Marine Forces for the Future
Gen. George Crist, USMC (Ret.)
The Marine Corps has always lived on the margin beside the larger U.S. military services. Historically the strength and capabilities of the Corps have followed a sine curve, rising and falling in direct relation with the extent of America's military commitments and involvements. The era of U.S.-Soviet confrontation, and related conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, marked nearly forty years of historically unprecedented stability for the Corps.
The fading of the confrontation era is stripping away the commitment by the United States to a global war posture, and with it the cushion against descending military manpower levels and reduced resources. Now the Marine Corps again faces fierce competition for a share of defense allocations and for the visibility of its role in the post-containment strategy.
The fortunes of the Marine Corps have traditionally been founded in four potential missions: large wars, limited or regional wars, small wars, and demonstrations of force. By public law the roles and missions of the Marine Corps are primarily naval and amphibious: they focus on the seizure and defense of advanced naval bases and the conduct of land operations essential to the prosecution of naval campaigns. In reality, however, what the Corps is called upon to undertake often has little relevance to the words of the law. The Marine Corps is proscribed from being a "second land army." Yet in World Wars I and II, in Korea, in Vietnam, and more recently in the Persian Gulf, that is precisely how the Corps was used.