View Full Version : The Two Marine Corps

06-06-04, 07:05 AM

Guest Column: The Two Marine Corps

By William S. Lind

Since sometime before Caesar was a lance corporal, the United States Marine Corps’ greatest fear has been becoming “a second land Army.” It has long believed that if the country perceived it had two armies, it would require one to go away, and that one would be the Marine Corps.

It is therefore ironic that the United States now finds itself with not one, but two Marine Corps, and the final result may be that both disappear.

Almost any Marine knows the two Marine Corps of which I speak. One is the heir of the maneuver warfare movement of the 1970s and 80s, of Al Gray and Warfighting, of free-play training, officer education focused on how to think, not what to do, of the belief that the highest goal of all Marines is winning in combat with the smallest possible losses. This is the Marine Corps that led the advance to Baghdad in the first phase of the ongoing war in Iraq. It is also the Marine Corps that recently “fought smart” in Fallujah by not taking the city.

The other Marine Corps’ highest goal is programs, money and bureaucratic success “inside the Beltway.” Its priorities are absurdities such as the MV-22 “Albatross” and reviving the 1990s “Sea Worm” project under the label “distributed operations,” which are referred to openly at Quantico as “putting lipstick on a pig.” This Marine Corps is anti-intellectual, sees the First Generation culture of order as sacred, believes that sufficient rank justifies any idiot and regards politics, not combat, as the “real world.”

Regrettably, in the war between these two Marine Corps, the second one is winning. I recently encountered a horrifying example of its success at the Marine Corps Command & Staff School at Quantico. At the end of this academic year, the Command & Staff faculty simply got rid of 250 copies of Martin van Creveld’s superb book, Fighting Power. This book, which lays out the fundamental difference between the Second Generation U.S. Army in World War II and the Third Generation Wehrmacht, is one of the seven books of “the canon,” the readings that take you from the First Generation into the Fourth. It should be required reading for every Marine Corps and Army officer.

When I asked someone associated with Command & Staff how such a thing could be done, he replied that the faculty has decided it “doesn’t like” van Creveld. This is similar to a band of Hottentots deciding they “don’t like” Queen Victoria. Martin van Creveld is perhaps the most perceptive military historian now writing. But in the end, the books went: future generations of students at Command & Staff won’t have them.

A friend who attended the last Marine Corps General Officers’ conference reported the same division between the two Marine Corps. The officers from the field, he said, had completely different concerns from those stationed in Washington. They were ships passing in the night. But it is the interests of the Washington Marine Corps, not those in the field, that determine Marine Corps policy. And that policy is affected little, if at all, by the two wars in which Marines are now fighting.

Throughout my years as a Senate staffer, the Marine Corps’ clout on Capitol Hill was envied by the other services. The Marine Corps then had little money and not much interest in programs. Its message to Congress and to the American public was, “We’re not like the other services. We aren’t about money and stuff. We’re about war.” That message brought the Corps unrivalled public and political support.

In the mid-1990s, the Marine Corps changed its message and, without realizing what it was doing, abandoned its successful grand strategy for survival. The new message became, “We are just like the other services. We too are now about money and programs.” And that new message is what now dominates Headquarters Marine Corps and Quantico. Thinking about war is out; money and stuff is in.

In effect, the Marine Corps has sat down at the highest-stakes poker game in the world, American defense politics, with 25 cents in its pocket. It simply cannot compete with the Army, Navy or Air Force at buying congressional and public support. But it is determined to try.

If the dumb (and increasingly corrupt) “Washington” Marine Corps finally triumphs over the smart, Warfighting Marine Corps, in the end both will disappear. And that will be a shame, because the smart Marine Corps, Al Gray’s Marine Corps, really had something going. It was on its way to becoming the first American Third Generation armed service.

Maybe Martin van Creveld’s next book should be The Rise and Decline of the United States Marine Corps.

Guest Contributor William S. Lind, a veteran defense policy analyst, is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation, where this article originally appeared. He can be reached through the foundation’s mailform. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.



06-06-04, 09:24 AM
I'm going to say some things that probably will rub some the wrong way, but we do have to look at things the way Washington, the press, and the public does, if we want to survive the budget wars.
I'm sure there are those who will counter these revelations by Lind, with "Yeah, but we're still the best in the world", and "When the stuff hits the fan, they're still gonna call us 1st"

The problem is, a lot of the nation gets it's input from the media only, and we've been very fortunate thus far in that respect. Many expected the 1st MEU to take Bagdad before the Army's 3rd ID even got rolling good. Didn't happen that way. The Corps got a lot of credit for things the Army actually accomplished. The Corps had a commander relieved on the field of battle. Most people expected the Corps to go into Fallujah and exact uncomprimising revenge for the execution and burning of the civilian contractors. That didn't happen either.
Don't get me wrong-I am extremely proud of the Marine Air Ground team in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have and continue to do, a heck of a job, under the toughest of circumstances, both in the field, and inside the beltway of Washington. Maybe I should say 'in spite of the actions inside the beltway'.
The Corp did what it has always done-worked and fought meticulously through a myriad of obstacles and tough terrain, accomplishing goals, while keeping their casualties to a minimum. But, they did not get into Bagdad 'firstest with the mostest', and that is what battle analysts will remember.
2 things helped the USMC avoid open criticism, and both were not of their doing.
1. The 507th maint co, being ambushed and the subsequent hoopla over what went wrong. (Jessica Lynch thingie)
2. The Army's attempt at attacking Republican Guard forces on the night of March 23 2002. 34 Apache Longbows launched, 33 returned, shot to pieces, some beyond repair. Mission not accomplished. This was an Army PR nightmare. (The Apache is the latest & greatest, and it's performance in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo has been terrible.)

These 2 events alone outweighed anything detractors of the Corps could put forth, and undoubtedly made the Corps look much better than the Army. The Corps benefitted from mistakes the Army made-plain & simple.

But, we have to keep in mind, congress, the President, and the publicexpects more-a LOT more- from the Corps, as does the rest of the world. The public sees all the $$ the Corp is spending on things like the Osprey, and eventually will wonder if the Corps is not swapping some of it's aggressiveness for hi tech 'toys'. As seen in the Apache debacle, the lackluster performance of the Stryker Btln, better toys don't automatically equate into better fighting forces. Better training, better mindsets, better planing, and better tactics do.

Time to return to the basics, starting at the top. Time for CMC to throw the moneychangers out of the temple. Time to return to the Lean Green Fighting Machine, we've always been.

Yeah, I know it's easy and unfair for an old man to sit 2000 miles away and monday morning quaterback what happens in a combat zone, but that's what the beancounters in Washington have been doing, and that's what we really have to worry about.
The Corps won't be defeated in battle-I'm sure of it. It may well be pummeled in the halls of Congress tho, if we aren't very very careful.

06-06-04, 11:29 AM
What chaps my hide, "the publicexpects more-a LOT more."

I am sick to death of the military cowing down to the very people they take an oath to defend. Where's Col Nathan R Jessup when we need him!

"Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? YOU? You Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about in parties, you WANT me on that wall, you NEED me on that wall.

We use words like HONOR, CODE, LOYALTY. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time, nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then QUESTIONS the manner, in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand post. Either way, I don't give a damn...

06-06-04, 11:34 AM

Most people expected the Corps to go into Fallujah and exact uncomprimising revenge for the execution and burning of the civilian contractors. That didn't happen either.


I saw that as being a political move orchrestated by the politicans.
As a way to appease the Iraqi and the rest of the world.
It would not be PC to waste Fallujah with investigations of prisoner abuse were ongoing.
But we would bew remissed if we didn't state that the Marine Corps in Fallujah, Iraq did as it was ordered and that was to hold while neogations were ongoing with the leadership of Fallujah.
I know that some Marines were fighting at the bit, because they wanted to finish that mission and find those responsibile.
Now a question;
"Have we found those responsibile for those murders and mutulations?"
In years past, the headquarters of the Marine Corps gave way to the leadership of Marine units engage with an enemy.
It gave some guidance, but left the tactical decisions with the leadership.
Has there been a war with "money changers" and the "Lean fighting machine"?
We must not forget that we're just a small bit, and our opinions weight little in the decisions made for the Marine Corps...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi

06-06-04, 11:45 AM

Most people expected the Corps to go into Fallujah and exact uncomprimising revenge for the execution and burning of the civilian contractors. That didn't happen either.


I can tell you that my 0331 son-in-law called to talk to Pop (my SgtMaj husband) to help ease the pain of being pulled off "that" line. My son-in-law said he was very frustrated and wanted OUT of the Marine Corps. He said "they" aren't letting them do their jobs ... they're being set up as targets for snipers and can't fight back ... they can only fire when being fired upon.

Put the children of the politicians out there ... tie their hands and lets see how things change.

"Liberals are usually only liberal until they have something to conserve."

06-06-04, 01:11 PM
Certainly agree with all replys. As I said, it's not the combat units, it's the bean counters and special interest groups that can lead to the downfall of the Corps, and all it stands for. When the McNamaras of the world start running combat ops-lookout!!

Has there been a war with "money changers" and the "Lean fighting machine"?

Ongoing as we speak. Need I remind you of the BILLIONS spent on the yet unproven & unarmed V-22 Osprey, yet the Corps went into battle in Iraq with aging tracked vehicles? CH-46s older than most of the members here? Fortunatly, the fighting spirit remains undaunted, and again carried the day, but who is to say how adequatetly the troops are provided for, in a trade off for high cost, high visibility combat systems. With all the talk about over the horizen assaults, we've yet to see a case where it was needed. Budget allocations are finite. Remember, USMC allocations come out of USN budgets. The Navy is apt to look after themselves 1st. Allocate large bundles of $$ to one area, other areas will sufer, and we all know the grunt is the one that will suffer the most. And that grunt on the ground is what makes or breaks the Corps-period. Give him everything you can, & he will ensure the job gets done everytime. Give him only what's left, and you've put him in a position of extreme duress.

06-06-04, 11:55 PM
Originally posted by USMCWifeNMom

I can tell you that my 0331 son-in-law called to talk to Pop (my SgtMaj husband) to help ease the pain of being pulled off "that" line. My son-in-law said he was very frustrated and wanted OUT of the Marine Corps. He said "they" aren't letting them do their jobs ... they're being set up as targets for snipers and can't fight back ... they can only fire when being fired upon.


The Marine Corps has been doing that since they went into Iraq. It is my understanding that the tactic is used to pinpoint their enemies.

"They", the politicians, are looking for a peaceful resolution to ending any conflicts. Most Marines are "gnawing at their bits" to get this over with and go home, and the only way most can see is to level the whole place. While effective to an extent, it is not something that the US wants to pay for. Not only that, the backlash of media and Iraqi misgivings would mar our already shakey global standings as a nation builder.

I don't have the full picture of what's going on, so I can't say for sure what the military and political minds are doing.

06-07-04, 12:11 AM
"the backlash of media and Iraqi misgivings would mar our already shakey global standings as a nation builder."

(Since I'm a Native Californian) GAG ME WITH A SPOON! The afore-quoted statement is EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Since when do we NOT have the right to defend ourselves and go after those who wish to cause us harm? I can only imagine what life would have been like if we would have tip toed around Japan after they bombed Pearl Harbor.

"They", the politicians, are looking for a peaceful resolution to ending any conflicts."

A peaceful war ... what a novel concept. But of course ... I understand it now // end sarcasm

To paraphrase a bumpersticker I recently read, "It's God job to judge the terrorists ... it's the Marines job to arrange the meeting."

I know, I know ... I'm just one of those "mean spirited conservatives." "Just" the wife of a Sergeant Major whose done her time and is now just tired and cynical.


(nothing personal WillManning ... you understand)

06-07-04, 12:55 AM
Hey, I was was giving my opinion, not endorsing it.

(nothing personal)

06-07-04, 02:01 AM
lol WillManning ... I must say that's a first for me ... a person who doesn't endorse his own opinion! :) Thanks for the chuckle ... I needed it.

06-07-04, 04:06 AM
I guess that I don't get my point across. I was stating my opinion on what I see going on, I don't agree with how the media portrays the negative every chance they get. The Marines are doing the best they can with what they have. They follow orders to the best of their ability, even if they don't like it. You and I may not agree, but we have the right to state our opinions without fear of reprecussions. We can also choose not to do something if we don't want to, but the those Marine's have no other choice than to follow orders. I say let them get as p*ssed as they want. The next time some boneheads decide to go toe to toe with a platoon of p*ssed off Marines, I sure as heIl wont shed a tear.

I'm glad that I brought some cheer to you life.

06-07-04, 09:25 AM
I understood your point, WillManning ... I was just poking fun at the semantics ... I hope I didn't offend you ... it was not my intent and if I did I apologize.

I understand full well about Marines following orders and agree that they're like a pack of angry dogs waiting ... wanting. The running joke in our house is how my husband can get his unit to lock their bodies with one command ... yet he can't "control" our two year old son!!

"I don't agree with how the media portrays the negative every chance they get."

You and me both.

"I'm glad that I brought some cheer to you life."

Thank you, I am too. I take it where I can get it these days ... 4th LAAD is activating on 25 June ... that's my husband's unit. It'll be like a family reunion in Iraq! My husband, 2 sons-in-law and nephew ... my husband has been chomping at the bit to go!

06-07-04, 11:20 AM
Gen Chuck Krulak was one of the best damn Commandants ever. No offense to Gen Al Gray, but we can't all be 0311. This world changes everyday. We have to change with it or we will become stagnate - be idle; exist in a changeless situation. Our enemies will surpass us. Krulak saw this and took us into the 21st century head first.

Like any major coporation, the Marine Corps has competition. Ever since the birth of the Marine Corps, there are those that fought hard to see it undone. Eisenhower was a huge foe of the Marine Corps. Today, you see the Army struggling to compete in the fast and expeditious warfare market. They are spending billions to become lighter and more mobile. In fact, when I read the article title, I thought this was going to be the subject.

For an inciteful look at what I am saying here, read "Brute" Krulak's book, First to Fight. It's an awesome book.

A common tactic, to the disappointment of many Marines, is to threaten a powerful force if demands are not met. Sometimes, I feel this appropriate. Sometimes, I feel that we shouldn't even bother to make threats. Let's roll in and kill them all. However, it was made apparent to the militia in Fallujah that they would be dealing with the Marines (not the Army). Our expectations were that they would take that as a severe warning to drop arms or die. Now, I believe secretly that the militia was sh|tting their pants, but still, they are prepared to die for their cause and will stand their ground. I think we were made to look like wussies for not following through with "our" threat.

The thing you have to remember is that "winning" this war will not be the one with the largest body count. Their "military" deaths encourage their people - our "military" deaths make our people (non-military) want to pull us out.

They win by turning the world against us. By disrupting our economy, by waging a good PR campaign, and by killing innocents and blaming it on others.

Here's a story that I made up. Tell me if you think people (mainly liberals) would have the same reaction as they do now.

Peter was a 32 year old white male that owned about 600 acres in southwest Montana. The land was passed down to him through several generations of his family. Peter's main source of income came from his donut factory on his property. He had some of the best donuts around. Some people felt Peter was a bit off the wall because he ran a cult on his land of some 500 people. These people had classes where about 50 of them "ruled" the other 450. If one of the 450 disobeyed, they were tortured and/or raped.

Local law enforcement was the enemy. Peter's people would often times blow up a police car or fire weapons at them as they would pass down the road. There was no "hard" evidence against Peter and his people except that they constantly claimed responsibility for these actions. They claimed they did it because others do not live like they do and that others don't follow their beliefs. Others don't believe in their God, Dizzy Bones. For that, they must die, icky bicky (God Willing).

Sometimes the police would take a member of the cult into custody and question him. Sometimes, they would put the spot light on them and withhold cigarettes from them (cigarettes are sacred to these people). This is torture. We can't treat their people like this even though they have claimed responsibility for the deaths of over 25 officers in the past two years.

We are above that. We should pull all law enforcement out of the area and let these people live the way they want to live. Besides, the law enforcement people just want to take all of the donuts from their donut factory.

The police department took a hit in a PR campaign when one of their officers shot and killed a 9 year old boy. The 9 year old was armed to the teeth with various weapons and was shooting at the police. The policer officer should have never been there in the first place.

The sherriff's department planned an operation to go in and seize the ring leaders and arrest them. The Sherriff had to scrap the idea because a moderate church down the road that worships the same God said it would interfere with their 6 month long holiday known as crappy yappy.

All during crappy yappy, police officers were continually shot at. Five more died as a result. They don't fire back because it would disrespect their religious holiday.

After crappy yappy was over, the cult decided that uniformed law enforcement just wasn't a good target anymore. It was decided to go after civilians. They planned and executed a flawless mission of blowing up two Super Wal-Marts - killing over 80,000 people. (Super Wal-Marts are always busy).

That was it. Customers everwhere were outraged. For a week.

Law enforcement gathered from all over the state. The plan was to attack the cult and root out the evil. Customers cheered! Even Target customers were backing this plan. But Wal-greens, K-Mart, and JC Penney customers weren't buying into this attack.

"Maybe we can talk to them peacefully," said the K-Mart customers.

"You are pig-headed just because you have 'Super' in front of your name," said the Wal-greens customers.

"Yeah - Super Wal-Mart deserved it," said the JC Penney customers.

(Later on we find out that the cult on shops at these three stores)

"No blood for Donuts!" said some of the Super Wal-Mart customers.

Target customers protested the action heavily, but Target management supported the effort to root out the cult before they were attacked.

Law Enforcement went on with the attack anyways. They entered the compound and within hours, the 50 or so leaders were shot and killed or captured. Now we had to help the other 450 learn how to live freely. But alas, our troubles have just begun. Tight after the Sheriff declared the mission a success, other cultist of differing religions (but basically the same beliefs) flocked from all over the country to join in the fight.

They took refuge in the homes of the 450. The fired at police from there. Police return fire and accidentally kill a woman and her child. The other cultists get on their public access cable channel and claim that the police are targeting women and children. Outrage ensues. Customers and store managers around the country are screaming foul! The cultists know they can manipulate the public opinion now.

Soon after, the cultist capture an electrician trying to restore power to the property. They publicy behead him on their cable access channel. "Icky, Bicky!" the executioners were heard saying. Customers and store managers remained silent.

A mischevious fellow from up in northern Montana decided this was a prime opportunity to become Sheriff. He claimed he would work harder at gaining approval and getting permission from the bleeding heart liberals. At first he supported the action, but then he didn't. Then he supported the funding for ammunition and body armour, but then he didn't.

So far there is no ending yet.... I'm still thinking on it.......

06-07-04, 12:33 PM
"They win by turning the world against us."

Forget the world ... they're winning by dividing US! Our nation is divided and in my opinion it's a bloody shame (and embarrassment). Whatever folks think about the current administration it is in my opinion that when out in public we should all stand shoulder to shoulder ... "One Nation, under God."

I don't have time to read your story ... but wanted to respond ... even if quickly.

(PS: My 0331 son-in-law called this morning ... and just FYI his unit is getting attacked EVERY SINGLE NIGHT ... so the militia can't be that scared)

06-07-04, 02:02 PM
... then the Sheriff who claimed to be a "decorated war hero," was tried and found guilty of double-speak and was burned alive by the dizzy bones followers whose cause he and his kind helped nurture.

06-07-04, 02:52 PM
Darn, that story sounds familiar. Where'd you get the idea for THAT?

06-07-04, 04:43 PM
My guess, fullmetaljackass, is that it's mostly based on fiction ... just like the decorations on the pseudo war hero.