Why I Like Marines
by RAdm James R. Stark, USN
President, Naval War College
[10 November 1996: Marine Corps Birthday Ball, Newport, Rhode Island]
When I was first asked to be your guest speaker tonight, I wondered what I ought to talk about. It occurred to me that even though the Navy and Marine Corps are called "sister services," we're actually more like brothers. Now, some of you may or may not know what it's like to have brothers. I come from a big family with five sibling rivals. I had two brothersâ€“one a year older, and one a year youngerâ€“and I've got the scars to prove it. But even though we used to spend lots of energy beating the tar out of each other, we always stood together against the kids up the block, or any other outsider. That sounds pretty much like the relationship between the Navy and the Marines.
So, as one brother to another, on this special birthday occasion, I thought it might be useful to expound on "why I like Marines."
As I thought about those reasons tonight, an incident came to mind that occurred almost four years ago, right after I'd been selected for rear admiral, but before I put on my new rank. I had to go to the FBI Academy to hear a lecture. As all Marines know, the FBI Academy is located at Quantico. I was running late, and worried about getting there on time. I finally got to the Quantico turnoff, but as I passed the rifle range, I got stuck behind another car. He poked along at 25 miles an hour, even when the speed limit changed to 35. So I pulled out and passed as soon as we had a dashed line. Well, as soon as I pulled back in, this guy went nuts! He immediately hit me with brights, honked his horn, and started tailgating me all the way through the gate at the FBI Academy. As soon as I parked his car whipped in next to me, and a very agitated Marine major jumped out, introduced himself, and then got right in my face and started chewing me out for speeding. I tried to point out that I had obeyed the posted signs. But what particularly galled him was the I had directly disobeyed the commanding general's written order that forbids driving faster than 25 miles per hour in the area of the rifle range. He wasn't at all amused when I pointed out that I must have missed the lance corporal handing out copies of the general's instruction at the off-ramp from I-95. As you might imagine, the conversation (okay, it was an argument) quickly went downhill into a discussion of my lack of leadership... and his lack of a brain. When we parted, we were no closer to agreement than when we started.
Now, this would be a very short speech if I had been tasked that night to say "why I like Marines." In fact, I'd be finished by now. But that incident gave me pause to think why that particular major would do that, and it occurred to me that his actions weren't all that unusual when you saw them from the standpoint of having been trained to know the rules and insist that everyone, including me, lives up to them. While I might disagree that I had broken the rules in the first place, I had to admire his tenacity and insistence on high standards for someone he thought had exceeded the speed limit by a whopping 5 miles an hour.
So that's the first reason I like Marines. They set high standardsâ€“for themselves and those around themâ€“and they will accept nothing less. I see it on base where Marines insist on proper salutes and will happily provide lessons if a subordinate needs them. I see it in their personal appearance. Marines always have well-fitting uniforms, and they wear them with obvious pride. And I see it in the way Marines react to a society they feel doesn't measure up to their standards.
I like the way marines march. This may be a surprise to some of you, but sailors don't do very well at marching. Marines doâ€“always. I think it has a lot to do with how they are trained by their drill instructors at boot camp.
That brings me to another item. I like the way Marine do their basic training, whether it's at Quantico, Parris Island, or San Diego. When basic training is over, your recruits and second lieutenants can march, they can shoot, and they have a pride in themselves and the Marine Corps that is unmatched anywhere in the world. The Marines do it by concentrating on what's important: discipline, drill, knowledge of the service rifle, and the history and traditions of the Corps.
Late last year, George Will wrote a column about it, and he said (as only George Will can) that the Marine "Cultivate an ethos conducive to producing hard people in a soft age." I like the sound of that. I like the idea of Marines cultivating "an ethos conducive to producing hard people in a soft age." George Will was absolutely right, and it's another reason I like Marines.
I like the fact that Marines stay in shape. They work hard at it, and as a result, you almost never see a Marine who is overweight. If the Corps does have them, it does a good job of hiding them or getting them back into the Marine Corps way. I like the fact that Marines only have one bossâ€“the Commandant. It means that Marines only talk with one voice, and what the Commandant says, goes. Whenever you go to a meeting, the Marines always get together and decide what the party line will be, and they never stray from it. Now, some might call this an intellectual straight jacket, but it's extraordinarily effective.
And I like the directness of the Commandant. This summer, the Commandant put out his planning guidance. He didn't talk around problems. He didn't put off tough decisions. He didn't say, "let's study it some more." He said he was tired of studies. Here's the answer, here's who is responsible, and here's who is responsible, and here's the date he's on the hook to tell me how he's going to get the job done. I like that.
I like the fact that the Marines are stubborn. Once they are committed, they fight forever. That's great in combat, but it also makes it pretty frustrating for the rest of us in Pentagon budget battles. But it works. Just look at the V-22. That aircraft has had a stake driven through its heart more time than Bela Lugosi, and it's still here.
I like the way Marines obey orders. You don't get a lot of whining, or saying why, or "mother may I" questions from Marines. When you give a Marine a job to do, he goes out and does it.
I like the way the Marines make the most of the press. Maybe it's not quite so true today, but not very long ago, all Services except the Marines viewed the press with a great deal of suspicion. In some cases it was downright hostility, in others, just a sense of being too busy to be bothered with the press. But the Marines realized right from the start that the press could be enormously useful in bringing their story to the American public. They knew something that's true for all the Servicesâ€“that our enlisted people are our greatest asset. They sell themselves once the press gets a chance to see them in action. We just have to give them the chance. Marines give the press that chance, and it pays off as all of us saw in Desert Storm.
I like the wholehearted professionalism of the Marines. It's more than just working hard and doing your job well.. All of the Services do that. But being a Marine is a way of life. It's an almost monastic commitment to being the best, to dedicating yourself to the Corps, and its ideals. That's why there aren't any ex-Marines.
As I tried to think of a way to wrap all this up, it occurred to me that the Services could maybe be characterized by different breeds of dogsâ€“you know, like people often say people walking their dogs look like their pets. Now, I don't want offend anybody, and I'm sure each of you will have his own opinions, but these were my favorites.
For me, the Air Force was pretty clear. They reminded me of a French Poodle. The poodle always looks perfect...sometimes seems a bit pampered...always travels first class. But don't ever forget that the poodle was bred as a hunting dog and in a fight it's very dangerous.
The Army is kind of like a St. Bernard. It's big and heavy and sometimes seems a bit clumsy. But it's very powerful and has lots of stamina. So you want it for the long haul.
The Navy, God bless us, is a Golden Retriever. They're good natured and great around the house. The kids love 'em. Sometimes their hair is a bit long...they go wandering off for long periods of time, and they love water.
The Marines were bit of a problem. I don't see the Marines as an English Bulldog, like Chesty the Marine Corps mascot. In fact, I actually see the Marines as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They're both very territorial. They're aggressive on the attack, and tenacious on defense. They've both got really short hair, and they always go for the throat. That sounds like a Marine to me!
So what I really like about Marines is that 'first to fight' isn't just a motto, it's a way of life. From the day they were formed at Tun Tavern 221 years ago, Marines have distinguished themselves on battlefields around the world. From the fighting tops of the Bonhomme Richard, to the sands of the Barbary coast, from the swamps of New Orleans to the halls of Montezuma, from Belleau Wood, to the Argonne Forest, to Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima, and Okinawa and Inchon, and Chosin Reservoir and Hue City and Quang Tri and Dong Ha, and Beirut, and Grenada, and Panama, and Somalia and Bosnia and a thousand unnamed battlefields in godforsaken corners of the globe, Marines have distinguished themselves by their bravery, and stubbornness and aggressive spirit, and sacrifice, and love of country, and loyalty to one another. They've done it for you and me, and this Country we all love so dearly. And they asked for nothing more than the honor of being a United States Marine. And that's why I like Marines! And so for all you Marines out there, and your brethren on the frontlines of freedom around the world, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I salute you. You have my admiration, and my gratitude. Thank you, Semper Fi.
"It is sweet and honorable to die for your country." --Horace
"We make war that we may live in peace." --Aristotle
"To be prepared for War is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." --George Washington
"If ever there was a holy war, it was that which saved our liberties and gave us independence." --Thomas Jefferson
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." --John Stuart Mill
A really great people, proud and high-spirited, would face all the disasters of war rather than purchase that base prosperity which is bought at the price of national honor." --Theodore Roosevelt
"No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence." --Woodrow Wilson
"Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory." --George Patton
"[L]et us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain." --Dwight Eisenhower
"The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." --Douglas MacArthur
"Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And, our soldiers don't just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.
For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag. " - Sen. Zell Miller
According to OpinionJournal's Political Diary, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daleysaid that Democrats "let Republicans become the party of average Americans while Democrats have become the party of large donors" and
that "elitists" inside the Democratic Party have for too long ridiculed people of faith. "They don't like people who have different beliefs than they do, who maybe read the Bible, read the Koran... They were shoved out, not to be respected."
This has been a problem for a while, but it's really coming to the forefront. I remember reading in a book published right around 1980 that Democrats average donation was $500, compared to the Republican's average of $50. From what I understand, the GOP's average is still around $50, despite the effects of inflation. Does anyone doubt that the Democrat's average has increased in the age of Soros?
This means the Democrats are much more dependent on the wealthy than are the Republicans, which gives the Republicans the freedom to take stances that the wealthy would not like. They can go where the votes are, without as much fear of losing money in the process.
The problem the Democrats have is in maintaining a coalition of wealthy elites who want to redefine marriage and who disdain religion while maintaining the votes of the poorer people who want to defend traditional religious values. It's a hard balancing act. Bill Clinton had the skills to pull it off. John Kerry didn't. There's many more Kerry's than there are Clinton's.
The Democrats have managed to hold on so far largely because of their monolithic support from the black and Hispanic communities and loyal Catholic voters. We saw in this election their holds on the last two start to weaken as the values divide continues to grow. Blacks tend to be traditional on the values issues as well. We saw a few limited signs of a split. (Bush's percentage of the black vote increased roughly 20% to a still negligible 11%, and more black leaders distanced themselves from Kerry.)
The Democrats could be in for some tough times ahead unless they learn to bridge the values gap that threatens to tear their party apart.
This is the result of some thinking I did about the electoral college. In the late 80's, I remember there being discussion that the Republicans had a "lock" on the Electorial College and they could win in perpetuity. Obviously, that theory went out the window in the 90s. But I wondered if there was some way of determining the degree to which a party has an advantage in the electoral college.
It hit me that a good measure might involve both the margin of victory in a state and the electoral votes the state has to offer. For example, the Democrats should win Washington, DC every election for a long time to come based on the fact their candidates routinely break 90% of the vote in the District. Similarly, Texas votes Republican almost regardless of who the nominee is, but based on the margin of voctory is more in play than DC.
So, I thought a good basis to compare this would be to take the product of the electoral votes and the margin of victory (expressed in percentage terms).
In 2004, the results were Kerry ending up with 2624.2 "points" and Bush with 4434.5 "points."
With all the talk since 2000 of the flaws fo the Electoral College, I wondered if this might be a fairer system as well since it would reward candidates for winning states with a large margin, and encourage them to campaign in states they currently don't, either to raise their own margin or diminish their opponent's. (Could we actually have seen a candidate in Delaware under this system? Probably not, but we'd stand a better chance...)
For comparison's sake, here's the 2000 calculations: Gore had 3558.86 "points" and Bush had 3605.73 "points".
One thing I found interesting is that given the closeness of the vote in Florida, it's importance in this system diminishes to almost zero. But DC becomes important out of all proportion to real life.
I haven't really decided if I like this system or not. Just throwing it out there. One possible enhancement could be to factor in the proportion of the national population each state represents, but I'm not sure that wouldn't have the result of moving towards a straight popular vote which I don't think would be a good idea. (I haven't had the time/energy to look at doing that, though.)
An Excel file with the data and calculations is available here
A PDF of the 2004 results is here