The "Roaring Forties" The Arena For Tomorrow's War
AUTHOR Major John F. Thornell, USMC
SUBJECT AREA Warfighting
TITLE: THE "ROARING FORTIES": THE ARENA FOR TOMORROW'S WAR
I. Purpose: To examine four issues as determinants in the location of
future conflicts in which Marine Corps forces would be involved.
II. Problem: The United States bases its foreign policy and military
preparedness upon blunting general war in Europe. Current Marine Corps
attention is centered around the reinforcement of Norway on NATO's
northern flank. Current indications of future wars lead one to conclude
that low-level violence in certain areas of the world is, in reality,
what the United states and the Marine Corps should be looking toward.
III. Data: The United States and all industrial nations of the Western
alliance are reliant upon strategic materials in order to meet production
requirements. These resources travel by sea. Thirteen locations in the
world control the passage of most of the world's commerce. Given the
incidence of terrorist activities and guerrilla warfare, chokepoints
between forty degrees north and south latitudes are in jeopardy of con-
trol or closure by hostile forces. The Rio Pact further extends U.S.
security requirements to cover the entire Western Hemisphere. Benign
neglect and recent instability in Latin America threaten the U. S. on
the southern flank.
IV. Conclusion: The United States is erring in its insistence on the
European nations as the priority for diplomacy and military preparedness.
V. Recommendation: As the "first to fight," the Marine Corps should
take the load and prepare for conflict at the lower end of the spectrum
of violence and devote its attention to the "Roaring Forties."
THE "ROARING FORTIES": THE ARENA FOR TOMORROW'S WAR
Thesis statement: United States reliance on imported strategic materials, the
free world's reliance on shipping lanes, important treaties with emerging
nations, and the nature of modern warfare require the Marine Corps to prepare
for response in predictable locations within the "Roaring Forties."
I. Status Quo
A. Articles in professional magazines discuss Marine Corps cold-weather
B. Marine contingency plans center on the Norwegian nation.
C. Erroneous thought processes negate the effects of geography and geo-
logy as strategic determinants.
II. Strategic Materials
A. There are material requirements for growth in the modern world.
B. The U. S. is using raw materials faster than any other nation.
C. The location of most nations importing raw materials to the U. S. is
within the "Roaring Forties."
III. Strategic Shipping Lanes and "Chokepoints"
A. Thirteen chokepoints are of interest to all nations.
B. American naval power is required to keep the chokepoints open.
C. The majority of chokepoints are located between forty degrees north
and south latitude.
IV. The Emergence of Latin America
A. The Rio Pact covers more land area and population than any other
U. S. treaty.
B. U. S. foreign policy toward Latin America has been of mixed success.
C. Brazilian impetus has sparked modern inter-American relationships.
D. The power of Latin America is in its geography, natural resources,
population and diplomacy.
E. U. S. attention must turn from NATO to Latin America to ensure stabi-
lity in the region.
V. The Modern Spectrum of War and Geography
A. Modern warfare is found in the lower end of the spectrum assigned to
1. Terrorist actions
2. Guerrilla warfare
3. Limited conventional warfare
B. Since 1974, twelve conventional wars have been fought.
C. Thirty-two nations have been involved in guerrilla war in recent time.
D. Most modern wars have been between the "Roaring Forties."
VI. The Future
A. The U. S. requires strategic materials to maintain its strength.
B. The nation's interests are the Marine Corps' future requirements.
C. The Marine Corps must be the first to identify the threat and theater
of operations for they are historically the "first to fight."
D. History, geography and geology indicate Marine Corps attention should
be within the "Roaring Forties."
THE "ROARING FORTIES": ARENA FOR TOMORROW'S WAR
Over the past several years, many aricles have appeared in profes-
sional journals about the requirement for Marine Corps training emphasis
to be placed upon cold-weather operations. This has been in response to
the recently assigned mission of the Marine Corps as a strategic reserve
for the Northern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).1
The ideas presented in the articles have been worthwhile, for the most
part, and several superb training ideas and operational considerations
have been offered. However, all have missed the mark. Northern Europe
is not where the activity requiring Marine response is going to occur in
the period 1985 to 2010. In fact, if history, geography and geology are
taken as determinants, a global picture evolves that focuses on specific
locations for Marine involvement with very few involving northern Europe.
Part of the reason for "jumping on the bandwagon" to support cold-
weather operations in Norway is every Marine's insatiable desire for
specific focus: "Show me what you want and I'll do it." Marines are
probably the most "focused" people in the world! In our own inimitable
style, we understand the need for Marine support in Europe, we want to
respond quicker and better than anyone else tasked for NATO roles and we
want to do it correctly. All are admirable reasons and worthy of emula-
tion. But this narrowing of focus to a specific European location, par-
ticularly for II MAF forces, leaves out the most important concerns: the
areas of the world which, if we don't control, may cause this nation to
cease to exist as a world power. Furthermore, the geographical consider-
ations of modern conflicts indicates that the return to the basics of
amphibious operations is probably more important now, and in the near
future, than at any time in the last forty years. United States reliance
on imported strategic materials, the free world's reliance on shipping
lanes, important treaties with emerging nations, and the nature of modern
warfare, require the Marine Corps to prepare for response in predictable
locations within the "Roaring Forties."
The industrial nations of the world require certain materials to
produce finished goods. Historically, those nations which possessed the
materials within their own borders, or in their possessions, were quickly
able to grow economically. With that economic growth came power. The
Industrial Revolution mechanized the production of finished goods, allow-
ing a nation to produce substantial export goods with which to enrich it-
self. The inherent wealth brought by a nation's materials also had mili-
tary application: metal for armor plate, ball bearings for engines and
turrets, and with the evolution of aircraft, components light enough to
propel airborne but strong enough to withstand the stresses of combat.
The United Kingdom is a recent historical example of a nation using
its industrial might and mineral wealth to accelerate its mercantile
growth. Its vast empire contained the minerals to augment or fill-in for
those found lacking at home. Britain was a power rivaled only be ancient
Rome. But the loss of her colonies, and their minerals, saw Britain
forced to compete on the world market for the limited minerals available.
In fact, several former colonies discovered new lodes of minerals after
their independence and, with industrial capability, grew to rival Britain.
Examples would be the United States, Canada and Australia. The super-
powers of today are the countries with naturally endowed fortunes in
minerals which, when coupled with their technological skills, have con-
verted raw materials to finished goods of value to the world as a whole.
In the current economic order, world powers are industrial nations that
convert, in sufficient quantity, natural and imported materials to meet
national demands. Emerging nations seem to be those that possess the
energy and raw materials but lack the industrial base to convert theirs
raw materials to meet national demands or world competition.2
The United States, as a super-power state, has one of the most abun-
dant supplies of raw materials available on earth. It is also using the
raw materials faster than anyone thought possible. In fact, with few
exceptions, we are now forced to import many raw materials to meet indus-
trial and technological demands. In some cases, our technological advan-
ces have forced us to be wholly dependent on certain countries to meet
our needs in the manufacture of critical items required for the health
and welfare of the nation--as well as its defense. These critical items
are strategic materials--items which, if lost, could cause irreparable
harm to the nation and possible changes in the balance of power. Some of
these materials, and their uses, are listed in Appendix A.
As can be seen from Appendix A, many products we rely on, such as
steel, require the importation of a variety of raw materials. The major-
ity of nations exporting these raw materials are either Western allies or
neutral countries. Of concern, however, are the Third World countries
and those countries experiencing economic or political troubles that pro-
vide the United States with its required materials. Some of these nations
are: India, Chile, Peru, South Africa, Bolivia and New Caledonia.* Any
internal disruption in these countries will slow export of the critical
resources the U. S. needs. An external disruptive force would sever the
lifeline our nation depends on or force greater reliance on the remaining
exporting countries. The oil crisis in the mid-1970's is a recent example
of international extortion affecting the very fabric of many nations.
Of interest is the location of the exporting nations on the globe. In
Appendix D it can be seen that most are located between forty degrees
north latitude and forty degrees south latitude--the "Roaring Forties!"
Most are countries possessing coastlines and all have access to ports,
either within their own borders or through agreements with neighboring
nations. To protect our nation's vital interests in strategic materials,
the Marine Corps must be prepared for response to crisis within the
STRATEGIC SHIPPING LANES
From a geographical viewpoint, there are areas of the earth which
have naturally formed funnels through which the world's shipping must
pass. These Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) are vitally important to
every importing and exporting nation of the world. These funnels may be
appropriately called "chokepoints," of which there are thirteen of impor-
*See Appendix B for a more complete listing.
tance to all countries--not just the United States. These chokepoints
1. Straits of Gibraltar
2. Straits of Malacca
3. GI-UK Gap (Greenland, Iceland and United Kingdom Gap)
4. Cape of Good Hope
5. Yucatan Channel and Straits of Florida
6. Sea of Japan
7. Kurile Islands
1O. Baltic Straits
11. Mozambique Channel
12. Suez Canal
13. Panama Canal
Nations that control these chokepoints control the free use of the seas
for international commerce. The loss of one or more of these funnels
could create economic hardship on any country requiring oil or other
needed resources. The geological assets of a nation exporting its goods
are only as great as the ability to transit the above areas. The impor-
ting and exporting nations alike become economic hostages to geography
and geology--if the chokepoints are closed, no one can obtain what they
lack on a natural or monetary level.
It is American naval power that will be required to keep these SLOCs
open for transit by western allies or neutral nations. By charter, the
Marine Corps is to prepare to conduct amphibious operations "...in the
seizure and defense of advanced naval bases..."3 wherever required.
Establishing forces ashore at the entries to the aforementioned choke-
points would permit their remaining open if threatened, as well as pro-
viding the establishment and security of the advanced naval bases required
by the operating naval forces. A glance at the globe shows that the
majority of chokepoints are located between forty degrees north latitude
and forty degrees south latitude.
THE EMERGENCE OF LATIN AMERICA
In September, 1947, the United States and twenty other nations of
the Americas signed the "Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance,"
also known as the "Rio Pact." This treaty was ratified by the Senate and
became effective in December, l9474 and , in accordance with Article VI
of the U. S. Constitution, it is the law of the land.5 No other U. S.
treaty encompasses so many signatories or covers the land mass and popu-
lation as does the Rio Pact. The treaty follows many years of on-again-
off-again relationships with our Latin American neighbors. The many prob-
lems in our relationships with Latin America are somewhat reflective of
American ambivalence toward Latin America. It is also reflective of the
unique political structure of the United States and its changing foreign
Essentially, responsibility for foreign affairs remains unsolved in
the United States. "The Constitution nowhere makes clear on whom the
ultimate responsibility for the conduct of foreign affairs exists."6
According to the Supreme Court, in The United States versus Curtiss-
Wright Export Corporation, the President is vested with "delicate, ple-
nary, and exclusive powers" in the conduct of foreign affairs7--arguable
by members of the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees! Through-
out our history various administrations have pursued foreign policy in a
manner reflective of the era when in power: utopian, ideological, senti-
mentalistic or neo-isolationist. Because of U. S. vacillation toward
Latin America, and using the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary
which "...may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant
cases of wrong-doing or impotence, to the exercise of an international
police power...,"8 "...the majority of Latin American nations had begun
to look upon the United States with increasing fear and irritation."9
In fact, after World War I, the Monroe Doctrine was actually perceived as
an instrument of U. S. domination. The period 1905-1926 saw extensive
U. S. intervention in the Carribean and Central America which gave rise
to a sense of panic in Latin American nations. With the birth of the
League of Nations, a sense of independence was born in the Latin American
community at large. By the 1930's a feeling of political cordiality had
returned to the U. S.-Latin American relationship. This cordiality
improved dramatically with the start of World War II.
It is interesting to note that World War II, with its carnage and
destruction, provided the ashes from which the phoenix of inter-American
relationships was born. Part of this is directly attributable to the
nation of Brazil. "The United States and Brazil are the only two non-
European countries, except for the British dominions, whose troops have
fought in Europe since the Moors were chased out of Spain."10 A 20,000
man Brazilian Expeditionary Force was sent to Europe and fought bravely
in the Italian Campaign. According to former Secretary of State, Cordell
"Brazil's contribution to the Second World War was much more
impressive than its contribution to the First. Its strategic
position was of incalculable importance. Its air bases were
extended and modernized, and placed at the disposal of the
United States military authorities; its air force collaborated
with the United States in the hunting down of German sub-
marines; its destroyers and corvettes helped in the patrolling
of the Atlantic and the protection of convoys; its immense
resources of strategic raw materials became available to
the United Nations. Brazil also collaborated with the Allies
and supported diplomatic moves in Lisbon, for example, in
attempts to put and end to Portuguese supplies of wolfram
From this conflict, Brazil emerged as an ascendant power in world poli-
tics, particularly among the non-aligned nations.
The ascendancy of Brazil within South America caused the United
States to pursue a more favorable relationship with all Latin American
states. Historically, liberal U. S. foreign affairs policies have im-
proved relations within Latin America. The Rio Pact was the culmination
of such policies. It was, and still is, pragmatic in its rationale.
As Alexander Hamilton said, "Self preservation is the first duty of a
nation...."12 The potential for power is inherent in each of the coun-
tries of South America with Central America a strategic land bridge to
that power. Realization of this power provided the impetus to pursue a
treaty reflecting changed American opinion and its coming to grips with
political and economic reality. Yesterday's political and economic
realities are the cornerstones of today's defense initiatives.
The power found in Latin America is not necessarily found in its
military might. "Eight basic factors determine the power of a nation:
geography, natural resources, industrial capacity, military preparedness,
population, national character, national morale, and the quality of its
diplomacy."13 Its power is in its geography, natural resources, popula-
tion and diplomacy. The proximity of several Latin American nations to
the two Western Hemisphere chokepoints, and the natural resources vital
to our own existence, would seem to dictate a growing dependence on sta-
bility in the Americas.14 For example, the current unrest in Nicaragua
and its arming by Soviet-backed agents provides more than a threat to
Honduras. Nicaragua's southern neighbor, Costa Rica, has no military and
employs only 5,600 people in a para-military force. Southern expansion
into Costa Rica and Panama by Nicaragua, or insurgent forces backed by
Cuba, could disrupt our only two-ocean link, the Panama Canal. The land
bridge to South America would also be broken with the strategic signifi-
cance that implies. The Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida are
currently under MIG-23 fighter coverage from Cuba and, should Nicaragua
obtain the MIG-21 or -23, overlapping coverage would be obtained. Such
coverage would jeopardize free passage from coastal U. S. ports.
Recent unrest within Central America, instability in Chile and a
growing Soviet presence in Peru would indicate the U. S. has neglected
its southern flank while buttressing its NATO allies. It is a growing
imperative that the United States, over the next two decades, turn its
attention from NATO (a stable organization of stable countries) to its
Latin American neighbors. A lengthy period of nonconfrontational diplo-
macy will be necessary to stabilize relations. A vital asset in any type
of U. S. diplomatic venture is the ability to call upon the Marine Corps
to assist in the preservation of peace and protection of American inter-
ests. American interests are, in reality, Pan-American interests. This
conclusion is reflective of current U. S. policy: "The Rio Treaty embodies
our long-standing commitment to the security of our Latin American neigh-
bors. It is within the context of that treaty that we formulate our
security policy for the region...."15
THE MODERN SPECTRUM OF WAR AND GEOGRAPHY
As most students of warfare are aware, the spectrum of conflict is
one that flows from banditry on the lowest end to general nuclear warfare
on the upper end. Enclosed within are terrorism, guerrilla war, limited
conventional warfare, general conventional war and limited nuclear warfare
Essentially, there are three types of modern war popularly pursued in the
world today: terrorist actions, guerrilla war and limited conventional
war. These wars are popular, particularly the first two types, for they
involve little expenditure of money or training for the results obtained.
They also capitalize on the inability of most modern conventional armies
to respond effectively to unconventional conflict.
Many authorities have declared conventional war to be an obsolete
form of conflict, particularly with the rise of guerrilla warfare. In 1974,
Brian Michael Jenkins, of the Rand Corporation, suggested that "...modern
conventional war, the kind that is declared and openly fought, is becoming
obsolete for a variety of reasons."16 Unfortunately, since that state-
ment, twelve conventional wars have been fought; most have been confined
to Southwest Asia and the Middle East. Some notable conventional wars
are the border war between Ecuador and Peru in 1980, the Falkland Islands
War in 1982, North Vietnam's conflicts with South Vietnam, China and
Cambodia, and the four-year war still raging between Iran and Iraq.
In a later work, Mr. Jenkins set the record straight on the course of
modern war17 but only now are people realizing the too frequent resort to
the profession of arms for conflict resolution. The spectre of global
conventional war has been supplanted by piecemeal destruction by minor
Of greater importance is the growing occurrence of the terrorist
action and guerrilla war. In the last fifteen years, the numbers of
terrorist acts have been too numerable to count (with the figure changing
daily) while thirty-two nations have been involved in some form of guer-
rilla war.18 Recent terrorist acts have added religion to their erstwhile
political causes thus further blurring the reasons behind striking against
a target. But a curious event has taken place with the advent of terror-
ism, and to some extent, guerrilla war. Like general conventional war,
non-combatant civilian personnel are "acceptable" casualties. The spec-
trum of warfare goes full circle in this regard with ominous warnings
for the world populace.
Guerrilla wars and terrorist actions seem to the product of four
"patron" states: Libya, Iran, Cuba and South Yemen. (Most public figures
would also add tide Soviet Union, Iraq and Syria to this list.) Targets
seem to be nations undergoing change and Western diplomats. The guerrilla
is actively pursuing his trade within Third World countries, particularly
in Latin America and coastal Africa. But a review of the guerrilla wars
over the last fifteen years indicates a disturbing pattern. In Appendix E,
these guerrilla wars have been depicted with their proximity to a majority
of the world's chokepoints clearly visible to the most casual reader.
The portent for American involvement looms greater the closer a war gets
to a vital sealane. While the American public watches for signs of a
general conventional or nuclear war in Europe, piecemeal destruction of
political systems and governments occurs worldwide. The closure of a
chokepoint or seaway by terrorists or guerrillas produces the same result
as if closed by a super-power in general war! Fully eighteen percent of
the world's nations have been involved in guerrilla wars over the last
fifteen years and the "Roaring Forties" have been the battleground.
Protection of a nation is predominantly futuristic in its outlook.
If there is peace at a given moment in time then preservation of that
peace involves response to a future threat. If there is political sta-
bility and popular tranquility at a given moment in a nation's history,
then the threat of its demise is external and yet to come. Military
organizations are, from their inception, designed to be prepared for that
future threat. But preparation is a difficult and nebulous concept.
What is too much? What is too little? The consequences of the decisions
made can lead to bankruptcy on one hand and defeat on the other. The
middle ground is the desired goal. To obtain that goal, analysis of
world events, trade, economics, politics and military growth or decline
are evaluated. The patterns that evolve embark a nation upon its prepa-
ration for the perceived threat.
Since World War II, the main focus of attention has been on Europe--
the scene of the last "great war." Attention has been displayed toward
the Orient, but of much the same nature as found in World War II. The
main foe to be faced would be in Europe and the "secondary" effort would
occur in the Pacific. With this in mind, a "Fortress Europe" has been
allowed to permeate most political and military thought. But there are
some basic determinants such as geography, geology, treaties and the guise
of modern warfare that will determine our nation's future health and
welfare. Our strength and well-being are predicated upon strategic
materials required to meet the demands of technology and manufactured
goods; upon free access to sea lanes and chokepoints through which these
vital supplies must pass; upon stability in our southern neighbors, Latin
America, whose potential, if harnessed, could lead to a hemispheric "Pax
Americana"; and, finally, the understanding of modern war.
As Marines, we should be concerned with all four areas. We are
generally "the first to fight" and, therefore, must be the most prepared
to meet national objectives when assigned. But, again, preparation can
be too much or too little. Preparation must be predicated on the threat.
Recent history and modern warfare would indicate that the threat is within
temperate zones and located in coastal nations nearby a vital sea lane or
chokepoint. While our attention is on thirteen European nations, thirty-
two other nations have been fighting internal threats and fully twelve
conventional wars have been fought since 1970! Nearly one-fifth of the
world is involved in struggle. None of the European nations currently
provides the U. S. with strategic materials and all are well established,
stable countries capable of handling their own security--if only for a
period of time to allow for reinforcement. The same cannot be said for
nations within the "Roaring Forties." Instead of excessive attention to
northern Europe and its possible "high side of the spectrum" conflicts,
we should look to the South Atlantic, coastal Africa, the Mediterranean
littoral and southern Asia.
The Marine Corps should polish its amphibious doctrine and prepare
to counter terrorist actions, guerrilla wars and limited conventional
wars in emerging nations of the world. The indiscriminate nature of
modern war will surely drag a reluctant America into deployment of its
forces to stabilize certain regions of the world. Our recent foray into
Lebanon is a glimpse of the future and we must prepare for that eventu-
ality. Our interest in areas such as Norway is commendable and probably
fits nicely into some grand European scheme-of-maneuver. However, modern
war, emerging nations and their problems, and protection of vital SLOCs
to transport vital resources indicate the next theater of operations for
the Marine Corps is to be found in the temperate zones of the "Roaring
1United States of America, "Memorandum of Understanding Between the
Governments of the United States of America and Norway Governing Prestock-
age and Reinforcement of Norway," 16 January 1981.
2William A. Faunce and William H. Form, Comparative Perspectives on
Industrial Society, p. 20.
3United States Marine Corps, Fleet Marine Force (IP 1-4), p. 1.
4Committee on Foreign Affairs, Collective Defense Treaties, pp. 21-24.
5Jane D. Flatt, pub., The World Almanac and Book of Facts, p. 447.
6Walter Lippman, U. S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic, p. 225.
7J. William Fulbright, "American Foreign Policy in the 20th Century
Under an 18th Century Constitution." Delivered as the sixth Robert S.
Stevens Lecture at Cornell University, 5 May 1961.
8David Mitrany, American Interpretations, p. 64.
9Ibid., p. 65.
lOJ. A. Camacho, Brazil, An Interim Assessment, p. 75.
11Cordell Hull, Memoirs of Cordell Hull, p. 423.
12Hans J. Morgenthau, In Defense of the National Interest, p. 15.
13Ibid., p. 175.
14Caspar W. Weinberger, Annual Report to the Congress, pp. 40-41.
15 Ibid., p. 220.
16Brian M. Jenkins, High Technology Terrorism and Surrogate War:
The Impact of New Technology on Low-Level Violence, p. 2.
17Jenkins, New Modes of Conflict, p. 4.
18David Wood, Conflict in the Twentieth Century, quoted in Jenkins,
New Modes of Conflict, p. 7.
19Jane D. Flatt, op. cit., p. 125.
20Caspar W. Weinberger, op. cit., p. 96.
Camacho, J. A. Brazil, An Interim Assessment. London: Royal Institute
of International Affairs, 1952.
Committee on Foreign Affairs. Collective Defense Treaties. Washington,
D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1967.
Faunce, William A., and William H. Form. Comparative Perspectives on
Industrial Society. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969.
Flatt, Jane D. The World Alamanac and Book of Facts. New York: Newspaper
Enterprise Association, Inc., 1983.
Fulbright, J. William. "American Foreign Policy in the 20th Century Under
an 18th Century Constitution." Delivered as the sixth Robert S.
Stevens Lecture at Cornell University, 5 May 1961.
Hull, Cordell. Memoirs of Cordell Hull. London: Hodder and Stoughton,
Jenkins, Brian M. High Technology Terrorism and Surrogate War: The Impact
of New Technology on Low-Level Violence. Santa Monica, Calif.: The
Rand Corporation, 1975.
--------. New Modes of Conflict. Santa Monica, Calif.: The Rand Corporation,
Lippman, Walter. U. S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic. Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1943.
Mitrany, David. American Interpretations. London: Contact Publications,
Morgenthau, Hans J. In Defense of the National Interest. New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, Inc., 1951.
United States Marine Corps. Fleet Marine Force (IP 1-4). Quantico, Va.:
Marine Corps Development and Education Command, 1984.
United States of America. "Memorandum of Understanding Between the Govern-
ments of the United States of America and Norway Governing Prestock-
age and Reinforcement of Norway." Agreement dated 16 January 1981.
Weinberger, Caspar W. Annual Report to the Congress. Washington, D. C.:
U. S. Government Printing Office, 1984.
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