But the Marines have not stormed a hostile beach since Inchon during the Korean War. And influential military thinkers — including, most notably, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates — have begun to question whether the Marines will ever do it again.It is a conversation worth having. No question - when money gets tight, a whole new generation needs to be educated to think beyond the next POM.
In a speech last month, Gates said rogue nations and nonstate movements such as Hezbollah now possessed sophisticated guided missiles that could destroy naval ships, forcing them to stay well away from shore and making any sort of beach landing by Marines extremely dangerous.
Countries including China and Iran have guided missiles and other defenses to deter a beach landing, said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, who has written skeptically of traditional amphibious landings. Minor powers, meanwhile, could hardly resist the kind of landing the Marines practiced in Dawn Blitz, he said.
"Where are we going to use this? Can the effect justify the rather high cost we are paying for this?" Krepinevich said.
That being said, here is this side boiled down. A maritime power (which we are) has to be able to project power ashore in a non-permissive environment. If you do not have that power, you limit your options and put your forces at tremendous Operational Risk, and effectively eliminate the CINC's options which puts your nation in Strategic Risk.
We have seen this before - the Brits almost "smart powered" themselves out of an ability to do anything in the Falklands.
Even in non-combat areas, you can find yourself in a non-permissive environment; again think Haiti and Indonesia. Amphibious power holds the key to do this through the full spectrum of non-permissive environments. Full stop.
The area for discussion and examination should be in what platforms we spend the taxpayer's money in. We are in tremendous Operational Risk right now with the trend towards more Marines and equipment in fewer ships and transport vehicles. Penny wise and body count foolish.
Do we need to have Marines with the capability to come ashore? Yes, just like we need an air superiority fighter. To throw that away is to effectively throw away our ability to be a global power. If you don't want to be a global power, than by all means remove that capability.