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Thread: Listen Up Marines, We Belong at Sea

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Listen Up Marines, We Belong at Sea

    Coming soon in April's Proceedings - Listen Up Marines! We Belong at Sea, Ready for Trouble by Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired). Here's a sneak preview:

    As the Marine Corps looks beyond Iraq, the question becomes “Where do we go from here?”

    That question was asked of the Marine Corps after the two World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. After each conflict there were many who discounted the utility of the Marines, citing cost-effectiveness, duplication, and myriad other reasons as justification for the elimination or absorption of this singular and peculiar organization. But the Corps survived and justified its existence through its performance in and out of battle. Nonetheless, it will face renewed scrutiny after Iraq and Afghanistan and the result will be the same—but only if the Corps remains useful and does what it says it can do.
    Marines have been almost indistinguishable from the Army for the past five years of the Iraq War. That was also the case in the wars [previously] cited. But the Corps was born to serve on the Seven Seas and that's where its future will again reside...

    I sincerely hope so, but remain pessimistic. Senator Sam Nunn, when he chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1990 (nearly two decades ago), qustioned whether a lighter Army and a heavier Marine Corps were already undesirably redundant and cost-ineffective. My take in the July 2005 issue of Proceedings noted that Title 10, United States Code, tells our Marine Corps to organize, train, and equip forces for service with the fleet in the seizure or defense of advanced naval bases and for the conduct of such land operations as may be essential to the prosecution of a naval campaign.' That prescription, however, isn't worth the paper it's printed on because Marines repeatedly must supplement our shorthanded Army, which cannot satisfy its assignments unassisted. Leathernecks during World War I and since World War II have routinely taken up part of the slack by performing protracted land power missions that have nothing in common with naval campaigns. Included tasks frequently involve nitty gritty urban combat rather than fluid littoral warfare, as demonstrated inside Seoul (1950), Hue (1968), and Fallujah (2004)...

    That sorry situation will persist until the Army expands enough to satisfy commitments...

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    Council Member Morgan's Avatar
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    "Their presence as a shipborne cop on the beat can be a comfort to friends and the bane of international and transnational rogues."

    With our stated shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific region and the recently announced fomation of USMC Law Enforcement Battalions, would it make sense to look at downsizing the Marines even more (100,000 total?) & rearming and reorganizing them as our expeditionary "constabularly" force?

    The Army can go back to its preferred focus on big-war preparations while the Marines take go back to their roots of small wars and anti-piracy (anti-terrorists?) missions.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morgan View Post
    "Their presence as a shipborne cop on the beat can be a comfort to friends and the bane of international and transnational rogues."

    With our stated shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific region and the recently announced fomation of USMC Law Enforcement Battalions, would it make sense to look at downsizing the Marines even more (100,000 total?) & rearming and reorganizing them as our expeditionary "constabularly" force?

    The Army can go back to its preferred focus on big-war preparations while the Marines take go back to their roots of small wars and anti-piracy (anti-terrorists?) missions.
    Exactly.

    Our constitution is a miracle of good governance, and the relative roles of the naval and army services are are included in that miracle.

    Big wars come when big wars come. Armies are intended to be raised for those big wars and stood down once those big wars are over. The Cold War really F'd us up in terms of how we think about what "right" looks like for our military. The Army wants to be way too large, and our Air Force wants to be way too important, and our Navy thinks it needs to continue to "contain" past threats.

    We have an old misson that must be contexed against the current environment. That should be far easier that most tend to make it.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Marines for small wars and the Army for big wars is grossly oversimplified and a terrible construct in my opinion to design force structure. Several other aspects must be considered, one of them is the duration of a conflict, whether big or small. Another thought, while war is far from being an anachronism, but we have many security interests beyond war that will require the military to develop new capabilities that have little to do with war. Furthermore we are pursuing a strategy of engagement and deterrence to hopefully avoid, but more realistic, reduce the occurrance of war. All of these should impact force design. Furthermore the bifurcation of roles for what type of war each service should be designed to fight tosses our joint doctrine out the window. I suspect we'll see the services advocate for specific service roles that may be illogical in an effort to protect budgets instead of doing the right thing which is designing the right joint force capabilities. The Marines clearly have some unique capabilities that will likely be employed several times between now and 2030, but one of them is not a unique capability to fight small wars.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default What If The Navy Doesn't Want The Corps?

    What if the Navy doesn't want the Corps? I mean look at the Navy now. Need some hostages rescued from darkest Africa.......call the Navy SEALS. Need some ornery Pirates taken care of......call the Navy SEALS. Need an international Terrorist killed inside somebody Else's country.......call the Navy SEALS.

    The Marines became a completely separate service by law if I am not mistaken.......so maybe the Navy may not want them back after all they could use that money for other primary Naval ships instead of having to invest so much in huge amphibious operations they may never happen again. The Corps may have a real problem.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Size has always been a poor characteristic to define wars by, as it offers few clues as to what type of conflict it is, and thereby what types of approaches or forces are most likely to achieve the desired effects.

    We need a force designed for the world we live in today, and one designed also to deter the types of threats we see in the future. This is why we sustained a war fighting army through the peace of the Cold War. With the adoption of a containment strategy we also adopted the geo-strategic reality of our allies - which means we surrendered the geo-strategic advantages of our own. We need to understand that. We need to think about what type of decisions that drove, why it drove them, and what, if any, of that thinking is still valid to our situation today.

    Nuclear forces and capabilities exist not to be used. Their function is purely that of deterrence of other nuclear states, and so need to be kept to the minimum amount necessary to perform that function. I suspect we could find additional savings there.

    Land forces are to seize and hold ground. They do not offer much of a deterrent effect, IMO. Nations like those of the Eurasian landmass have a geo-strategic challenge that the US does not. Good fences make good neighbors, and in many cases no such "fences" exist. Said another way, the US possesses a geo-strategic advantage that others do not. Geo-strategy has become a neglected art. Some, like George Friedman, are notable exceptions, but by in large the US today looks at the world as if we were still defined by the geostrategic realities of our Cold War mission, allies and opponents.

    I don't think we need a USMC sized, trained organized and equipped to re-fight the battle of Iwo Jima. Nor do I think we need a US Army sized, trained organized and equipped to re-fight Desert Storm or Iraqi Freedom (both conflicts of choice, not necessity).

    We need to stop building forces and arguments on invalid arguments and assumptions. We need to do our strategic homework free of the inertia and bias that dominates our "strategic" thinking today.

    But DC is a land of inertia. DC is a land of bias. Good Cold Warriors dominate the scene, though they now vie for space with those who see "terrorism" in every national movement or non-state organization that dares to challenge our interpretation of what "right" looks like. QDR is certainly not an unbiased assessment. It is a competition of service advocacy framed by a crossfire of formal and informal policy advocacy advancing some line of inertia and bias or another.

    That dynamic is unlikely to change much. But we can lay a better strategic foundation to build upon. That is within our power to do, yet no one is doing it. Not at Defense. Not at State. Not at any of the many think tanks (so far as I have seen). Everything needs to be on the table as we look at who we are, who we want to be, and the world we will do that within. Sacred cows will be slaughtered and new ones will emerge.

    Personally, I think we can do very well with a much smaller Army. I think that much of our peacetime expeditionary work can be done by SOF and USMC forces tailored for that role. I don't think there is a large demand signal for "building partner capacity" or "counterterrorism" either one. Some demand to be sure, but it is one that is best seen as narrowly defined and limited to avoid the dangers associated with excesses on either line of operation. We don't need a navy designed to patrol the brown water of the world, nor to go head to head with China of their coast. Similarly our tactical air power needs to be designed for the tactical air missions we live with, not the ones Air Force general fantasize about. But first we need to wipe the strategic slate clean, roll up our strategic sleeves, and do our strategic homework.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 08-26-2012 at 01:11 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Personally, I think we can do very well with a much smaller Army. I think that much of our peacetime expeditionary work can be done by SOF and USMC forces tailored for that role. I don't think there is a large demand signal for "building partner capacity" or "counterterrorism" either one. Some demand to be sure, but it is one that is best seen as narrowly defined and limited to avoid the dangers associated with excesses on either line of operation. We don't need a navy designed to patrol the brown water of the world, nor to go head to head with China of their coast. Similarly our tactical air power needs to be designed for the tactical air missions we live with, not the ones Air Force general fantasize about. But first we need to wipe the strategic slate clean, roll up our strategic sleeves, and do our strategic homework.
    Completely agree and this could be forced on the Army and Marine Corps, depending on the next election, with sequestration or the economy.

    What is your strategic assessment?

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    What if the Navy doesn't want the Corps? I mean look at the Navy now. Need some hostages rescued from darkest Africa.......call the Navy SEALS. Need some ornery Pirates taken care of......call the Navy SEALS. Need an international Terrorist killed inside somebody Else's country.......call the Navy SEALS.

    The Marines became a completely separate service by law if I am not mistaken.......so maybe the Navy may not want them back after all they could use that money for other primary Naval ships instead of having to invest so much in huge amphibious operations they may never happen again. The Corps may have a real problem.
    Their problem is that their huge amphibious force was originally invented for War Plan Orange and there is most likely no such thing in the files right now.


    The Marines will probably have a panic phase after OEF-A, but all services have that from time to time.
    The Army switched its panic mode on and feared "irrelevance" after the disaster in Albania, for example.
    The navy got increasingly uneasy about its lack of prominent employment during the occupation of Iraq.


    Sooner or later U.S. politicians will play some adventure games anew and send the marines to demolish something and all the fears about budgetary future will be gone again.

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    Council Member Morgan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I don't think there is a large demand signal for "building partner capacity" or "counterterrorism" either one.
    Perhaps we can substitute "building partner capacity" (BPC) for a large standing Army......reduce the Army to 400,000 (the worst-case scenario according to the CNAS report, as I recall) and the USMC to 100,000 (maybe less) and we will still have an active land combat force of 500,000 (do we want to go smaller?).

    The active duty force would become a bit more specialized (I know many strongly disagree with this), particularly within the Army and even Marines, while the generalists would be maintained in our reserve forces. Through BPC, the Army (and USG in general) would develop allied forces who bear the brunt in any flare-up of any land-based hybrid threats we expect as part of the norm during this century and the Marines & SOF handle CT, A2AD, UW, DA, anything that might fall under the moniker "small war" (as in wars/ conflicts of very limited duration with narrow, well-defined objectives).
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-27-2012 at 09:36 AM. Reason: Unclear where quote ends, so hopefully in right place!

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    If partners feel they need additional capacity, they are fully capable of developing the amount and type they need.

    This idea that we will train others to go out and do our fighting for us smacks a bit too much of several failed empires who have gone before us. The reality is that if we stop trying to exert so much control over situations that have so little impact upon our our truly vital interests, we will find that we have excess capacity in spades.

    As to your proposed numbers for the Army and Marines, it is well to remember that these are two very different organizations with very different missions. Just because we often use them in the same manner does not make them the same. They have unique constitutional foundations, and the Marines have a much more active peacetime engagement role than the Army does. Marines exist to conduct short duration expeditions as needed; while Armies exist to fight long duration wars. Why would we keep 4 times the warfighting force in times of peace?? Better to sustain more Marines and accept the risk of cutting more Army. We need to be smart, not fair.

    Start point to getting to smart solutions is to take on the strategic questions first. We need a new foundation of thought for how we view the world and our role in it. Then we need to design institutions, policies and forces to implement the same. This is what we did to implement containment, and now it is long past time to go through that same degree of overhaul yet again.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Bob,

    I agree we have collectively over stated the demand signal for "build partner capacity", and I believe we are fooling ourselves if we honestly think we can outsource our fighting. To some extent we can, but we can use IMET, and small footprint training elements on the ground to help partners develop specific capabilities and capacities. We don't need capacity building BDE's in my opinion unless we foresee more OEF-As and OIFs.

    If partners feel they need additional capacity, they are fully capable of developing the amount and type they need.
    You know that this statement is not true in many cases.

    This idea that we will train others to go out and do our fighting for us smacks a bit too much of several failed empires who have gone before us. The reality is that if we stop trying to exert so much control over situations that have so little impact upon our our truly vital interests, we will find that we have excess capacity in spades.
    This is valid and deserves further discussion. More thoughts later, household six is issuing orders, I have run :-).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    This is valid and deserves further discussion. More thoughts later, household six is issuing orders, I have run :-).
    Now, that's funny. I refer to my better half as Gunny - she sounds like one at times. Course, she is married to a full grown kid.

    IMO this is gonna be settled by economic disaster in this country.

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    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Default Defense In An Age of Austerity: 2022

    You guys may have read this before:

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/jou...eoptolemus.pdf

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Bill,

    Note, I said "need," not want. Granted some of them need to add a good dose of not aggravating the insurgent tendencies of their own populaces quite so much in order to bring the problem down within the capacity they are able to produce.

    But as we both well know, the primary purpose of our historic capacity building engagement was far more about building relationships than skills, and about developing and sustaining our own understanding of critical places. Building professionalism has also been important in reducing that afore mentioned aggravation...
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    What if the Navy doesn't want the Corps? I mean look at the Navy now. Need some hostages rescued from darkest Africa.......call the Navy SEALS. Need some ornery Pirates taken care of......call the Navy SEALS. Need an international Terrorist killed inside somebody Else's country.......call the Navy SEALS.

    The Marines became a completely separate service by law if I am not mistaken.......so maybe the Navy may not want them back after all they could use that money for other primary Naval ships instead of having to invest so much in huge amphibious operations they may never happen again. The Corps may have a real problem.


    Why have SEALS if you have Marines? I know, I know, they ain't going anywhere after killing OBL. Maybe the USMC becomes the Spec Ops side of the Navy - SWCC, SEALS, MSOBs. The Army has Delta, SFGs, 160th and the Rangers. The Navy has the Marine Corps.

    Unlikely.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    I never understood the SEALs.
    There's little infantry competence in the navy (counting USMC as not-navy), so where do they recruit personnel with already basic infantry skill from?

    Furthermore; why do they seem to be a "1st mass, 2nd mass, 3rd mass" tactics outfit and still be considered "special"?

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    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    I never understood the SEALs.
    There's little infantry competence in the navy (counting USMC as not-navy), so where do they recruit personnel with already basic infantry skill from?

    Furthermore; why do they seem to be a "1st mass, 2nd mass, 3rd mass" tactics outfit and still be considered "special"?
    The infantry skills are taught after Buds. Some were prior service Marines. These are high functioning, self motivated dudes. I don't understand the reference to 1st mass, 2nd mass, third mass - what does it mean?

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    I don't know if we can accomplish an unbiased strategic review that achieves the appropriate end.

    I'm putting odds on the US dropping JDAMs or firing missiles into Iran before February of next year anyway, so any review will be tilted for a good 5-7 years if not longer.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gute View Post
    Why have SEALS if you have Marines?
    That is a very good question, we don't need them. They should go back to being Frogmen...that was useful. We don't need a Ranger battalion either, we should go back to the Ranger school system like before. However that is really the wrong question to be asking. I posted the answer over at the Marine corps gazette blog a couple of weeks ago after reading a statement by Phill Ridderhof a retired Marine Officer.
    Last edited by slapout9; 08-27-2012 at 05:28 AM. Reason: spellin stuff

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gute View Post
    The infantry skills are taught after Buds. Some were prior service Marines. These are high functioning, self motivated dudes. I don't understand the reference to 1st mass, 2nd mass, third mass - what does it mean?
    Massing of bullets and men appears to substitute for tactical finesse in what's been published about SEALs, and this has also been the impression of some people who know more than what's been published.

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