Small Wars Journal

The Long War: Send in the Marines

The Long War: Send in the Marines, subtitled A Marine Corps Operational Employment Concept to Meet an Uncertain Security Environment, articulates the Marine Corps' concept of force employment to meet the need for counterinsurgency and building partnership capacity. It explains how the Marine Corps will support the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and multinational efforts in the Global War on Terrorism / Long War.

This publication is nested within A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, the Naval Operations Concept 2006 (NOC), and Marine Corps Operating Concepts For A Changing Security Environment, 2nd Edition. The focus of this concept is the establishment of a global, persistent forward presence tailored to build partnership capacity for security, while adapting existing forces and creating new capabilities for an uncertain future. Through these efforts we will enable multinational partnerships to address existing regional challenges, while mitigating the conditions that allow irregular threats to proliferate.

The development of this employment concept outlines the Marine Corps' strategy for combating irregular enemies in support of the requirements of the NDS. The NDS identifies "uncertainty" as the defining characteristic of the present and future strategic environment.

The Defense Intelligence Community remains convinced that a direct, large-scale military confrontation between the United States and another nation is unlikely for the foreseeable future. Few countries will seek comparable "full-capability" military forces, with most armed forces seeking asymmetric alternatives to functional capability. The US military preeminence in traditional forms of warfare, which we will continue to maintain, has driven our adversaries to irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive methods to further their aims. Together, these methods will comprise a pattern of complex irregular warfare...


Thanks for the link. I look forward to reading every word of this document. I will note that it is nice to see the Corps re-adopt the Abizaid phrase "Long War." It should never have been dropped.

Rob Thornton

Thu, 02/28/2008 - 11:34pm

In addition to a good plan for managing limited resources, there is a strategic communications component to this with both an internal and external component. More importantly, I think it offers an operational level "adaptive" mindset for today's varied and less then predictable environments.

What the Marines have managed to do is show how they are going to integrate Security Force Assistance from their cultural point of view; they can show the Geographical COCOMs and policy makers - "here is the tools we will provide to do these missions, and here is how we are addressing risk".

I'm not sure the other services or the greater JIIM have. For example, if TMAAG is part of the way the Army goes (see the transcript from LTG Caldwell's recent "Blogger's Roundtable" from a few days back on the SWJ) to address gaps in SFA capability and capacity - then we need a piece like the one the Marines have done that articulates the Army vision and show how it fits in the service schema. It needs to provide both internal direction and show the external audience the course weve charted.

I'd argue that the USAF and USN would also do well to follow suit. If the services laid out such a vision, then the Geographical COCOMs could look across the joint spectrum and have a better understanding of the tool kit they had to draw from - if in one country they needed a SFA "wrench" then they could reach out and grab a wrench, if they needed a wrench and a hammer.. etc. Right now the only service that has really described its contribution to the tool kit, and how that tool will work is the Marines; and they have done so in a manner that plays to the strength of their service - the MAGTF.

This is perhaps one of those things JFCOM might take on - we need a Joint Vision that shows where services can provide complimentary capabilities that offer the COCOMs the tools they need to shape as well as dominate, to build partner capacity as well as successful PH III ops.

Best, Rob