Before I go any further, let me make my personal position very clear. I am a strong advocate of the need for a Marine Corps and I believe its amphibious assault capabilities are essential skills for our military arsenal.
Having said that, I agree completely that in light of modern arms capabilities the vulnerability of an amphibious assault force positioned 25 miles from the beaches provides a tempting and ripe target rich environment. I also completely agree that the new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) which the Marine Corps seems determined to purchase (at a cost of $13 billion), is not much more than an upgrade of last century Pacific assault campaign thinking.
The question has been posed as to jus what enemy we might face where an assault of this type is needed and who would not possess the rocket and missile arms capability to take these vehicles out prior to reaching the beach? In fact, following the same logic, wouldn’t the entire task force of littoral ships be vulnerable while attempting to support a landing? The question is valid and there is no good answer. Any reasonably advanced power we might oppose will have this kind of targeting capabilities (if not already, then certainly in the near future as technology spreads, which it always does).
I would, however, like to pose a question of my own. What military planner would have anticipated at the turn of the century, in 2000, that within 10 years we would be engaged in two wars in land-locked countries and in dessert and mountain environments, for a decade? More over, that the Marine Corps would carry a heavy part of the fighting in both conflicts?
Just because it is hard to imagine does not make it impossible, nor, unfortunately, does it even make it unlikely. It makes it essential to consider, to plan for --and, at the very least, be prepared for.
The EFV is an amazing piece of equipment. If you have not seen it in action, take a moment to watch the video below and you come away as impressed as I was. If they had had this capability at Tarawa or Okinawa or even on Utah Beach in Normandy, the casualty rate would have been significantly lower. Have we needed it since? No. Will we need it in the future? Whose Crystal Ball do you want to look in? Do you want us to lose the ability and skill just because you can’t think of an enemy at this moment? That kind of limited vision is what makes the difference between winning and loosing. Being prepared means exactly that. It means carrying matches when there is not need for a fire anticipated. It means having a pocketknife in your back pack and a flashlight in the trunk. It means anticipating, training, and having the basic equipment to respond when and where needed.
That is what the US Marine Corps is all about. Give them the tools and equipment. Keep them ready! Keep us safe!