Big Intent, Little Clarity
In August of 2012, RDML Foggo asked if it was time to change the “Global Force for Good” motto of the US Navy. His particular focus was the malleability of a brand, how well a phrase communicates our capability and intent. “Global Force for Good,” is a grand sentiment indeed that strikes deep for the optimist, but perhaps that sentiment out-runs its clarity. It doesn’t answer the “what” or “how” sufficiently; “good” is a tremendously generic objective and “being” is not a particularly precise action. We need something more direct, and I would suggest, “Freedom, from the seas.”
Freedom, From the Seas
From, “Accelerate your life,” to, “100% on Watch,” we have had a number of catch-phrases that don’t really explain to the American people why their navy exists. Even the impressive, “Non sibi sed patriae” (not self, but country) misses the actual content of why a navy exists. “Freedom, from the seas,” hits the mark; a play on both “forward from the sea” and “freedom of the seas.”
“Freedom, from the seas,” refers to the ability to defend and secure freedom ashore via a superior position at sea. The United States has always been a Maritime nation, and one that has sought and secured freedom for itself and others in and via the seas. The French Navy helped secure freedom for our fledgling republic, particularly by routing the British Navy at the Battle of the Capes and preventing a British withdrawal from Yorktown. From the US Navy’s blockade of the South during the Civil War to D-Day to Inchon to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Libya, we have sought to drive home the cause of freedom from a superior position on the sea. The US has always found its navy ready to harness the oceanic commons in support of freedom, and in defense of peace all around the world.
“Freedom, from the seas,” also refers to the freedoms that flow from the sea, namely trade, communication, and travel. No nation is truly free that finds itself under blackmail of another. Since the Quasi War and Barbary Wars, the US Navy has ensured that sea-borne trade is both free and secure, continuing to the battle against the U-boats, to the Tanker Wars, to even operations against pirates in Somalia. The navy has carried that spirit from the early days of the XYZ affair, “Millions in defense but not one cent in tribute”, that the United States would not suffer depredations undermining the independent and freedom of US politics and commerce.
Finally, it is important that, “Freedom, from the seas,” has that key word, “freedom.” Isn’t that why we’re all here on these ships in the first place? That primary cause, “Freedom,” illustrates the core oath of every sailor, which is to the Constitution, wherein the Navy was mandated in particular. As we enter such perilous times of sequestration, government shut downs, and ever-increasing debt, it is important to properly communicate what we do and why. “Good,” is far too nebulous a cause to pin down. We were always intended as that first line of freedom’s defense abroad, and is it not right to have a motto that embodies that sentiment.
The Latin version, “De Mari Libero,” is pretty cool too, if you’re concerned more about how it sounds and not also the even more awesome connection to Hugo Grotius. While a work by Hugo Grotius is another great link for this motto to lawful conduct and the origins of the international system, that’s more for self-admitted nerds like me.