A restructuring and resizing of the Marine Corps has been announced.
We agree that the rest of our military establishments and Congress should proceed in this direction. However, the realignment of one of our most vaunted military organizations should be driven by sound strategic thinking and not simply budgetary pressures.
The Marine Corps was formed initially to carry rifles aboard ships to protect the ships. Sailors, on the other hand, shot the canons. When men-of-war vessels engaged, Marines went into the riggings of the sailing ships with rifles, and sailors went below decks to man the artillery.
Additionally when limited shore engagements occurred, Marines carried rifles ashore as an expeditionary force, but still under the protection of the big guns from the fleet just offshore.
Such was the nature of the Marine Corps, from the "halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli," so to speak, for almost two centuries, up until World War II. Marines were the short range and "light" arm of sea power exerted by the Navy against land- and sea-based threats near the shores, and thus the reach of the Navy.
The Marine Corps was not considered an adjunct force for the U.S. Army to conduct broad-based and long-term land warfare. It was a naval expeditionary force instead.
The war in the Pacific during World War II changed the nature of the Marine Corps to some degree. In fact, the Navy, under the leadership of Adm. Chester Nimitz, began a competition with the Army under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
The Navy proposed to defeat Japan by quick, "island hopping" strikes against far flung Japanese forces while the Army wanted to slug it out on land, island by island, beginning in Australia all the way up to the Japanese homeland, over time.
For the past 10 years, we have seen the Marines used as essentially an adjunct force in both Iraq and Afghanistan to conduct the counterinsurgency strategy envisioned by Army commanders.
Take, hold, rebuild and turnover is a land campaign for sure and takes years to complete, as now seen in current wars.
Marines have always been and should remain, in our view, a relatively small and highly effective force for use on land as an extension of sea power. That is how it started, and for many reasons, budgets being only one of them, that is where it should return.
Copyright Joplin Globe. Reprinted with permission.