View Full Version : March Issue of Armed Forces Journal

03-08-2006, 08:53 PM
Beyond the Three-Block War (http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/story.php?F=1426069_0306) by Max Boot.

The U.S. Marine Corps is nothing if not versatile. What explains the Corps’ talent for metamorphosis and its ability to take on so many roles and missions was summed up by Marine Lt. Gen. Victor H. “Brute” Krulak, who wrote in 1957, “The United States does not need a Marine Corps.” All of its missions could be performed by other services. It is, after all, essentially a “second army” with a small “second air force” attached. To justify its existence in the face of constant naysaying, the Corps has had to take on missions that no one else wanted, and it has had to perform them better than anyone else could. That has led the service to cultivate an unrivaled warrior ethos and a culture that places more emphasis on men and women than on machines. Marines are taught to think of themselves as Marines first and only secondarily as tank drivers or helicopter pilots or infantrymen. This helps to make them unusually adaptable and cohesive, but each major transformation has come with pain. In the 1920s and 1930s, for instance, there was considerable tension between Marines who wanted to emphasize small wars and those who thought the Corps’ future lay in amphibious warfare...

That tension has persisted to the present day. For more than 70 years, the Corps’ principal missions — imperial constabulary and amphibious assault force — have existed in uneasy conjunction. The Marine ethos has been mainly one of the “911 force” — break-the-door-down-and-waste-the-enemy shock troops — but in practice, its missions have usually had more to do with pacification and humanitarian assistance. It has excelled at those missions, from Vietnam to Somalia to Iraq, but I’m not sure the Corps has made the full mental leap to re-embrace its old role as imperial constabulary. That was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Marines became known as State Department troops for their service pacifying and running countries such as Haiti and Nicaragua. Out of this experience came the famous “Small Wars Manual,” which continues to be widely cited...

How Marines are Preparing for Hybrid Wars (http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/story.php?F=1445694_0306) by Frank Hoffman.

British historian Michael Howard observed long ago that during extended eras of peace, military planners are like sailors. He meant true sailors, those who use sextants and abhor the Global Positioning System. Likewise, military leaders must navigate into the future without crystal balls, using “dead reckoning” off of small conflicts and technical advances to gauge the nature of the next enemy and the next war.

Because such periods are not without risk, generals often are accused of fighting the last war. Howard suggests that despite this risk, military leaders must “sail on in a fog of peace” until the last moment: “Then you find out rather late in the day whether your calculations have been right or not.”

There are those who would like the Marine Corps to sharply reverse course, focus on the near-term threat and return to its small-wars legacy. This is a legitimate argument but reflects some bad sightings for future navigation. That course would only deepen the chances that we would find our calculations to be in error, and only further increase the chances that the Marines would not be best positioned for the next war.

Since 1989, Marine Corps planners have struggled with this dilemma along with the rest of the Pentagon. Many theories — and PowerPoint presentations trumped up as theory — have been offered as the new face of war. Several blue-ribbon panels have heralded dramatic new priorities for American arms. The Pentagon bought the hype and veneer of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), subsequently embraced as “transformation.” Hundreds of contractors flocked to Joint Forces Command to bastardize the English language while offering their new concepts — some useful, some just warmed over pap. The Marine Corps resisted the siren call of technology and the underlying techno-lust embedded in the RMA debate. The Marines grasped the immutable nature of war, and remained America’s Spartans, a disciplined cadre dutifully cognizant of the brutal realities of war...