How US Marines Are Being Reshaped for China ‘Threat’

MILITARISM, 6 Feb 2023

Jonathan Marcus | BBC News - TRANSCEND Media Service

The US military commitment to the Pacific was underlined in a White House meeting between the leaders of the US and Japan. But behind the scenes, this renewed focus on Asia has sparked a fierce debate within one of its most fabled military forces.

Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington DC

1 Feb 2023 – A bitter family row has erupted in one of the US military’s most hallowed institutions, the US Marine Corps.

A host of its former senior commanders are lining up to attack the current leadership over plans for its reinvention.

At issue is a plan to adapt the service for a potential conflict against China – a plan dubbed Force Design 2030. Almost from its inception this plan has been un89der attack with a cohort of retired generals taking the unusual approach of going to the press to air their frustrations.

Retired senior officers have been meeting regularly; speaking at seminars and think tanks; and devising their own alternative to a plan which they see as a disaster for the Marine Corps’ future.

One prominent critic is the former US Navy Secretary and former Senator for Virginia, Jim Webb, who served as a Marine officer in the Vietnam War and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2015.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he described Force Design 2030 as “insufficiently tested” and “intrinsically flawed”. He warned that the plan “raised serious questions about the wisdom and long-term risk of dramatic reductions in force structure, weapons systems and manpower levels in units that would take steady casualties in most combat scenarios”.

So what has got them all so upset?

Launched in 2020 by the Marine Corps Commandant General David H Berger, the plan is intended to equip the Marines for a potential conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific region rather than counter-insurgency wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new plan sees the Marines as fighting dispersed operations across chains of islands. Units will be smaller, more spread out, but packing a much bigger punch through a variety of new weapons systems. Huge amphibious landings like in World War Two or massive deployments on land – like in Iraq – will probably be things of the past.

Most unpopular is the plan to cut back on foot soldiers and give up all its tanks. Such proposals have led some critics to feel the Corps is turning its back on its past.

While it has close ties with the US Navy it is a separate service which grew dramatically in World War Two and has taken a prominent role in recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Public perceptions of the Marine Corps are powerfully influenced by the World War Two experience. Anyone who has seen John Wayne in the 1949 feature film The Sands of Iwo Jima or the more recent mini-series The Pacific produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks will remember the large-scale amphibious operations; men storming ashore from landing craft and so on.


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