Several weeks ago, the United States Marine Corps copied its old Japanese adversary and committed seppuku. It did so by relieving its best battalion commander and most promising future senior combat leader of his command, thus terminating his career. As another Marine lieutenant colonel said to me, “The last light shining in the darkness has been put out.”
The officer relieved of his command was Lieutenant Colonel Marcus Mainz. Some years ago Mainz, as a captain, was one of my students in a Fourth Generation War seminar at the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warfare School. He was one of the best—bright, tremendous energy, a powerful personality, and an ability to get results. These are exactly the qualities the Marine Corps needs in its leaders if it is to implement its doctrine of maneuver warfare. Now that doctrine seems to be little more than words on paper.
Mainz, through the innovative training program he implemented in his battalion, had built a substantial and devoted following throughout the Marine Corps. Now many of his admirers are giving up and putting in their paperwork to resign or retire. Their hope is gone. A Marine major said to me, “The second- and third-order effects of his dismissal are massive.”
What led the Marine Corps to devour its young? The answer lies in the moral cowardice the senior Marine Corps leadership (and that of our other armed services) routinely displays in the face of “political correctness,” i.e., cultural Marxism.
Speaking to his Marines, as told to me, Mainz dismissed some of the administrivia that eats up much of their training time, saying something like, “We’re not going to do that faggot stuff.” A Marine understandably objected to his use of the word “faggot,” and a brigadier general ordered him relieved of his command. Of course it can’t be disputed that this was an unfortunate and inappropriate expression. A proper sanction would have been justified. But to destroy the career of one of the Corps’ best commanders for a lapsus linguae is ridiculous. Should this lapse wipe away all the good accomplished by this highly effective military leader—and all of his potential future accomplishments in a Corps that needs his leadership? And does the Marine Corps really want to put such fear into its best officers that they lose their force and swagger? [Note: The official explanation the Marines have issued for Mainz’s loss of command is that it was due to a “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to continue to lead the battalion.”]
Far from being an isolated incident, the relief of this brilliant officer points to the worm that is gnawing away at the Marine Corps’ vitals: preparing for war has become the lowest priority. A new book by a Marine attack helicopter pilot, now out of the Corps, Captain Jeff Groom, ably satirizes that reality. Subtitled “A Marine Remembers a Dog and Pony Show,” American Cobra Pilot points to the Corps’ real priorities: political correctness and “looking good” (which is very different from being good).
Most of the political correctness stems from the absurd social experiment of putting young Marines, men and women who sometimes are not out of their teens, together to work and live in close proximity while saying to the men, “If a single impure thought crosses your mind, if you so much as look at a pretty girl with a twinkle in your eye, you are guilty of sexual harassment.” The monks on Mt. Athos would not subject themselves to such temptation. Nor does the male Marine have to do or say anything sexual. If he gives a woman an order she doesn’t like, if he critiques the way she is doing her job, if he displeases her in any way, she can charge “sexual harassment,” knowing he likely will be considered guilty until proven innocent.
Why are the generals so terrified of “offending” the cultural Marxists? For fear Nancy Pelosi or some other congressional dingbat might go after the Marine Corps’ budget in retaliation. They seem to care about little else. Decades ago, when the situation was less bad than it is now, a Marine friend was in charge of setting up and running the commandant’s new “War Room” in Headquarters, Marine Corps. He said to me, “The only war ever discussed in it is the budget war.” The fact that many generals go to work at princely salaries for defense contractors once they retire (with six-figure pensions) may be relevant.
Meanwhile, as Groom’s book lays out, the Corps covers its poor job of preparing for war by putting on magnificent public displays, which Marines call “dog and pony shows.” The book focuses on a particular dog and pony show staged for the South Koreans that pretended to be warlike. But you need not travel far to see one. The Taliban could never put on as splendid a display as the Evening Parade on summer Friday nights at the Corps’ historic 8th and I barracks in the capital. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is winning, but what does that matter so long as the generals who have presided over our defeat keep getting promoted? As one Army lieutenant colonel said in print a few years ago, ending his career, “A private who loses his rifle gets in more trouble than a general who loses a war.”
Generals who show moral cowardice in the face of cultural Marxism—when Donald Trump is their commander-in-chief!—are not likely to demonstrate boldness and daring in combat. Field grade officers who “go by the book” and give their Marines scanty and mostly unrealistic training are failing in their primary duty. The dog and pony shows may look great to the public, but the ponies are wooden and the dogs are dead. The Marine Corps that relieved Lieutenant Colonel Marcus Mainz of his command is a fraud.
William S. Lind is the author, with Lt. Col. Gregory A. Thiele, of the 4th Generation Warfare Handbook.