Book Review – The Neptune Factor, Mahan and the Concept of $ea Power

By John Konrad.

Alfred Thayer Mahan’s importance and strength lie in his groundbreaking ideas on sea power and its crucial role in national security and power projection at sea. His seminal work, “The Influence of Sea Power upon History,” underscored the strategic importance of a formidable naval presence to deter potential adversaries. His insights profoundly shaped naval doctrines worldwide, highlighting the enduring relevance of naval supremacy in achieving and maintaining geopolitical stability and dominance. Or at least that was what I was taught at the Naval Academy in the mid-90’s. The truth is Mahan was not only a navalist but an economist who understood the vital importance of commercial shipping.

The post-Civil War era was a time of intellectual ferment and reform, from which Alfred Thayer Mahan emerged as a seminal figure in naval strategy. Mahan’s ideas shaped the Naval Institute, established in 1898, which has since been at the forefront of bridging the study of history with contemporary policy analysis. Today, as the Navy faces renewed debates about its future direction, the Naval Institute Press (NIP) has fittingly chosen to publish works that revisit and update Mahan’s strategic concepts for the modern era.

Dr. Nicholas Lambert’s new book, “The Neptune Factor,” is a brilliant addition to this intellectual tradition. It serves as a jumping-off point for scholars and mariners alike, urging them to expand Mahan’s strategy to address the volatile challenges of the twenty-first century.

In today’s interconnected world, it is crucial to incorporate geoeconomic issues into our strategic planning. But that’s not all.

The book also highlights the need to integrate new concepts like cybersecurity, the use of space assets, and the deployment of underwater and surface maritime unmanned vehicles into our naval technology.