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Congress Must Save the Marine Corps

Pfc. Lindsay M. Marseilles, honor graduate for Platoon 4044, November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, graduated boot camp Nov. 16, 2018. Marseilles is from Louisville, Ky. (Official U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)
May 30, 2023

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I was completely unaware of the crisis building in the United States Marine Corps until I received an article from Bing West “Marine Corps No More?”

West is a distinguished military historian who served in the Marines and wrote an extraordinary book, “The Village,” about a year spent reclaiming a Vietnamese village from the communists.

West has written a dozen books about modern war and is an astute and often critical observer of the modern military. He also served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

Bing wrote:

“[T]he current Commandant, General David H. Berger, has radically transformed the image and the mission of the Marine Corps.” He went on to assert “The primary focus now is upon developing missile units intended to sink Chinese warships. To fund those units, General Berger did away with 21% of the personnel in infantry battalions, 100% of the tanks, 67% of the cannon artillery batteries, 33% of the assault amphibious companies, nearly 30% of Marine aviation, and almost all assault breaching equipment. The desired number of large amphibious ships was reduced from 38 to 31. Due to these cuts, Marines are less capable to fight as a combined arms force. The Marine Corps cannot seize a city from an entrenched enemy, as it did Fallujah in 2004.”

West condemned the current commandant:

“General Berger concocted his concept in secret, not consulting the retired four-star community that, appalled by his extensive cuts, has united in opposition.” He went on to assert that “Marine resources and organizational cohesion have been severely damaged. General Berger’s injudicious change of direction will adversely affect Marine war-fighting capabilities, internal morale, and recruiting for years to come.”

All of this has been done for a stunningly stupid investment in a land based anti-ship mission against China that will not work. It is competitive rather than complementary with the Navy and Air Force, and it is a scandalous misallocation of Marine resources. Inserting by sea three or four small Marine units, with no support, on atolls in the South China Sea invites capture and defeat.

The Marine Corps has a long and proud history of being America’s immediate response force in a crisis. The Marine Hymn captures this sense of universal duty to protect America.

“From the Halls of Montezuma
“To the shores of Tripoli;
“We fight our country’s battles
“In the air, on land, and sea;
“First to fight for right and freedom”

When the Marines were sent to France in World War I and fought ferociously in the battle for Belleair Woods, they so impressed their German opponents they were called “devil dogs.”

When the Marine First Division found itself surrounded by at least four times as many Chinese Communist troops at the frozen Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, it reversed from attacking north toward the Yalu to attacking south to reach allied forces on the coast. In one of the most heroic battles of modern times (Nov. 27-Dec. 13) the First Marines maintained their unit cohesion and fought aggressively inflicting huge and unsustainable casualties on the Chinese.

Again and again, the Marines have done the job when called.

In this process, they have developed a combined arms battle doctrine and an intense commitment to unit cohesion and effectiveness in battle that are extraordinary achievements.

It is astonishing that a Marine Corps Commandant would abandon this history and its capacity for a China-centered anti-ship strategy. That plan may be useful in the Navy or the Air Force, but it is indefensible as a reason for destroying the Marine Corps’ combined arms capabilities.

It is little wonder that  Politico reported on April 1, 2022, that two dozen retired generals were trying to stop this incredibly stupid overhaul.

Congress should demand in depth hearings and a thorough review of this strategy, which is almost certainly going to fail its stated intent of offsetting Communist China at sea. Shifting resources away from a combined arms Marine Corps to a technologically advanced but combat weak force is the wrong move.

For those who believe somehow drones and computers have replaced ground combat and heavy equipment, it is worth looking at the volume of equipment and ammunition being sent to Ukraine. Ukraine is begging for tanks as the Marine Corps is mothballing them.

This is a dangerous development for American security and safety.


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is Chairman of the multimedia production and consulting company Gingrich 360. He is a Fox News contributor, podcast host and syndicated columnist, and has also written 41 books, including including 18 fiction and nonfiction New York Times bestsellers.