FROM THE EDITOR
A purpose of the SUBMARINE REVIEW is to further the art of submarining. But should we be talking about a “skill” for operating submarines as an “art” rather than as a “science”?
Has not the advent of greatly superior technology in computers, nuclear powered submarines, long range sensors (including those satellite based) etc., changed submarining from an “art” to a “science”?
Seemingly, submarining today could fit into the definition of a “science”, i.e. “a system based on scientific method and principles.” It can be observed that today’s war-simulating submarine exercises plus the scenarios used in systems analysis and computerized wargaming, appear to be amenable to “scientific method” producing a best kind or submarining.
Seemingly, one has merely to crank into computers the best available computer-collated information on the enemy and the programmed computers can then spew out a best submarining solution — based on Programmed doctrine. Alternatives, responsive to questionable information, should also be made available.
Perhaps the complexity of today’s technology forces the submariner t~ execute his skills in submarining through computer-aided decision making. Certainly, in today’s peacetime environment, the computer-aided scientific method or submarining seems a best way to go, in general, tor submariners.
How submarines are best operated in peacetime seems a relatively simple matter.Own submarine characteristics are well known. The potential enemy’s characteristics and operating patterns are also seemingly well known. And the direction that a conflict will take is well guessed at. Hence, at the start of a conflict, “submarining” appears to be reducible to a “science”. But from thenon seawar is likely to see many surprises both technological and tactical, while information on the enemy — reliable or otherwise — becomes scarce. This necessitates changes in our own submarine operating patterns — if the history of past wars hold any lessons for today’s submariners.
Interestingly, the former bead of the Sovi~t Navy, Admiral Gorshkov, stressed a “first salvo” approach for the initiation of a seawar. His first salvo strategy appears well designed to produce a decisive effect, if successful, thus minimizing the effect of surprises on the further conduct of the conflict. This would tend to make changes in our own submarines’ operating patterns after the start of a seawar — merely academic.
But given an extended conflict at sea, it appears that submarining will revert to being an “art”. As such, the development of submarining as an “art” seemingly involves a good deal of modernizing. This seems apparent from the existing suspicion that most of the submarine experiences of World War II — particularly those involving creative tactics — have little applicability to today’s wartime nuclear submarine operations. And even the Soviets’ “first salvo” initiation of a war is difficult to identify as another kind of Pearl Harbor.
Bringing the “art” of submarining up to date however, seems to have the same sort of continuity as the healing of people. Even the arts related to the humanities — painting, music, writing, etc., with their radical departures over the recent decades — nevertheless draw on the arts of the past, just as the art of healing today depends on medical lessons learned over many centuries.
Perhaps the meaning of “art” needs to be further clarified. The synonyms for the word “art” help understand its meaning: it’s a “skill” which is derived from practice and knowledge; it’s “cunning” which suggests ingenuity and subtlety in execution; it’s an “artifice” i.e. a mechanical means for imitation; or it’s a “craft” which relates to trickery or guile. but whereas “art” is all of these, it is even more. In its most distinct sense — in contrast with these synonyms — it implies “a personal, unanalyzable, creative power” to achieve the best results.
So what is the point in this grammar lesson?
Given that submarining is an “art”, which the submarine successes in both World Wars I and II seem to confirm, the influence or a “creative power” in breaking away from peacetime-established doctrine is inherent to many or the big payoffs
achieved by individual skippers. They exhibited craftiness, use or artifice, guile, cunning and particularly innovation against a competent enemy. But being innovative is not something an individual — particularly a skipper or a submarine — just turns on aFter the start or a war. The innovator is one who has a flair for innovation (and this should be a big plus in an individual’s selection for the submarine service), has been nurtured in his profession by encouragement, has learned to take the risks which are likely to be involved, and has learned to balance those risks against the possible rewards or penalties. (If only penalties are indicated tor innovation, the creative powers or an individual are likely to disappear.)
Innovation doesn’t come without risk taking.
To summarize: submarining is a unique profession within the military profession in that, for the most part, each submarine skipper is isolated from external command. He can thus exercise his creative power with little or no interference in practicing his “art”. A skipper’s mind can efficiently over-ride the best of his computer solutions, and that’s when — according to past experiences — the greatest successes are achieved. Recognition of submarining as an art and preparing individuals to best practice that art, may be the best way for the creative American individual to assert the expected dominance in this field of military endeavor.