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J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
A recent article titled
“Masks of War,” by Frank Hoff-
man, a former Marine who is
now a senior fellow at the Insti-
tute for National Strategic
Studies at the National De-
fense University and director of
the NDU Press, strikes me as
relevant to the Foreign Service.
Hoffman uses as his point of depar-
The Masks of War: American Mil-
itary Styles in Strategy and Analysis
the late Carl Builder, an acclaimed de-
fense intellectual who analyzed the or-
ganizational structure of the institutions
that make up America’s armed services.
Builder excluded the Marine Corps
from the study because, in his view, it
lacked a significant voice in strategy or
force planning.
Hoffman notes that in the two
decades since Builder’s book was pub-
lished, theMarines have achieved a sig-
nificant voice in national security
affairs. Despite their small size and
modest budget (7 percent of the Pen-
tagon budget), they “bat well above
their weight” and “deliver combat ca-
pability well out of proportion to their
cost.” He goes on to rectify the omis-
sion of the Marine Corps from
Builder’s analysis of the “distinctive per-
sonality or institutional DNA of each of
our armed services” and to tie its posi-
tion as the world’s premier crisis re-
sponse force to today’s principal secur-
ity challenges.
The five elements of Build-
er’s analytical framework for
understanding the organiza-
tional cultures of the branches
of our armed services are: the
altars for worship (guiding
principles of each service);
self-measurement (how each
measures itself and its institutional
health); toys vs. the human dimension
(technology and science vs. art); in-
traservice distinctions (among branches
of each service); and degree of insecu-
rity about legitimacy and relevancy
Hoffman applies this framework to
theMarine Corps, but AFSAmembers
might find it illuminating and useful to
use it to explore the personality or in-
stitutional DNA of our own institution.
After all, the Foreign Service is also a
small but cost-effective institution
made up of several “branches” (State,
USAID, FCS, FAS, and IBB) more or
less permanently deployed around the
Applying these categories to the
Marines, Hoffman says “the altars are
teamwork, the subordination of the in-
dividual to the common good of the
unit, shunning of first-person pro-
nouns, combat readiness — physically,
mentally and morally.” “Once a Ma-
rine, always aMarine” is a form of pride
in the service and recognition of the ar-
duous process of becoming a member
of the Corps. Another altar, he says, is
“an expeditionary ethos” and prepared-
ness for immediate employment in
every “clime and place.”
He suggests that the Marines meas-
ure themselves by “results in the field,
not inputs like funding levels or force
size.” Of all the services, he says,
Marines most emphasize the human di-
mension and art of war over science
(e.g., technology). The Marine Corps
invests the largest portion of its budget
in personnel and invests more per
capita on selection, initial training and
development than any other branch. It
makes less distinction between its inter-
nal branches than the others and con-
siders every member part of the team.
He finds the Marines to be the mil-
itary branch most concerned with de-
fending their legitimacy because they
do not “own” a distinctive domain of
the operating battlespace. But they
need not worry, Hoffman concludes,
because their “expeditionary ethos and
devotion to readiness are highly rele-
vant for today’s uncertain age and re-
source-constrained situation.”
Inspired by Hoffman’s article, I
would like to hear from anyone inter-
ested in studying and describing the or-
ganizational culture or institutional
personality of the Foreign Service, for
the purpose of strengthening its voice
in national security affairs and helping
us better explain who we are and what
we do. Please contact me at John
Marine Corps Culture and
Institutional Success: Lessons for the FS?
R. J