Friday, May 26, 2006

Divide and Conquer

I have been thinking about how the military should be reorganized. It all began while reading a book about the Vietnam War, in which they discussed the overlapping fields of responsibility, and how interservice rivalries kept branches of the military from using the tools most appropriate to the job and led to great confusion in missions. While I was thinking about it, I realized that there are two branches of the military whose roles overlap and complement each other so greatly that they should be combined. The Marines and... the Coast Guard.

First, we must break away from the paradigm of the Coast Guard as a defensive, domestic, security apparatus, which patrols America's coasts, lakes, and rivers, and consider it as a brown-water navy, which takes as its purvey all of the lakes, rivers, and coasts of the world. The Navy can then be focused as a blue-water navy whose job is to fight enemy ships--in essence, to keep the seas clear so the brown-water navy can do its work.

Second, in the last few wars, the Marines have been used primarily as light infantry, because their speciality, amphibious landings, are not often needed by the United States (between helicopters and hovercraft, amphibious landings have become rather routine). However, the Coast Guard could definitely use some Marines. Boarding ships, the pre-ironclad purpose of the Marines, is only practiced by the Coast Guard (plus, they could continue their anti-piracy history "to the shores of Tripoli"). Riverine war, furthermore, requires the ability to project force onto the banks of the river. Such small scale amphibious landings (a squad, or at most, a platoon at a time) would fit very well with the Marines' structure and professionalism, since it would rely very heavily on junior officers and non-coms.

River crossing, the most hazardous manuever in a ground war, would also be a Marine responsibility. The Marines and the Army have different tactics. The Army tends to husband its troops carefully, since a soldier you don't lose now is one you have for a later battle. The Marines, by contrast, are willing to accept high casualties to achieve their objective, because if they don't get off the beach, they're all going to die. Crossing a river fits the tactical nature of the Marines far better than it does the Army.

There are three environments that we deal with: land, which the Army handles, water, which the Navy handles, and the land/water mix of coasts, lakes, and rivers, which both the Coast Guard and the Marines handle. The Coast Guard is mostly water, the Marines are mostly land, but together, they would be able to dominate that environment more effectively than either could alone.


Blogger Noumenon said...

I have been thinking about how the military should be reorganized.

It seems like you're thinking about something, but it almost seems like you're not thinking about the military because you're not thinking about any characteristics of our actual military organization, like its history or its internal politics. It's kind of like if I was thinking about how the world should be reorganized and it would really make more sense for the U.P. to be part of Wisconsin and Guatemala, Honduras, and Ecuador to all just be part of the same country, and for Africa to provide more peacekeeping forces because they're comparatively advantaged.

Of course people think about how the Packers should be reorganized all the time without thinking about how Favre would react to a new player or who in the general office is unreasonably committed to their last draft pick. If I had pie in the sky, I think I'd cut it in nine pieces and put whipped cream on top.

1:10 PM  

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