NavWeek: Semper Why


Donald McKelvy
Senior Member
Aug 14, 2009
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I thought that this was an interesting article, discussing important issues. Since it is the opinion of consultants rather than decision makers, I believe that this topic should be posted in "The Bar" rather than "Military." Your opinion may differ.

"NavWeek: Semper Why"
by Michael Fabey in Ares
Mar 24, 2015


As the U.S. Marine Corps continues to tack back to its expeditionary core and the U.S. remains on course for its Asia-Pacific rebalance, the question of the force’s relevance is again coming to the fore.

There’s no shortage of observers who question the need for such an effective warrior force, or the ships, aircraft and other equipment to support it.

And those doubts have begun to grow in the Asia-Pacific, where the U.S. is fighting no active wars and, indeed, is taking great pains to establish a more benign posture.

But where some see obsolescence in the Marine force, others see potential. Marines can now be employed “left of the boom,” author Robert Haddick says in his recent book, Fire on the Water: China, America and the Future of the Pacific.

A former U.S. Marine Corps officer with service experience in East Asia and Africa who more recently has been a research contractor for U.S. Special Operations Command, Haddick contends that a perfect job for the Marines would be shaping and improving the security environment before conflict occurs, and in so doing, striving to prevent conflict from occurring in the first place.

The Corps, he notes, has a long history of “cooperative engagement of many partners in the region” and is an institution well designed to assist these partners with needed improvements.

“The territorial clashes around the East and South China seas involve disputes over water, islands and surrounding airspace,” Haddick says. “This topography perfectly matches the Marine Corps’ core expertise with littoral ops and amphib warfare. MEUs [Marine Expeditionary Units] can respond to [small] crises. An [even] more important role [is acting as a] mobile security force assistance training unit, able to help partners develop their military skills.”

U.S. partners such as Japan, the Philippines and increasingly, Vietnam, need to improve their ability to do missions like naval patrolling, littoral maneuver, amphib ops, airpower coordination and similar operations, Haddick says.

In doing so, he says, other countries in the areas can better resist China’s efforts to take over disputed territory one slice at a time.

Marines and their equipment will still need to get around, and in their “shaping” role, some of the best ways include Littoral Combat Ships, and noncombatant support ships such as the Joint High Speed Vessel and other “useful transports,” Haddick says.

Ultimately, being there is what matters. “Whoever occupies contested ground ends up winning the war, not the one flying remotely overhead,” says author H. John Poole in his book “Strategic Rifleman.”

It’s unrealistic, says Poole, another former Marine and weapons instructor, to think that the U.S. can win any part of another world war by repeating its strategy in Serbia or Libya. “It must instead have a ground presence in every contested region. Yet that presence need not be a massive expeditionary force. Only tiny increments of indigenous force multipliers.”

The best way to prevent a large war, he says, is through “societal assistance. That assistance can run the gamut from food aid to security. It is the latter at the local level that offers the best opportunity for military involvement. Without enough local security, there can be no functioning national democracy.”

U.S. Marines used to draw ‘Shore Patrol’ or Military Police duty at every foreign port or station, he points out. “To function effectively in this new ‘expeditionary’ role … instead of ‘closing with and destroying an enemy,’ they must now ‘serve the public,’ ‘enforce local discipline’ and ‘protect the weak.’ No longer is every stranger a potential target for their weapon.”

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