Recent focus on terrorism and US wars in the Greater Middle East have tended to obscure the central role of sea power in American foreign policy. To most Americans, sea power is invisible, but it is the great enabler of American power in the world.
The fact is that the United States could do nothing in the world without the US Navy, the source of American sea power. As Colin Gray has observed, for the United States to be a land power anywhere but North America, it must be a sea power. Sea power makes it possible to sustain engagement in troublesome theaters, sustain alliances, and maintain Freedom of Navigation and maritime trade.
From the end of WWII until the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States has pursued a bipartisan grand strategy of “primacy,” the purpose of which has been to underwrite a liberal world order based on trade. This grand strategy is based on what Robert Gilpin calls “hegemonic stability,” which holds that a liberal world order does not arise spontaneously. It is possible only if a major power or coalition of powers is willing to provide the “public good” of security. For 100 years, from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the beginning of World War I, Great Britain provided this service. The United States has done so since 1945.