April 18, 2013

A Response to “Can the Marines Survive?”

On March 26th, Lt. Col. Lloyd Freeman published an article on Foreign Policy entitled, “Can The Marines Survive?”  In short, Lt. Col. Freeman’s point is that American air power and UAVs have irrevocably changed warfare; movement on the battlefield means being killed by remote control from half a world away.  He argues that the Marine Corps has, in its competition with the Army, rendered itself into a slow, conventional force focused on an obsolete mission, i.e. forced entry from the sea.  In order for the Marine Corps to remain a valid force and not simply a second, redundant Army, he believes that it needs to convert to small teams of JTACs inserted into hostile territory to coordinate drone and bombing strikes.

First, the problems with this treatise.  Lt. Col. Freeman has fallen into a trap that many have over the last century–he has latched onto one aspect of modern warfare as the end-all and be-all, in this case precision airstrikes and UAVs.  The idea of winning wars entirely from the air is not new.  Major Alexander P. de Seversky came out with the book “Victory Through Air Power” in 1942, in which he envisioned fleets of bombers bringing nations to their knees without a single infantryman on the ground.  His vision never came to pass.  WWII was won by infantry, armor, air power, and naval forces working in concert.

Again, the idea of push-button, high-tech “hyperwar” reared its head after the 1st Gulf War in 1991, and formed the paradigm for the better part of a decade, in spite of the battle of Mogadishu and the quagmire of the Balkans, until the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Overspecialization might work in a corporate environment, but in combat it can mean death.  Further narrowing our combat capabilities will only allow our enemies (who have made exploiting our weaknesses and blind spots their strategy since Vietnam) further avenues to circumvent our strengths.  If the Marine Corps (or any other service, for that matter) is solely focused on one mission, what happens when Marines are forward deployed and the situation changes radically, necessitating a mission shift?  Will these small, specialized teams of spotters be ready for raids, unconventional warfare, or even holding their ground and fighting massed groups of enemy, such as the up to 500 Taliban fighters that were dogpiling on isolated units in the Afghan mountains a few years ago?


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About the Author

is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. He is now a tactical tracking instructor and the author of the military thrillers Task Force Desperate and Hunting in the Shadows.

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  • Eugie

    YankeePapa Yes, we will do that again under the Democrats.  Both the Marine Corps and the Army were left to rot after WWII.  BUT, it was their finest hour--the army at the "Battle of Taejon", etc.  The Marines at the Chosin and Inchon, etc.  BUT, we cannot do that again.  Obama will destroy the military, as the Democrats always do.  Look what Clinton did.  If it hadn't been for Reagan's buildup where would we be? Infantry, the "Queen of Battle", or at least that's what my son was told at West Point.

  • YankeePapa

    ...In the years between 1946 and 1950 the Air Force announced that the Navy and Marine Corps were obsolete and that the Army's main mission would be to guard Air Force bases.  Carrier fleets were outmoded as the enemy would A-Bomb them... The term was not in use at the time... but "push button war" is what was being talked about. ...In June of 1950 the North Koreans boiled over the border with the South and all bets were off.  If the NKPA took the South, it would be a dagger aimed at Japan.  Short of targeting Peking or Moscow, nukes had no role... Air support was helpful, but only infantry... the sons of the Republic... could stem the flow and save the South... So once again our infantry had to fight and die in the dirt, mud, and snow... on hills with only numbers.  But we had renounced that form of warfare... gutted our infantry... and then sent them in anyway.  It was a massive case of negligent homicide. ...The Marine Corps was less than 24 months from being reduced to a regiment with weapons no larger than a .50 caliber machine gun.  Both the Army and Marines were short in TO&E...  We got by... by the skin of our teeth... Then in 1954 there was again a call to do away with the ability to fight a conventional war... nukes... "More bang for the buck..."  Are we going to do this again?

  • Satellite

    Wow! definitely calling Bullshit now! You say that you have 2 Marine discharges and you can't spell "oohrah"...You said:"I enjoy his company, but I get tired of the oooorah, or however you spell it". How did I miss this?   Marines don't forget how to spell oohrah.  This guy is full of it! I'm not a big fan of posers.  Freaking valor theif!

  • Satellite

    Eugie Don't care if I'm rude...It's spelled MacArthur, not McArthur. I'm surprised you didn't pick that up on Wiki before posting your new found knowledge. Also, you said he was the "brainstorm with the Marine landing in Korea"...well, he was the Commander in Theater.  So, yeah he was responsible for every operation in the conflict at that time.  Doesn't mean he was the only responsible officer for amphibious operations. He was a fine military leader. But there is more to strategic manuever than what you are saying. And your use of the word brainstorm just sounds off...Re-read it, you sound kind of uneducated. I'm sorry to be so scathing, but you are "talking serious shit" and someone's gotta say it...so I will.  If you understood the inner workings of the strategic staff, you would know better than to post the way you do.  I am calling BULLSHIT on your ass.  I've been reading your posts, and you're an amature.

  • AUNITEDPEOPLE

    Great work Peter, that article needed a coherent response and this is just what the doctor ordered! Kudos!