In Defense of the Marines

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

The world over, the word Marine defines something more than a soldier.  It arouses the image of a warrior on the boundlessness of the oceans, coming from the mystique of the sea onto the land – an amphibian, a soldier of the sea.  The aura is of one who is different and of whom more is expected … This is The Corps, the strongest brotherhood in the world (The Marines).

Michael Yon is a clearheaded reporter and diligent – even relentless – embedded blogger.  Every article he writes is worth reading, and then reading again.  But permit us a spirited response to one of his statements in The Ghosts of Anbar, Part II of IV (actually, Michael is quoting others at this point).

Arrowhead Ripper was merely the latest experience that underlines the Army’s rapidly-growing expertise. Yet the Marines have adapted faster and seem poised to win the war in their battle space. In fact, it’s been Army officers who have told me repeatedly over the past several years that nobody is successfully morphing to meet this war faster than the Marines. Of course, Army officers who compliment Marines always say, “But that didn’t come from me.?

While a nice-sounding compliment, it completely misses the point, similar to the commendations of strategy change under General Petraeus.  With all due respect, whether under the command of General Abizaid or General Petraeus, the Marines have done their own thing from the very beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Marines have essentially won Anbar in spite of the obstacles created by the administration.  The pullback from the first battle for Fallujah is now roundly criticized as a strategic blunder, but the Marines had no such desire to pull back, and were incredulous at such an idea.  Yet upon being offered responsibility for the province with the worst security situation on the planet, the Marines accepted without hesitation.  For approximately four years now, half of the United States Marine Corps has been deployed in the Anbar Province, taking sniper fire, enduring IEDs, and battling both al Qaeda and indigenous insurgents.

There hasn’t been so much as a hint of pullback from duties, and instead of cloistering in safe Forward Operating Bases and hunkering down behind barriers, they took the fight to the enemy from combat outposts.  The Marines had tested the strategy of combat outposts in Anbar before Petraeus ever changed the strategy for the Army.  Contrary to the British who falsely believed that a ‘softer’ approach would win hearts and minds, they knew that before a terrorized population could trust them, the fight must be taken to the insurgency with heavy kinetic operations.

Americans learned a basic lesson of warfare here: that Iraqis, bludgeoned for 24 years by Saddam’s terror, are wary of rising against any force, however brutal, until it is in retreat. In Anbar, Sunni extremists were the dominant force, with near-total popular support or acquiescence, until the offensive broke their power.

This work set the foundation in place for the so-called Anbar Awakening, or the turning of the tribes against al Qaeda.  The Awakening cannot and must not be seen in the abstract without the proper framework.  The framework was built by three prior years of operations by Marines.

Upon this change in Anbar, the Marines knew that constabulary operations and reconstruction were necessary to completely win the security, and relationships with the population were of the utmost importance.  Thus, field grade officers worked hard behind the scenes for years to cultivate friendships with tribal sheiks and community leaders.

There is nothing spurious (the tribes suddenly awakened) or accidental about the victory in Anbar.  It was planned and executed with precision by the United States Marine Corps.  As for the idea of the Marines ”morphing” into an effective counterinsurgency force, those who have followed history find this to be slightly amusing.  The Marines have been fighting and winning small wars in over 300 engagements since their birthday of 10 November 1775.

From General Lejeune’s Marine Corps Birthday Message:

“On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of it’s existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the nations foes. From the battle of Trenton to the Argonne. Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home. Generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term Marine has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.”

  • http://www.fumento.com fumento

    I cannot stand inter-service rivalries. (Competition is fine; rivalry is destructive.) Though an Army airborne vet, I have been in combat with Marines, GIs, and sailors (SEALs and Corpsmen). All of them impressed me with their courage, dedication, and professionalism. That said, I would like to point out that if you could go to one originator of the plan to win over Sunni tribes it may well be Capt. Travis Patriquin, Ranger and hero of Operation Anaconda, whom I met a few weeks before his unfortunate demise in Ramadi.

    Patriquin began such work in Tal Afar long before it started in al Anbar (http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/milreview/English/JanFeb07/Patriquin.pdf). He talked to me at length about how it was proceeding in Ramadi. Finally, who out there is not familiar with his famous PP presentation, “How to Win in al Anbar?) Here it is:

    http://www.indcjournal.com/archives/002878.php

  • Breakerjump

    Rivalry does a body good. It’s the truth I promise.


You are currently reading "In Defense of the Marines", entry #588 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Marine Corps and was published August 30th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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