zulu