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Britain’s Grand Strategy of Restrained Punishment


(Peden 1979, 106–50). The RAF was viewed as the most cost-effective “shop window” deterrent against a German air attack. Britain would con- struct as many frontline bombers as possible, with few air reserves. Ini- tially, the purpose was to discourage Germany from trying to compete with Britain, accepting a permanent inferiority in the air. Later, the goal was to deter Germany from attacking by demonstrating that Berlin could not win a short war with a knockout blow. In the worse-case scenario, once the nation survived, Britain could focus on a more offensive and Continental role. In 1937, with the advent of radar, which would allow ‹ghters to ‹nd and confront an enemy’s attacking bombers, as well as with advances in ‹ghter planes, the Treasury called for the construction of cheaper ‹ghter planes over more expensive bombers (Smith 1978, 315, 329–34; Peden 1979, 128–34; Greenwood 1994, 30–31).

One debate between the Treasury and the Air Staff centered on the question of reserves. The Air Staff called the Treasury’s policy “window dressing” (Shay 1977, 41–44). They demanded that suf‹cient reserves also be provided in order to maintain Britain’s frontline strength despite losses (Peden 1979, 118–20). The Treasury argued that the bulk of the reserves should be provided only after 1939. A second debate, after 1937, centered on the ratio of bombers to ‹ghters (Shay 1977, 172–73). Chamberlain and Fisher favored cheaper ‹ghters, while the Air Staff backed bombers. According to the government, one bomber cost the equivalent of four ‹ghters (Peden 1979, 134).

To curb Japan’s naval rearmament and to prevent a prohibitively expensive naval race in the Far East, free traders supported the Washing- ton and London Naval Agreements.50 For free traders, naval arms limita- tion with Japan between 1921 and the mid-1930s constituted the most successful aspect of their effort to reduce the military spending of a rival power. The Washington Naval Conference approved three agreements: the Four Power Treaty, the Nine Power Treaty, and a naval construction ratio. First, bowing to American suspicions, Britain replaced the Anglo- Japanese Alliance of 1902 with the Four Power Treaty signed by the United States, Britain, Japan, and France. The four states agreed to com- mon consultation, with disputes to be referred to a conference of the major interested powers. Second, the Nine Power Treaty af‹rmed China’s integrity and sovereignty, preserving the territorial status quo. Third, the Washington Conference called for the immediate cancellation of all exist- ing capital shipbuilding programs, a naval holiday of ten years duration in which no capital ship construction would be allowed, and the scrapping of

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