A reason for the many changes.
Opinion by Tom Rogan • 1h ago
The Marines remind us that China is coming© Provided by Washington Examiner
The U.S. Marine Corps recognizes that war with China over Taiwan or in the South China Sea will mean conflict on a combined naval, air, and land scale unseen since 1945. And unlike in 1945, space will be part of the battle. In turn, and with far greater speed and intrepidity than the other service branches, the Marines have been reforming to maximize their readiness to fight and win if the China war arrives.
These efforts have centered under Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s “Force 2030” vision. It’s about making the Marines more nimble, survivable, and lethal in the face of the People’s Liberation Army. Returning to the Marines’ 1940s amphibious roots in the Pacific, hard service that included my grandfather (now 98 years old), Berger wants his force able quickly to get small groups of Marines on reefs, islands, and other positions in the South and East China seas. The intention is then to use these forward bases to sustain anti-naval, anti-air, striking, and intelligence operations for the rest of the U.S. military. These Marine units would also provide screening for the Navy, protecting vulnerable forces from surprise attack.
Put simply, the Marines intend to maximize what is known in military parlance as “friction” for the enemy. And they intend to do so at great risk to themselves, openly declaring their intent to operate in the “adversary’s weapons engagement zone.”
This bold effort to get Marines into harm’s way and keep them in the fight isn’t born out of some delusional gung-ho excitement for bloody war. Like my grandfather, today’s Marines know war is hell. On the contrary, Force 2030’s first design is the opposite effect: reinforcing Xi Jinping’s trepidation over what any war with the United States might entail so that he doesn’t launch such a war in the first place. As Berger put it to Congress in March, “Persuading an adversary that a quick win is not possible by demonstrating an ability to generate, regenerate, and sustain combat power is, in itself, a deterrent.”
Yet reform isn’t just complicated in terms of training, operations, and theory. It’s also complicated in terms of politics. To generate this new Marine Corps, Berger has divested the Marines of their cannon artillery and tank units. This has earned the ire of those who apparently want the Marines to fight the PLA’s superb Type-055 air defense destroyers with Abrams tanks.
The Navy has been slower to adopt a similar revolution in thinking, unable to generate forces quickly enough or to mitigate the threat posed by the PLA’s Dongfeng-class anti-ship ballistic missiles (dozens of which would employ redundant targeting capabilities to seek out U.S. aircraft carriers in war). It should be noted that the Biden administration and members of Congress, including those who know better, have further complicated the Navy’s situation.
Still, there is good cause for hope when it comes to the Marines. A Marine Corps video released on Thursday outlined the rapid progress that has been made. In a not-so-subtle rejection of other services that are lowering standards to boost manpower, the video pledges not to lower unit entry standards. And as a Marine narrator put it, “It’s not a question of if we’re going to go back to combat. It’s a question of when … we’re not interested in prepping the last fight. We’re interested in fighting the next fight.” This video fits with the Marines’ quite overt recognition in its more recent recruiting ads that a violent engagement with a Pacific nation is now its core focus.
To Biden’s credit, he has nominated Berger’s deputy and Force 2030 manager, Gen. Eric Smith, to become the next commandant.