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  • USMC - rogues or leaders in the fight against counterinsurgency?

    Here is an article in the Washington Post titled At Afghan outpost, Marines gone rogue or leading the fight against counterinsurgency? (click title for link). I posted it here for wider circulation. Given that the article deals (at least in part) with doctrine, I thought it appropriate to do so.

    The Post article presents a fascinating story about how the US Marines are seeking to apply their own warfighting doctrine in Afghanistan, and are butting heads with the army and NATO in the process. Here are some snippets:

    With Obama's July 2011 deadline to begin reducing U.S. forces looming over the horizon, the Marines have opted to wage the war in their own way.

    "If we're going to succeed here, we have to experiment and take risks," said Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, the top Marine commander in Afghanistan. "Just doing what everyone else is doing isn't going to cut it."

    The Marines are pushing into previously ignored Taliban enclaves. They have set up a first-of-its-kind school to train police officers. They have brought in a Muslim chaplain to pray with local mullahs and deployed teams of female Marines to reach out to Afghan women.

    The Marine approach -- creative, aggressive and, at times, unorthodox -- has won many admirers within the military. The Marine emphasis on patrolling by foot and interacting with the population, which has helped to turn former insurgent strongholds along the Helmand River valley into reasonably stable communities with thriving bazaars and functioning schools, is hailed as a model of how U.S. forces should implement counterinsurgency strategy.

    But the Marines' methods, and their insistence that they be given a degree of autonomy not afforded to U.S. Army units, also have riled many up the chain of command in Kabul and Washington, prompting some to refer to their area of operations in the south as "Marineistan." They regard the expansion in Delaram and beyond as contrary to the population-centric approach embraced by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and they are seeking to impose more control over the Marines.
    and

    The U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry, recently noted that the international security force in Afghanistan feels as if it comprises 42 nations instead of 41 because the Marines act so independently from other U.S. forces.

    "We have better operational coherence with virtually all of our NATO allies than we have with the U.S. Marine Corps," said a senior Obama administration official involved in Afghanistan policy.
    and

    The Marine concentration in one part of the country -- as opposed to Army units, which are spread across Afghanistan -- has yielded a pride of place. As it did in Anbar, the Corps is sending some of its most talented young officers to Helmand.

    The result has been a degree of experimentation and innovation unseen in most other parts of the country. Although they account for half of the Afghan population, women had been avoided by military forces, particularly in the conservative south, because it is regarded as taboo for women to interact with males with whom they are not related. In an effort to reach out to them, the Marines have established "female engagement teams."

    Made up principally of female Marines who came to Afghanistan to work in support jobs, the teams accompany combat patrols and seek to sit down with women in villages. Working with female translators, team members answer questions, dispense medical assistance and identify reconstruction needs.

    ***

    The Marines have sought to jump into another void by establishing their own police academy at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand instead of waiting for the U.S. military's national training program to provide recruits. The Marines also are seeking to do something that the military has not been able to do on a national scale: reduce police corruption by accepting only recruits vouched for by tribal elders.

    "This is a shame culture," said Terry Walker, a retired Marine drill instructor who helps run the academy. "If they know they are accountable to their elders, they will be less likely to misbehave."

    Then there's what Marines call the "mullahpalooza tour." Although most U.S. military units have avoided direct engagement with religious leaders in Afghanistan, Nicholson has brought over Lt. Cmdr. Abuhena Saifulislam, one of only two imams in the U.S. Navy, to spend a month meeting -- and praying with -- local mullahs, reasoning that the failure to interact with them made it easier for them to be swayed by the Taliban.
    Finally:
    Nicholson now wants Marine units to push through miles of uninhabited desert to establish control of a crossing point for insurgents, drugs and weapons on the border with Pakistan. And he wants to use the new base in Delaram to mount more operations in Nimruz, a part of far southwestern Afghanistan deemed so unimportant that it is one of the only provinces where there is no U.S. or NATO reconstruction team.

    "This is a place where the enemy are moving in numbers," he said, referring to increased Taliban activity along a newly built highway that bisects the province. "We need to clean it up."

    Nicholson contends that if his forces were kept only in key population centers in Helmand, insurgents would come right up to the gates of towns.

    Other U.S. and NATO military officials say that what the Marines want to do makes sense only if there were not a greater demand for troops elsewhere. Because the Marines cannot easily be moved to Kandahar, U.S. and British military and diplomatic officials have begun discussions to expand the Marine footprint into more populous parts of Helmand with greater insurgent activity where British forces have been outmatched. That shift could occur as soon as this summer, when a Marine-run NATO regional headquarters is established in Helmand.

    Until then, however, Marine commanders want to keep moving.

    "The clock is ticking," Nicholson told members of an intelligence battalion that recently arrived in Afghanistan. "The drawdown will begin next year. We still have a lot to do -- and we don't have a lot of time to do it."
    Personally, I think the Marines should be applauded for thinking outside the box and attempting to find unorthodox solutions. Rather than attempting to reign the Marines in, I think NATO should be supporting their efforts. I understand the chain of command issue, but surely there is a place for more than one approach.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    "USMC - rogues or leaders in the fight against counterinsurgency?"

    Yes...
    Watts Up With That? | The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change.

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    • #3
      The Corps has always had to rely on the ingenuity of it's junior officers, Staff Non Comissioned Officers, and NCOs to accomplish the mission they are assigned.

      If nothing else, this shows the flexibility the Corps has in it's warfighting capabilities.


      Ben
      "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."— Bertrand Russell

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Leftie View Post
        The Corps has always had to rely on the ingenuity of it's junior officers, Staff Non Comissioned Officers, and NCOs to accomplish the mission they are assigned.

        If nothing else, this shows the flexibility the Corps has in it's warfighting capabilities.


        Ben
        I seem to recall that the Small Wars Manual was more or less written by junior officers and NCO's.

        From the Haitian Constabulary of 1915 to the Combined Action Platoons in Vietnam, it was junior officers and NCO's who wrote the COIN book.

        MARSOC
        Watts Up With That? | The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Leftie View Post
          The Corps has always had to rely on the ingenuity of it's junior officers, Staff Non Comissioned Officers, and NCOs to accomplish the mission they are assigned.

          If nothing else, this shows the flexibility the Corps has in it's warfighting capabilities.


          Ben
          Yup. Its consistent with the maneuver warfare doctrine adopted by the Corps:

          Warfare directed towards destroying enemy cohesion as opposed to seizing real estate; at taking the enemy force out of play decisively instead of wearing him down through slow attrition; high tempo war; fluid war that has no defined fronts or formations; decentralized armies where troops act on their own with high initiative as opposed to centralized command structures where troops ask permission and wait for orders; war designed to place the enemy in a dilemma, to suck him in to traps of his own creation, taking advantage of his stupidities and weaknesses and avoiding his strengths; war where soldiers act on judgment not on rules; war without rules; war that seeks to penetrate the enemy rather than push opposing lines backwards and forwards; war waged by a cohesive team that is like a family or tribe with a common culture and common outlook; a willingness to fight close, not just applying firepower from a long standoff, but infiltrating when the opportunity arises, as did 1st. Marine Division in Desert Storm
          Col. Michael Wyly, U.S.M.C. Ret., “Thinking Like Marines,” 1991, cited here at page 36. Wyly was the founding Vice-President of Marine Corps University and one of the prime originators of maneuver warfare in the Marine Corps.

          Here is an interesting thesis paper The Road To FMFM 1: The United States Marine Corps And Maneuver Warfare Doctrine, 1979-1989, by Fideleon Damian, discussing the adoption of the manuever warfare doctrine.
          Last edited by The Ibis; 18 Mar 10, 16:54.

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          • #6
            I just posted this on the Fingerspitzengefuehl thread, but thought it was relevant here given its dicussion of USMC doctrine and training. From Approaching Genius: Warfighting And Command In The 21st Century, by Major Michael C. Harasimowicz, which can be accessed here:

            United States Marine Corps: Fostering Intuitive Leadership
            The Marine Corps has a rich history of conducting warfare in the most threatening environments under vague direction and thriving due to the quality of its leadership. The Marines have experienced combat in small wars throughout the world. From 1800 to 1934, the Marine Corps landed troops 180 times in 37 countries. Expeditionary operations and decentralized authority exemplify the Marine ethos. “Small wars demand the highest type of leadership directed by intelligence, resourcefulness, and ingenuity…[S]mall wars are conceived in uncertainty, [and] are conducted often with precarious responsibility and doubtful authority.” This modus operandi represents Marine expectations of the future war and the premium they place on intuitive leadership.

            Marine command philosophy reflects a blend of the classic teachings of Clausewitz with the modernity of Air Force Colonel Boyd’s decision model, the Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act (OODA) loop. The result eschews prescriptive guidance, but instead, fosters individual synthetic genius: a commander adept at applying the lessons of history to battlefield uncertainty. Marine Corp Doctrine Publication (MCDP) 1-0 Warfighting states, “A military decision is not merely a mathematical computation. Decision-making requires both the situational awareness to recognize the essence of a given problem and the creative ability to devise a practical solution. The abilities are products of experience, education, and intelligence.” Because “[W]arfighting is, in essence, time competitive,” intuitive decision-making “emphasizes…the ability of a commander to rapidly process information.”

            The Marine Corps emphasizes the need for an intuitive approach to leadership. Marines believe “we can never eliminate uncertainty, we must learn to fight effectively despite it. We can do this by developing simple, flexible plans, planning for likely contingencies, …and fostering initiative among subordinates…[W]e must realize that errors by junior leaders stemming from overboldness are a necessary part of learning. We should deal with such errors leniently…On the other hand; we should deal severely with errors in inaction or timidity. ” Much of the MCDP series is based on Clausewitz and strives to enable genius at the lowest levels. Decentralizing command lessens the demands of span of control, and therefore, requires clear commander’s intent and discipline of the forces. In this way, smaller units can operate with optimized tactical efficiency.

            The intuitive, decentralized method when compared to an analytic approach is faster, albeit, carries risk. Mistakes are learning points and are encouraged. As stated before, Marine decisiveness defines Marine leadership. Williamson Murray, a former Horner Professor of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University, applies the history of wargaming to improving training. He makes the comparison with pre-WWII German tradition. “Throughout the late 1930s, one sees the same pattern as the Germans conducted exercises and then combat operations. In all cases, they continued to critically assess what had occurred in the field. They learned from their mistakes. Key to their approach was the treatment of errors… They saw mistakes as a learning experience, not a cause for reproof.” Conversely, French and British attitudes during the same period tended to suppress negative reporting to the detriment of their readiness.

            The Marine Corps produces zealous advocates for fostering intuition and self-study. Lt Gen (ret) Paul Van Riper formally unveiled intuition as a corner stone of Marine ethos in 1995 citing that the traditional decision-making process was too methodical and “the intuitive approach is more suited to the rapidly changing conditions of modern war.” Former USCENTCOM Commander, Gen Anthony Zinni, while reenforcing the dynamics of Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW), remarked, “You need to be much broader-based in your knowledge. You need to be much more flexible in your thinking. You may need to think entirely differently about cultures, about history…that will lead you to do things that you would never arrive at using the military decision-making process.” Gen Van Riper also has stressed that this intuition is a product of “an officer corps that intensely studied the profession of arms through the lenses of history…Leaders must demand intellectual rigor in thinking and writing.” Embracing the intuitive approach and aggressively advocating self-study are representative within the USMC ethos and consistent with Clausewitzian description.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
              Personally, I think the Marines should be applauded for thinking outside the box and attempting to find unorthodox solutions. Rather than attempting to reign the Marines in, I think NATO should be supporting their efforts. I understand the chain of command issue, but surely there is a place for more than one approach.

              Thoughts?
              The chain of command, by its very nature, wants to do that exactly that: command. It makes the brass uncomfortable whenever company officers or staff NCO's act on their own initiative. Indeed, the brass' modus operandi is not so much to lead, or direct, but to micromanage, and ever since the introduction of "blue-force tracker," this tendency has grown absolutely intolerable. Combine that with Gen McChrystal's very controversal "soft" COIN strategy, and you're looking at a lot of friction between guys hanging around Kabul and Bagram in starched cammies and dusty troopers out in the field.

              COIN will always require outside-the-box thinking. The Marines in Helmand may do some things wrong -- but never has it been more evident that the time has come to do things differently. That's what these Marines are doing. They should be supported by their chain of command, but knowing head-shed types the way I do, they'll be second-guessed, undermined, and left out to dry.
              I was married for two ******* years! Hell would be like Club Med! - Sam Kinison

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              • #8
                Let's hear it for OUR scruffy, mud-faced, hard muscled and stubborn kids who want to win whatever the cost. Being a former "scruffy", said with PRIDE, let me give you some points to Google:

                The Banana Wars
                The Litigation of Peking
                The Gendarmerie of Haiti
                Lt. Gen Louis B. "Chesty" Puller
                The Florida Indian Wars

                Well I guess enough for now. There's a history with these "Little Wars" with the Corps. The Army, and they are an OK bunch of folks who'd rather be Marines, are like artists... They love the big wide strokes. "Le Grande Operatione", the "Big" fight. That is what they are geared for. Well, there are no big fights in this war of terror. The Corps has always been effective in this kind of environment. No, I will not bring up Viet Nam, it's unfair to the Army and their tactics. They ARE great at what they do, I give them cudo's and in a Brigade vs. Brigade scenario, I'll take them every time. What if the Marines are successful? What if they get the desired results? Will the Army start a new school? No, they won't, they were so jealous they tried to incorporate the USMC in the 1940's, and much to their chagrin failed.

                Give the Army the "Grande Mission" of blocking off any retreat, and let those dirty, scruffy Devil-Dogs (a term not even loosely connected with the Army in WW1) the mission of taking care of everything in-between.

                The DOD has to stop trying to make everyone happy, and get the job done. Be Bold, Be Aggressive, that's the USMC way. Some Army units think the same way, I say let them play. But once someone cracks a manual, SACK him/her.Combat is not for everyone. If it was everyone would do it, and some branches of the DOD allow it.

                Let those who can do, let those who can't watch.
                In Vino Veritas

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dongar1 View Post
                  The Litigation of Peking
                  - sic

                  That's "Legation." Damn, one dumb Jarhead can fck everything up for the rest of us. Next time, get it right, Marine!



                  There's one thing going on during the current war on terror that I don't like: US Army Special Forces have been steadily undermined by their chain of command. Lots of COIN, Foreign Internal Development (training of foreign forces) and other SF specialties are being ignored by SOCOM in favor of "direct action," and more of the COIN, FID, and other "banana war" stuff is going back to the Corps. The Corps' a great institution, to be sure, but it would be a tremendous waste not to make maximum use of US Army's SF's experience and body of work, which is substantial, to put it mildly. They're real pros, and that they're being marginalized like this is a damned shame.
                  I was married for two ******* years! Hell would be like Club Med! - Sam Kinison

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Let's See. The ARMY is Bing about how the Marines are running their operation.

                    Let's look at the track record, and to be fair, we'll only look at the GWOT, and ignore completely all the small wars which created the environment the Marines operate in Today.

                    The Marines clean up Fallujah once. They then turn the city over to the Army, which promptly succeeds in botching it so badly that the Marines have to go back into Fallujah a second time and remind the Army how to clean up a town.

                    Ditto for Ramadi.

                    The Army has been the predominant force in Afghanistan ever since Iraq got started. The Marines have been chomping at the bit to get into Afghanistan, and were practically begging for the Army to transfer it's divisions into Iraq so the Marines could have their own theater. That went over like radioactive pancakes at a rest home. Ever since the "major combat ops" in Afghanistan ended, the Army had been losing momentum, to the point that without an enormous surge, it was feared that the Taliban might ressurect into a full-fleged military again.

                    This is due in part to issues with Pakistan, the DoD, and others, but also due to a mismanagement of operations. From what I have been reading/hearing, US forces in Afghanistan were getting to be like the Russians, just with Strykers and Humvees instead of BTRs and BMPs.

                    The Marines finally get their chance to throw a brigage-divisional level force into Afghanistan, and within the year they're not only getting different results in their province, they're starting down the path to turn Helmand into model citizens????? And they're doing it by foot patrols, linking with religious/social leaders, taking time to understand the culture, and working within the local governing bodies?? Ummmm, can we say Common Freaking Sense!!!

                    The real question shouldn't be why the Marines aren't statically garrisoning large population centers. The real question should be why the ARMY is making the same mistakes the US made in Vietnam all over again. Screw up once, it's a mistake. Screw up twice in the same way, and you're incompetent.
                    Last edited by TacCovert4; 18 Mar 10, 22:17.
                    Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dongar1 View Post
                      Let's hear it for OUR scruffy, mud-faced, hard muscled and stubborn kids who want to win whatever the cost. Being a former "scruffy", said with PRIDE, let me give you some points to Google:

                      The Banana Wars
                      The Litigation of Peking
                      The Gendarmerie of Haiti
                      Lt. Gen Louis B. "Chesty" Puller
                      The Florida Indian Wars

                      Well I guess enough for now. There's a history with these "Little Wars" with the Corps. The Army, and they are an OK bunch of folks who'd rather be Marines, are like artists... They love the big wide strokes. "Le Grande Operatione", the "Big" fight. That is what they are geared for. Well, there are no big fights in this war of terror. The Corps has always been effective in this kind of environment. No, I will not bring up Viet Nam, it's unfair to the Army and their tactics. They ARE great at what they do, I give them cudo's and in a Brigade vs. Brigade scenario, I'll take them every time. What if the Marines are successful? What if they get the desired results? Will the Army start a new school? No, they won't, they were so jealous they tried to incorporate the USMC in the 1940's, and much to their chagrin failed.

                      Give the Army the "Grande Mission" of blocking off any retreat, and let those dirty, scruffy Devil-Dogs (a term not even loosely connected with the Army in WW1) the mission of taking care of everything in-between.

                      The DOD has to stop trying to make everyone happy, and get the job done. Be Bold, Be Aggressive, that's the USMC way. Some Army units think the same way, I say let them play. But once someone cracks a manual, SACK him/her.Combat is not for everyone. If it was everyone would do it, and some branches of the DOD allow it.

                      Let those who can do, let those who can't watch.
                      Enlighten an ex RM bootneck, just what is the beef about? are the nasty Marines being to hard on those poor insurgents, etc:? What a load of cr*p!! How do they reckon it would be if the situation was in reverse? Get stuck into them lads, beat the daylights out of 'em. Marines were originally invented to do jobs that nobody else particularly wanted, thats why we do them so well!! Cheers, Lcm1.
                      'By Horse by Tram'.


                      I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                      " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by slick_miester View Post
                        Combine that with Gen McChrystal's very controversal "soft" COIN strategy, and you're looking at a lot of friction between guys hanging around Kabul and Bagram in starched cammies and dusty troopers out in the field.
                        .
                        Same old thing, the Marines do it better with less and everyone else gets jealous, especially the US Army.

                        So, will they learn and get more involved, or will the Pentagon and NATO join forces to sabotage the winning part of the team? Going by past wars, it looks like the later is more likely.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          No, the beef has always been the inherent competition between the USArmy and the USMC. The Army is bigger, and normally gets theater Commands, and well, the Marines wind up having the better philosophy when the fecal matter hits the oscillator.

                          We lead from the bottom in the field, with input but less micromanagement from the top, hence extensive training of enlisted and junior NCOs into the value of the "strategic Corporal" and other such things I haven't heard out of the Army. We also mastered improvisation, mostly due to always having to make do with few people, smaller budgets, and older gear.

                          Note the unspoken "No Jarheads in Europe" policy during Normandy, even though it would have been possible to get a division or 2 of Marines transported and in place for the assault. Might have even been a little less bloody in places, with their specialized tracked landing craft. In every theater, with a possible exception being the WWII Pacific, whenever Marines and Army are on the same field of battle, it is a competition. And frankly, the Marines have kind of been showing the Army up. Like since the war of 1812. And then First Manassas (Marine Buttons were found at the high water mark of the unsuccessful Union attack). And the list goes on, from time to time.

                          And I am wholly objective about everything I have stated........
                          Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                          • #14
                            Just goes to show what a bunch of self-motivated AVIS-a$$holes can do.
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                              No, the beef has always been the inherent competition between the USArmy and the USMC. The Army is bigger, and normally gets theater Commands, and well, the Marines wind up having the better philosophy when the fecal matter hits the oscillator.

                              We lead from the bottom in the field, with input but less micromanagement from the top, hence extensive training of enlisted and junior NCOs into the value of the "strategic Corporal" and other such things I haven't heard out of the Army. We also mastered improvisation, mostly due to always having to make do with few people, smaller budgets, and older gear.

                              Note the unspoken "No Jarheads in Europe" policy during Normandy, even though it would have been possible to get a division or 2 of Marines transported and in place for the assault. Might have even been a little less bloody in places, with their specialized tracked landing craft. In every theater, with a possible exception being the WWII Pacific, whenever Marines and Army are on the same field of battle, it is a competition. And frankly, the Marines have kind of been showing the Army up. Like since the war of 1812. And then First Manassas (Marine Buttons were found at the high water mark of the unsuccessful Union attack). And the list goes on, from time to time.

                              And I am wholly objective about everything I have stated........
                              Yes, get the gist of your argument Joe, must admit I did not see any specialised 'tracked' landing craft though,not during the Normandy period anyway. I know they came into being later but not at that time! Lcm1.
                              'By Horse by Tram'.


                              I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                              " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

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