Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 20

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 18
the tremendous impact of air-delivered attacks, but they also
demonstrate the need for complementary capabilities.Power
projection cannot be just precision strike unless the mission is
entirely punitive. We must create dilemmas strategically and
operationally to achieve decisive results.
A need for innovative thinking
Classical amphibious assaults, with long planning cycles,
extended force buildups and transoceanic deployments with
massive 16”guns providing fire support to create beachheads
full of troops and logistics are “old think.” The Marine Corps
has recognized that for quite some time. Doctrinally, they
have never sought to limit the employment of amphibious
forces to scenarios that involve only assaults directly against
the strongest part of prepared defenses. For the past
generation Marine planners have sought to apply the tenets
of maneuver warfare by seeking gaps in the enemy’s total
system, by creating and exploiting vulnerabilities.
Furthermore, efforts at the Marine Corps Combat
Development Command for the past decade have focused
on achieving the capability to
enemy strengths, striking
directly against critical vulnerabilities and enemy centers of
gravity. Operating concepts like
Ship-to-Objective Maneuver
and capabilities embodied in systems like the MV-22 Osprey
were identified nearly two decades ago in anticipation of
the emerging “anti-access era”. These capabilities allow
potent expeditionary forces to strike directly at operational
objectives deep inland instead of merely conducting costly,
manpower intensive, attrition-based operations.
While U.S. amphibious expertise has been diverted to
conducting protracted campaigns in the Middle East, far
from shore, there has been recognition for some time for a
need to stimulate an intellectual renaissance in amphibious
warfare. With the drawing down of forces from Iraq and
Afghanistan, the Marines seek to return to their naval roots
and refurnish their core competencies. Naval journals reflect
a significant increase in looking forward to preserve the
capacity to conduct amphibious operations.[xiii]
Some Marines have been exploring innovative concepts,
including the use of robotics in both waterborne and aviation
maneuver resources.[xiv] It is this kind of innovative thinking
that helped the Marines and the United States debunk
conventional wisdom after the British amphibious debacle
on the beaches of Gallipoli in World War One. The same
innovative spirit is alive and well in today’s Marine Corps,
despite its recent focus on counterinsurgency campaigns far
from the littorals. Since as Mr. Thomas accurately noted, the
problem is even greater now than when the Marines were
developing their future tactics, they will have to continue to
extend their ideas and experimentation even further.
Moreover, the Marines and Army will have to operate within
and be supported by a Joint operational framework. Much
intellectual work is now going into this challenge. The
Navy and Air Force effort to generate greater synergies for
combating anti-access threats via the widely-touted Air-
Sea Battle concept is part of that framework.[xv] The larger
framework has been shaped by the recent promulgation
of the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC), signed
by General Dempsey.[xvi] The JOAC reinforces many points
made in this brief essay. Both concepts show promise
but they are still paper documents, and require serious
implementation and continuous investment to achieve the
substantial results needed.
Thus,this assessment concludes that amphibious capabilities
are well worth the investment required even in this so-called
age of austerity. No doubt that this is why China, Russia and
Australia are expanding their amphibious fleets. The Center
for Strategic and International Studies has come to the
same conclusion in a recent report.[xvii] Calls to reduce
amphibious capabilities are conceding “no go” areas to
aggressors, and failing to grasp the strategic effect on future
The United States has not lost its need to rapidly insert combat
forces inland and violently strike against adversaries far from
its own shores. In fact, critical American interests argue for
greater access challenges, not less, given large reductions in
overseas bases and increased political considerations that
may restrict access. Some of that access can be garnered
with sustained engagement with allies.But sometimes access
may have to be obtained at risk in contested space.
The many benefits of conducting operations from the sea,
viewed as part of a Joint operation, thus remains both a
viable and very necessary capability at the strategic and
operational levels of war. This capability provides the United
States with a distinctly asymmetric capability and disruptive
option of its own.
Without these capabilities, a global power cannot extend
and exert its influence, and nor can its military leadership
assure its policy masters that it can effectively gain access
to and respond promptly at some potential flashpoint where
its security interests are at risk. The day that an American
President finds himself out of these options, it will herald the
dawn of a chaotic “Post-American” world.[xviii]
there has been recognition for
some time for a need to stimulate
an intellectual renaissance in
amphibious warfare
amphibious capabilities are well
worth the investment required even
in this so-called age of austerity
The Myth of the Post-Power Projection Era
Frank G. Hoffman
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