Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reinforcing Fires

For my first post, I want to reiterate Maj Munson’s points about institutional agility and intellectual debate. As Colonel Robert Dobson pointed out in the November issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, the Marine Corps is entering a period of austerity. The Marine Corps is no stranger to fluctuations in our budget and end strength but, along with our Navy brethren, our work overseas does not stop when the guns of war go silent. The Marine Corps expanded during every major conflict of the 20th Century and then contracted afterwards. Despite the contractions, the lean years have seen some of our greatest successes. We have gained those successes through our intellectual vigor and our pursuit of new ideas.

The work of Pete Ellis is just one example of this. During the interwar period between World War I and World War II, it was the strength of LtCol Ellis’ ideas that provided a basis for the Pacific island-hopping campaign against Imperial Japan. The work and combined knowledge of Marines who fought in the Banana Wars produced the Small Wars Manual of 1940, a legendary document that continues to be relevant to Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan today. During the post-Cold War drawdown in the 1990s, the Marine Corps’ greatest strength was its warfighting philosophy captured in MCDP-1 in 1989. The strength of maneuver warfare ideas led directly to the blinding success of the Marine Corps during the march to Baghdad in 2003. Major Munson mentioned that our future successes on the battlefield may not compare to those of our past.

This may be true, but what is also true is that those successes were not just gained on the battlefield. Those successes began in the halls of Quantico, in the bars of Officer and SNCO clubs, and in the classrooms of the Naval War College where Marines create, think about, and debate the ideas that will find expression on future battlefields. After the cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program, the possible cancellation of the F-35B airframe, and the continued calls to cancel the MV-22 Osprey, it should be clear to us that in the future we cannot depend solely on advanced weapon systems to carry the day for us. Instead, we must depend on the intellectual and creative capacity of Marines of all ranks. Fortunately, creativity and thought are free.

If our history is any indication, Marines will carry on our tradition of intellectual excellence during times of lean budgets and ensure that future Marines are well prepared for the any challenge. Placing a bet on the minds of our Marines to adapt and overcome is the safest bet we could make.

I want to thank Colonel Keenan and Major Munson for this opportunity to contribute to that future success in my own small way, and I look forward to the many discussions that this forum will generate.

1 comment:

  1. One caveat to the the list of ideas and where they were born (halls, clubs, bars. classrooms, etc) was that these were then exercised - in the Vieques, the desert, and mountains, by thousands of Marines over many years. Pete Ellis' own observations, and that of others, on the training in Veiques are as telling as the original thinking. This cycle of rehearse, critique, improve is played out again and again in our history (remember LtGen Van Riper's comments after Sea Dragon?).

    Cheers, and Semper Fidelis