9 years ago
From the North County Times:
CAMP PENDLETON —- As Pentagon planners wrestle with a proposal that the Marine Corps take the lead in Afghanistan and leave Iraq largely in the hands of the Army, troops at Camp Pendleton say the idea makes sense.
Several officers and enlisted men spoke to the North County Times last week about the proposal on the condition their names not be used, saying they didn’t want to run afoul of their commanders.
“People are talking it about it all the time,” a lieutenant colonel said of the idea that the Marines be shifted to a new mission. “We go in, we kick ass and we turn it over to the Army. We’re not supposed to be a long-term occupying force.”
A base master sergeant said the idea recently floated by Marine Corps Commandant James Conway is a “hot topic” in staff sessions.
“People are saying it makes sense,” the sergeant said. “We’re not supposed to be in Iraq as a security force. We’re an expeditionary fighting force that trains for combat, not civil affairs.”
Conway has said that he made the proposal because security is improving in Iraq. He said his troops should be serving in a quick-reaction combat role, rather than as an occupying force bogged down by civil affairs work.
Army leaders have declined to comment on Conway’s suggestion, which will ultimately be decided by the White House and by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
On Thursday, Gates threw cold water on the idea.
“I would say if that if it happens, it’ll be long after I’m secretary of defense,” he told reporters during a news conference in Washington.
There is the crux of the issue, isn’t it? The Marines are an expeditionary force, fighters with an ethos of battle. Gates may indeed push back against the idea. However, is his statement more an observation of the inertia in a large bureaucracy with respect to planning and change? Is he saying that he doubts that the Marines can make the plans and obtain agreement from the other branches of the Armed Forces in the time remaining on his watch? If so, it would seem that he has set the gauntlet in place, and it is time for the Corps to respond.