With the Iraq war ending and an Afghanistan exit in sight, the Marine Corps is beginning a historic shift — a return to its roots as a seafaring force that will get smaller, lighter and, it hopes, less bogged down in land wars.
This moment of change happens to coincide with a reorienting of American security priorities to the Asia-Pacific region, where China has been building military muscle during a decade of U.S. preoccupation in the greater Middle East. That suits the Marines, who see the Pacific as a home away from home.
After two turns at combat in Iraq — first as invaders in the 2003 march to Baghdad and later as occupiers of landlocked Anbar province — the Marines left the country in early 2010 to reinforce the fight in southern Afghanistan. Over that stretch the Marines became what the former Joint Chiefs chairman, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, has called their own “worst nightmare:” a second American land army, a static, ground-pounding auxiliary force.
The Corps has always been an expeditionary force, lean from tooth to tail and immediately on-call for a broad spectrum of military operations. Getting out of static encampments and back to sea to serve as America’s
9/11 9-1-1 force is a good idea.
We don’t need two land armies, but we do need Marines.