Small Wars Journal

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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