Saturday, April 07, 2012

When a Few Will Do

There is a lot of hype in the news about the planned deployment of 2,500 US Marines to Australia. The first deployment of 200 recently took place:

A contingent of some 200 US Marines have landed in northern Australia, part of a broader strategic shift by the US military toward the Pacific.

That force size is expected to grow to 2,500 total US troops in the months to come.

The move has been widely interpreted as a signal to China, with its rising military force helmed by commanders who are often less-than-transparent in their intentions, Pentagon officials often complain.

In the near future we'll see more and more deploy until we have a full Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is essentially a combined arms rifle battalion with supporting air and naval assets.

You might think that the attention to the deployment is a little much given that China has an army of 18 corps-sized land commands plus extras, and includes three full divisions of amphibious trained army units and 10,000 of their own marines. The Marines are a drop in the bucket, aren't they?

They would be if they planned to land at Dagu and march on Peking.

But in the context of the South China Sea where very small islands could be the battlefields, a small and well trained amphibious force capable of projecting platoons, companies, or the entire battalion to seize control of those small islands will have big effects.

It won't rise to the level of island hopping in World War II, but don't think that an islet hopping campaign featuring Marines figuratively raising the stars and stripes won't get China's attention.