Western conceptions of the international struggle among nations (and other political actors) often use binary war or peace labels to describe it. The actual truth is more complicated. Actors on the world stage are always trying to create a relative advantage for themselves and for their group. Sometimes this maneuvering leads to violence, but the use of violence to achieve goals is more often the exception than the rule. Instead, most actors use other means in their competitive interactions to achieve their goals. The competition continuum encompasses all of these efforts, including the use of violence.
There are several reasons for explaining the competition continuum to Marines. The first is to make them aware that from “recruitment to retirement,” they are an integral part of the Nation’s strategic competition with other actors. Marines are always competing, even when they are not fighting in combat. Next, understanding unleashes creativity. Once Marines understand the nature and form of competition, their innovative spirit will lead to the development of new kinds of competitive advantages. Finally, this publication expands the discussion on how and where Marines fit into the continuum and where to look for their natural partners in competition.
By design, this is a small book with a construction that parallels Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1, Warfighting. It is not intended as a reference manual, but is designed to be read from cover to cover. This publication does not contain specific techniques or procedures we should adopt. Rather, it provides broad guidance in the form of concepts, with illustrations intended to stimulate thinking and encourage additional learning. It requires judgment in application.
We live in a time of renewed great power competition in an era of exponential technological and social change. Marines enjoy a rich heritage of advancing our Nation’s interests in these kinds of struggles. As we look to the future, we must ensure today’s—and tomorrow’s—Marines do the same. Like maneuver warfare, competing is a way of thinking. We all need to read, study, and debate this publication with our fellow Marines. We must understand the importance of strategic competition and the essential role Marines play in it for our Nation.