US Marine Commandant: US tops China but will need to use everything in cupboard
Photo: Marine Commandant David Berger in Canberra at The Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Troy Black, is on his right. (Colin Clark/Breaking Defence)
By COLIN CLARK
While the United States is ahead of China technologically and can draw on an array of allies and partners, US forces will still have to use “everything in the cupboard to prevent a conflict,” US Marine Commandant David Berger told a small group of Australian defence analysts and reporters here this week.
Berger, visiting the Australian capital for the second time in 10 months, did not come armed with any major announcements about Marine rotations. Instead, the commandant made clear this is part of a regular, but important, series of meeting with his Aussie mates to discuss the best ways to deter China. The US officer said his Marines and Australian troops are experimenting with new combinations of weapons and new ways to use existing ones, though he avoided discussing any examples.
“We may have to use them in a different way than we were schooled or educated in or have used them in the past,” he said during the Tuesday meeting. That toolbox will include diplomacy, economics and every element of US national power, Berger said.
During his remarks, Berger went out of his way to offer examples of how the century of close military ties between the US and Australia can pay off. One such tie came during the August 2021 evacuation of US and allied troops from Afghanistan.
“And there’s Marines here on this end of a corridor, and there’s this corridor and checkpoints to checkpoints along the way,” Berger said. “For whatever reason, a Marine corporal sees somebody waving their hands in the crowd, and for no real reason figures, ‘we’re gonna go out there.’ So, he takes four Marines out there to link up with these people and he probably shouldn’t have done it.”
The corporal asked the woman waving her hands what she’s trying to do, and in response was told “‘I’m from Australia. I’m from the government of Australia. These three people are very important to Australia. We’re trying to get them out.’ Now, the right thing for that Marine to do would have been to say, stay where you are — but of course, he didn’t do that.”
He saw the woman had a phone. “‘Are you talking to somebody in Australia? Give me the phone.’ This is a corporal. Now, he’s talking to the government official in Canberra like he’s a general. Right? Who am I talking to? You know, this is Corporal Smith. You know, he’s really trying to find out if this is legitimate, but this is how your soldiers and ours are so great. Apparently, he’s convinced that this is legit.” He decided they were and brought them inside the perimeter.
“He’s not done yet. Takes the phone back from the lady” and told the woman in Australia that he’s got her people inside. “This is another side of mateship. Instantly, I think the corporal heard ‘Australia’ — no questions. Got it. There were thousands of people there and no reason he should have brought those three in. There were probably one hundred reasons why you would have fired him for doing what he did — and it was the right call.”