Tuesday, March 20, 2007

WAR, WOMEN, AND STORY

Well, Sara Corbett has an article originally in “The New York Times Magazine” but also on Truthout (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/031807C.shtml) . Again, it is a story about the war-and-horror stories of women in the war. It’s 19 pages long and I go at this subject again since Corbett has raised some interesting material, and because this entire women-in-mixed-gender units and women-in-war thing is not only wreaking its own damage, but clearly connects with other national issues and problems (the Iraq misadventure among them) by which we are presently bethump’d.

The primary story is about one Suzanne Swift and her mother, a social worker. The mother had originally penned an article dealt with in an earlier Post ("Facts on the Ground" http://chezodysseus.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html). In short: Swift, member of a back-from-Iraq MP unit, age 21, was apprehended by local police while “painting her toenails with her sister” after several months on the lam from her redeploying unit. She was facing charges for AWOL from this Iraq-bound unit when she claimed that she had done it because of the pressures of war and because she had been ‘sexually harassed’ throughout her history of service, as a consequence of which she was suffering, she claimed, from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Corbett defines PTSD as “a highly debilitating condition brought on by an abnormal amount of stress”. Its symptoms, she goes on to note, can include depression, insomnia, or “feeling constantly threatened”, quoting from the current edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), the official guide for mental-health professionals in establishing diagnoses.

Various points arise as one proceeds through the text of the article.

This ‘stress’ diagnosis represents a very significant change not only in the practice of psychology in this country but in American society itself. It came about after Vietnam when soldiers experienced ‘flashbacks’ and assorted symptoms prompted by particularly difficult things they had seen, experienced, or – less frequently mentioned – done while in Vietnam. It was a useful diagnosis for a certain extreme reaction to combat, and was seen by professionals at the time of its formal adoption as a modern upgrading of the long-recognized condition of former combat soldiers (“soldier’s heart” it was called after the Civil War).

But things never happen in a vacuum in life or in society. There was in the late-60s a certain approach to psychology, influenced by theorists such as Foucault, that saw medical and psychological diagnosis as a form of societal and hierarchical oppression; in its wilder forms it actually posited that the ‘insane’ were actually the ‘sane’ and vice-versa (in the later 1970s a variant of this approach, still hanging around, would help ‘advocates’ convince state legislators to largely empty the old state mental facilities, turning loose upon the public great numbers of former inmates who – while thus ‘liberated’ and ‘empowered’ – instantly became ‘homeless’).

The ‘empowerment’ of the patient blended as well with the feminist consciousness-raising of ‘sensitivity’ and its emphasis away from the (masculine) objective to the kinder and gentler subjective approach to life: it wasn’t a matter of what ‘is’, it was a matter of what one ‘feels’ (I’m painting with a broad brush here, but you get the idea).

Suddenly, the PTSD diagnosis, born in what was by the mid-1970s a distant past indeed, exploded into public awareness: the newly empowered patients insisted that they, not the doctor (so often in those days a male), had the right to declare when they were in ‘pain’, to say what traumatized them emotionally. And there was a certain logic to it: pain is an almost entirely subjective phenomenon, only rarely traceable on medical imaging equipment (comparatively primitive back then anyway). So who would know better than the patient, the (subjective) sufferer?

This worked as long as the ideal or average patient had a high-enough pain-threshold to report only ‘serious’ emotional pain or pain arising from serious events (‘trauma’ as it once was known). But it quickly came about that there was no way to establish objective criteria for subjective ‘emotional pain’; it also quickly came about that it would be socially and cultural unacceptable (‘insensitive’) for a physician to deny any patient’s report of pain. If a patient said he or she was in great emotional pain, regardless of whether a sufficiently grave causal event could be identified, or if the patient identified as causal an event that really didn’t appear to be sufficient to cause the pain that the patient claimed to be experiencing … you as a professional were to go with the patient’s claim. Before much time had passed in American society, almost all professionals were going along to get along.

With no objective boundaries that could possibly be imposed – indeed with a cultural insistence that any attempt to impose boundaries would be ‘insensitive’ and malpractice and a ‘revictimization’ of the patient – the entire thing metastasized. Not only females – traditionally stereotyped as being more vulnerable to pain – but numerous veterans (not all from combat experience, by any means) began to report ‘pain’ and lots of it, caused by ‘trauma’ – which itself had been defined as whatever-the-patient-felt-s/he-couldn’t-comfortably-tolerate. When we think about what happened when the enforceable boundaries of Truth and objectivity were removed from ‘sex-offender’ matters, and then from government justifications for waging pre-emptive war in the Middle East, we do well to remind ourselves how it all started to take root in our culture and our society, not with a bang but with an empathetic sigh.

So – simply from a conceptual point of view – there was now a ‘diagnosis’ that allowed the patient to essentially declare him-herself thus afflicted, and there was no scientifically possible way to corroborate that claim nor did there remain any cultural ‘permission’ to even attempt to do so, let alone express doubt as to the accuracy or validity of the claim, or – the horror! – doubting the honesty of the claimant. But large amounts of bounty – financial, cultural, psychological – were available to anyone who wished to put him-herself forward. Additionally, designated ‘symptoms’ were phenomena as low-grade as ‘feeling depressed’, ‘feeling threatened’, and so many others similar thereto that so often clutter the lives, minds, and hearts of just about all of us humans.

It would not take a rocket scientist to venture an accurate guess as to what was going to happen.

Swift’s war-induced stress, Corbett relates, was caused by events pretty much endemic to soldiering: having mortar rounds dropped upon one’s position, seeing friends die – even by friendly fire, working sixteen-hour shifts. Further – and here we see the great waves loosed in our culture begin to lap back upon each other – she was propositioned by her squad leader (male) and she “felt coerced” into having a four-month sexual relationship with him. When she finally put an end to it, she was forced to march back and forth across the camp in full pack and gear and she was humiliated in front of the other soldiers. Contacted by the Army investigators, the squad leader denied any sexual contact.

Even in a reasonable world, this type of claim would be difficult. If there were witnesses or physical evidence, or even if the lower-ranking member had a record of adequate or better performance of duties, then one might at least have grounds of some sort to take action. If however the lower-ranked was not a strong performer, or was a poor performer, then such marching tours might thus be accounted for. I don’t know what Swift’s record is. But that’s the point: we have a ‘disease’ which is so functionally ephemeral that helpers are reduced to scrounging for clues in a patient’s discoverable history (not all of which, nowadays, is available or ‘reportable’, let’s recall).

It was the ‘genius’ of the feminist and later the victimist and sex-offense movements and advocates that they realized that he-said/she-said situations are far too fraught with objective weakness to often prevail; you could hardly build a ‘movement’ or a revolution on them. But it was their accomplishment that they solved this problem profoundly: by discrediting ‘fact’ and ‘objectivity’ and skeptical inquiry as modes of public or jurisprudential response to any claim. The only “politically correct” response was ‘sensitivity’ and ‘acceptance’; men were so prone to sex that they were, for all practical purposes, ‘objective enemies’ – enemies by the simple fact of their essence and their existence, on behalf of whom any indulgence would be treason to the Cause and to the masses and against whom all violence necessary was justified. Thus did Lenin come to be one of the foremost makers of modern American praxis. Thus, too, perhaps, the Unitariat came to assume that We would fall for anything if it were emotionally-packaged, and thus We came to prove the Unitariat correct. And thus Ms. Swift chose to sign up for the Army and thus she went off to Iraq.

Corbett, to her credit, acknowledges in the next paragraph that “As it often is with matters involving sex and power, the lines are a little blurry”. Naturally: cut loose from the shaping and boundarying effects of Truth and Objectivity and Reason, a ‘story’ thus untrellised can grow like kudzu. With impressive clarity but with exquisite care Corbett continues: “Swift does not say she was raped exactly, but rather manipulated into having sex repeatedly”. So far, this sounds like one of those monstrously unprovable and intuitively almost impossible things by which, through making us believe them before breakfast for years now, the relevant advocacies have degraded everybody’s ability to distinguish, or even consider it right to try to distinguish, Truth from something else. A fact that was not lost on the Unitariat.

But in the military, it’s possible to take the game to new levels. She had sex because “this soldier was above her in rank and therefore responsible for her health and safety”. As with so many other phenomena that were highly predictable from the get-go, the advocacy has come up with a sassy but mystique-laden term for this type of thing: “command rape”. Although, to be accurate, there is no rape alleged. The idea is apparently that women (even in the all-male Army era you rarely encountered troops claiming that they had submitted to sex with a sergeant because they had – for all practical purposes – mistaken him for their father or their provider) sorta are prone to do stuff like this more than guys; or – as is the preferred spin and usage nowadays – they are more ‘vulnerable’ to it.

But if that’s true, then why oh why oh why did the feminist advocacies browbeat Congress (hardly a forum for displaying the best of American male maturity) into mixed-gender units in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been better for ‘women’ to be spared all the unnecessary ‘vulnerability’ situations by putting them into all-female units? Then they could concentrate on the soldiering or the sailoring. Why are we reading these 19-page compendia of woe at all? Was this thing not entirely predictable and entirely preventable?

A skeptic might claim that the feminists knew from Day One that ‘women’ couldn’t really do the soldiering and sailoring in sufficient quantities to ground their agenda, so they had to ensure that the units were mixed gender – in the field and aboard ship – so that the guys could actually keep the mission going and the ship afloat and underway; the generals and the admirals could certainly see the upside to that. But a gambit that cynical and that massive … you can’t really accept it.

Corbett starts to draw back into the safer and more familiar ground of what she calls “the dominant narrative”: many female troops she interviewed were telling similar stories. The same skeptic could opine that once that “narrative” had become culturally “dominant” – or just widespread, through television and film and sympathetic and selective media coverage – then it would stand to reason that the “narrative” of harassment, like the diagnostic “narrative” of PTSD, would be deployed by ever-larger numbers of persons. For whatever motive and reason each individual might have in doing so.

But who knows? Who is honestly to say? The ‘revolutionary’ goal, masked in the swaddling of advocacy, is not to determine the Truth but rather to ‘make’ the ‘truth’ by eliminating all other possible explanations or even the attempt to examine claims and offer alternative explanations. Sorta like if you ‘make history’ and everyone else has to follow what you do, and you label anybody who tries to examine your ‘truth’ as ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘treasonable’. ‘Insensitive’ is the ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘un-American’ of the Left. The more things change …

Here again appears an odd number that has been appearing recently in these women-in-trouble stories over in Iraq: “So far, more than 160,000 female soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq” and “today one of every 10 soldiers in Iraq is female”. The math seems a bit odd. If we are hard-pressed to keep 160,000 troops over there, then how could there possibly be this many females? And if one out of every 10 is female … well, that seems to indicate we have a much larger army then anyone has realized. A skeptic might also observe that if even a fraction of them are making these types of claims or are in this condition … then there are more than a couple of unspoken additional reasons why we are losing the war over there. But that would be incorrect.

It is to her credit that Corbett reports on studies indicating that after the first Gulf War twice as many females as males developed PTSD – which gives food for serious thought. She also reports, but does not examine, the assertion that “women are more likely to be given diagnoses of PTSD, in some cases at twice the rate of men”.

So we are left, in this house of mirrors that the advocacies have constructed, staring at conflicting and distorted images, and no way of telling which is the ‘real’ and which are a reflection cast in a mirror. If we were dealing with ‘objective’ injuries like broken arms, we wouldn’t have this problem. If we had objective criteria for these psychological claims, we wouldn’t have this problem. But all that was jettisoned in the days before the feminist advocacies set their sights on the military, and back when they never imagined that there would ever be sustained ground combat again, let alone the shape-shifting terrors of counter-insurgency warfare in populated areas.

Are women more prone to stress? If so, is it because they are more ‘sensitive’? No matter how ‘positive’ or ‘constructive’ a spin you put on that, it’s a problem – and can armies in sustained (and losing) combat operations be required to put up with that? Bear that burden? Or is it that it’s such a subjective diagnosis to begin with that the whole disparity in numbers may just be chalked up to the doctors being chauvinist pigs who will ‘label’ a woman and not a guy or to doctors who are trying to do ‘the woman’ a favor?

It’s not just a question of which is the correct answer – it’s a life or death matter of whether any of this brouhaha is necessary at all. We are losing a pre-emptive and invasive war that we got into by falling for many of the same gambits played on us by our Unitarium that were imposed upon us by impatient and righteous advocacies in the long ago when we had cash and no real prospects of ever having to fight an old-fashioned war again.

Corbett keeps up the pace. Imagine, she proposes, how many women have been raped in civilian life (and here the reader need only refer to the ‘numbers’ and ‘knowledge’ provided by the feminists’ sub-and-sister advocacy: the sex-offender lobby). We are to imagine that there is now a class of woman-in-trouble suffering “a double whammy”: raped in civilian life and now combat-stressed in the military. I imagine that Corbett had a reason for refraining from taking it to the next level: the triple-whammy of having been raped in civilian life, combat-stressed, and having been raped (or ‘assaulted’ or ‘harassed’) in the military and – fourth level – in the military by someone who outranks them.

I do not doubt the conceptual possibilities that Corbett raises, although I add the usual sex-offense provisos about elastic definitions and unsupported ‘evidence’. Rather, I simply wonder again: Is any of this necessary? Wasn’t it all preventable by – at the very least – the institution of single-gender units?

We see here, I think, an echo of the phenomenon we are experiencing in matters Israeli: by creating from the get-go a situation that is bound to cause insoluble difficulties and then refusing to yield, one can guarantee oneself as the victim of a sempiternal ‘crisis’ on the basis of which endless demands – rendered vivid by reports real or otherwise – may be made. A case might be made, in another of these baroque and hot-irony metaphysical echoes, that decades ago the advocacies adopted the Israeli playbook and as a result the women in the Army in Iraq are now in crisis.

It’s a house of mirrors, our modern American reality, and so often it seems that we are agitatedly wrestling with pillows thrown over our heads by well-meaning but kinda ruthlessly determined advocacies. Yet out there – out where ‘others’ roam and dwell – it’s all very real, all too too real. Our troops are over there, obedient to Our word. If they are facing real bullets for Us, then We should muster the respect to face – and solve – real problems for them.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Mariamariacuchita said...

You have obviously thought this out quite a bit. I agree with some of what you say, however, the conclusion I reach is slightly different.

Rather than punishing? separating? the female soldiers, why not enforce the sexual assault/harassment rules within the military and provide consistent consequences for offenders, whether male or female?

When we isolate the women soldiers, are we not sending the message that "boys will be boys" and we are willing to overlook sexual/criminal misbehavior?

The military has quoted a zero tolerance policy again and again amid frequent charges of rape and harassment. I do not believe these many charges are the consequence of "feminist" mass thought or cultural brainwashing (on the contrary, most Americans do not identify with the outdated feminist rhetoric)but are the result of a system that talks the talk but does not walk the walk when it comes to behavior of its military personnel.

Perhaps promoting a few more women in the ranks of top military leadership would also help provide a more balanced view and oversight to what is or is not harassment.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Davidco said...

We move out of the circular logic of self-reports when there is a measureable fall-off in reality testing and capacity for leben und arbeiten when compared to pre-war performance.

Clinical interventions start when subjectivity is experienced as measureable impairment and unwelcome limit.

Post Vietnam, with the onset of imperial wars seen otiose by a majority of the general population, symptoms of PTSD were sufficiently common and florid for the whacked-out veteran to be a stock character in counter-culture comedy like the Cheech and Chong movies.

At street level and in employment offices there was no denial of the reality of this syndrome. Only the the Veterans' Administration was understating incidence and muddying the scientific waters on causality just as with the sequelae of Agent Orange exposure and for the same reason: limitation of liability.

Current posturing on the safety of depleted uranium munitions is also of a piece with the testimony of tobacco industry executives as to the safety and non-addictive properties of nicotine. The more time they buy with this bullshit, the more plaintiffs die uncompensated.

Perhaps the answer to female rape by friendlies in the military is all woman units. The cat is already out of the bag. There's no going back on that one - only tinkering in search of a palatable result as with Don't ask. Don't tell.

6:24 PM  
Blogger publion said...

I have never understood why instituting gender-separate units constituted “punishment” of females. I clearly recall that this point was floated very early on in that far-away time; but even then it was not permitted to “go philosophical on it” (i.e. discuss it and examine it) – rather, the point was to be accepted as an accurate given. But I don’t see that it is a valid characterization in any clear or obvious way, and indeed some of the very points raised by women-in-the-military supporters at that time seemed to indicate that it would be a blessing for ‘women’ to be able to serve without also having to put up with ‘men’ (the macho, boyo, ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘boys behaving badly’ stuff but also the simple brute and rude facts of the male psyche gearing up for close combat and sustaining itself in that combat).

‘Enforcing the regulations’ brings us right back to King Canute and the tides, as was clear back then. Some things are not going to change easily n-o-t because of recalcitrance on the part of entrenched oppressors to change their ways, but rather because those ‘things’ are to no small extent rooted in realities beyond conscious human intention or control.

It was the accurate insight of the feminist advocacy that the national/court path was the most efficient path to actualization of their desired objectives; that wide public deliberation, state-by-state, would not only slow down the process but might also expose the downsides of the desired changes and lead to public rejection.

And before long it became clear that the military as a national organization with a hierarchical command structure was a perfect locus for the advocacy’s efforts: if the ‘head’ could be made to accept the ‘agenda’, the rest would have to follow. And of course, being almost all male, the organization provided a perfect target and situs for ‘outrage’ against the military even while the advocacy was directing its efforts to enforce its agenda on the military.

But this also exposes the flaw in one of the primary underlying assumptions of the advocacies: that the particular ‘outrageous thing’ that has mobilized the advocacy is a product of human willfulness and can be changed by human will (and, of course, ‘must’ be changed because it would be ‘insensitive’ to doubt the ‘pain’ even for a moment). And the military is certainly the marquis national organization that is built around the exertion of will toward the accomplishment of willed objectives.

But Sex is a much more primally rooted phenomenon, entity even, than ‘oppression’. To expect that even military officers issuing orders and policies will be able to ‘control’ or ‘harness’ Sex brings us back at least to Canute trying to issue orders to the tides, and may even go beyond that to Canute trying to order water not to be wet. This is not to say – as the current catroonish spin would have it – that it’s ‘only natural’ for males to behave like priapic jerks and monsters and that therefore it’s either ‘OK’ or ‘natural’ or that it ‘can’t be changed’. No. To some extent laddish and yobbish behaviors can be changed; but you will reach a point where the far more mysterious and primal urges are encountered, that will exert vast subsurface pressures on the males (and I think in their way upon the females as well) – and that is where the King reaches the shoreline and the royal writ is no longer enough.

Now then to put t-h-i-s problem into the setting of sustained combat and all the hellish pressures it exerts upon combatants … well, simply from a conceptual point of view this is going to create monstrously intractable problems much closer to the border with catastrophe.

Add to this the perfectly normal military reality that a commanding officer of any grade is going to want – especially in the mess over there now – to keep as many troops available for duty as possible. And the dangerous morale problems that arise when these type of sex charges are introduced into the unit’s daily ‘world’ already brimming with problems.

And add to that the thorny legal problems created not only by sex-offense jurisprudence in general nowadays, but by that jurisprudential and enforcement praxis when it’s deployed through the hugely skewed military legal system (so exquisitely and pervasively biased in favor of the government/prosecution that it must sweeten the dreams of any advocate who seeks to lay hands on its controls).

And add to that the fundamentally impossible nature of the she/said-he/said sex charge – a problem so utterly intractable to objective jurisprudence as it exists for us limited humans that for centuries the West would not go near it and one that even now the advocacies could only neutralize by hugely reducing the objective evidentiary requirements of Western courts (a gambit whose diverse evil consequences – and they are legion – are only now beginning to be seen).

Now against all that imagine that there are two ways to proceed: A) accept mixed-gender units and try to carry on military operations in such a way that you can at least try to (i) neutralize all the above problems while (ii) making it look to your troops and the public like you are not twisting reality and truth into a pretzel to do so while also (iii) maintaining the ability to sustain ground-combat operations. And in hindsight let’s add (iv): sustain 4th Generation, Counterinsurgency/occupation operations with insufficient troops in urban areas within a county you have invaded whose populace doesn’t want you there and – also – you are losing.

In such a situation, the deployment of the now classic Women-in-Trouble ‘script’ as it has been developed and honed over the past 2 decades, is – I will venture to say – not only counterproductive but almost criminally irrelevant to the awesome dangers already existing for the forces over there. The professionally understandable advocacy gambit of using the Army’s present situation as a ‘mule’ to publicize the advocacy’s issues and drum up support for its agenda reveals itself as noxious and dangerous when deployed against an Army already – as even its bosses say publicly now – in a “death spiral” over there.

Option B is to institute single-gender units and thus march easily around the Great Swamp of consequences sketched above in Option A (which was selected back then in those days when everybody thought that any further US war-fighting would be conducted from the bridge of Captain Picard’s starship Enterprise because – as one now-repentant pundit had cockily asserted – History had ended. It hasn’t; and It is upon us.

Promoting more women isn’t the answer either. It simply makes Canute a Queen (so to speak). A female unit commander over there is going to have the same problems that a male commander is going to have. And if she shortchanges her unit’s operations in order to make sure ‘her women’ (if I may) are provided for according to the dreamy scenario of the Vindicated-Woman script, then she is going to fail her responsibilities as a combat commander, the unit’s combat efficiency will go down (fatal, in the combat situation, especially over there) and her troops (male as well as female) are going to know that she can’t be relied upon as a combat leader. And there is no coming back once you’ve gone over the edge of that abyss.

Combat is not a ‘plastic’ world, and the advocacies have always presumed – as has the Theory that initially nurtured and enabled them – that ‘the world’ is indeed more a matter of perception than reality and that – so quintessentially American – anything can be changed to what you want it to be if you just throw enough money and power at it. Iraq has proven the abyssal inadequacy of those assumptions in the military and foreign-policy sphere. I think that it will also now administer to the advocacy philosophy itself a reality-check that the philosophy – and all its attendant advocacies – have long needed. If they make good use of it they may yet recover their balance and exert a constructive role in national life; otherwise they will find themselves in the same situation as the Incumbency and its enablers, who – the hot ironies! – had themselves taken whole pages from the ‘success’ of the advocacy playbook and gotten Us all into Iraq.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Davidco said...

Because of its top-down hierarchical structure, the military has always been used as locus for social experiments - both good ones and bad ones. We often forget that the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment was not the first all black unit in an American army. That honor - for better or worse - goes to the First South Carolina Volunteers of the Confederacy.

A couple of World Wars and several other lesser conflicts (over almost one hundred years) passed before blacks 'won' the right, under Truman, to be enlisted in mixed units whose primary mission was combat.

They first had to vindicate their right to a MOS other than cook or bottle washer. Despite the frontal assault on Ft. Wagner, efforts of Buffalo Soldiers and numerous other courageous units, that goal was not really accomplished until the (segregated) Tuskegee Airmen finally put to rest 'doubts' about the use of blacks in high tech combat roles. Even then they had to wait three years after WWII - winning national gunnery competitions every year - before they were integrated into the 'real' Air force in 1948.

Feminists forget that racially integrated units were on shaky grounds right up to the Vietnam war

This is not to say that wymyn will have to wait over a hundred years for full acceptance in mixed combat units. In these days of vertiginous change, from a sociological (not biological) standpoint, a new 'generation' comes on board every 12-15 years whose experience and perspectives are radically different from that of the preceding generation.

Based on the experience of black soldiers, it seems necessary that a certain progression of steps be followed however long it takes. Wymyn are still at the stage of the 54th Massachusetts in its formative period where there is no general consensus yet that they can fight at all - even in a segregated unit with extraordinarily competent male, white leadership.

Technology, attitudes toward non-marital sex and the position of women in society are evolving rapidly, for sure, but not fast enough for us to foresee them in mixed units of comabt arms in the immediate future as a matter of policy - even though more are being raped and KIA every month in iRak.

There seems no shortcut to this gradual process of assimilation unless a new type of womyn appears who is willing to consider an act of rape by friendlies as 'no big deal' - an acceptable risk like friendly fire. If the statistics are to be believed, some must be doing this already in order to stay in the armed forces and advance their careers

It's just that there seems to be a series of steps that must be followed before integration takes place. Ideologists try to leapfrog the process at their peril. The constellations of political pressure might be different if it were tenured theorists getting raped on the streets of Cambridge instead of poor girls from Dorchester on midnight runs to a latrine in iRak.

9:33 AM  
Blogger publion said...

It’s too too true: for the purposes of any ‘agenda’ the military is and always has been low-hanging fruit. But I’m not sure that the historical analogy to blacks is useful. There is, as science is able to demonstrate now, almost no biological basis for ‘race’ differences: blacks and whites (browns and pinks, really) are almost indistinguishable in their core building blocks. Integrating the forces, while it was a huge cultural leap, was – as we now know (and some far-sighted thinkers figured a long time before 1948) – scientifically well-grounded.

The feminist position, borrowing from the civil-rights (as well as the Israeli) playbook, presumed that their ‘leap’ was also ‘merely’ a cultural one, and that in the service of what was essentially accurate and true (i.e. that most women are physiologically equal to men in the matter of soldiering and sailoring) then a little or even a lot of cultural upset was an ‘acceptable’ price to pay for American culture and society.

But it is nowhere as clear or as well-established that as a rule a woman (given her complexly interconnected physiological and emotional makeup) is equal to a man (given his complexly interconnected physiological and emotional makeup) in the primary functions of soldiering and sailoring. Yes, in a lot of ancillary functions (truck-driving, computer operations, supply, medical work) that happen to take place in the military setting they can do the work, but in combat or in emergencies that require immediately-available reserves of (basically brute) strength ‘the woman’ as a rule cannot be relied upon like ‘the man’ as a rule. Yes, the stereotypical lesbian on steroids can outperform the stereotypical gay (or straight) weakling 10 times out of 10, but all such ploys are exotic (if not also contrived) and irrelevant to the exigencies of wars and the militaries that must fight them.

Same-gender units would have given us an excellent chance, actually, to test out what would appear to be – but might not be – the truth: that women were not as a rule designed for combat (the Amazons and the revered Xena notwithstanding). In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if the Advocacy itself didn’t fear (or even figure) that such was the case and therefore could not under any circumstances allow such a clear ‘test’ to take place.

Someday the strategic emails and memos of ‘advocacies’ should get the same type of scrutiny recently applies to K-Street lobbyist emails. Eines Tages, der Tag,

10:27 AM  
Blogger Davidco said...

"God made men and women but Eugene Stoner and Gaston Glock made 'em equal". It's true that many women might initially have trouble wrapping their hands around around the chunky grip of combat Tupperware like the Glock 34. It might take some practice to operate the controls but most would make the effort to have a staggered box magazine with seventeen 9mm NATO rounds (plus one in the pipe) sitting on their hip.

This plastic pistol and Stoner's famous plastic AR design have roughly half the weight of the full metal .45 1911 Colt automatic pistol or the M1A battle rifle that their grandfathers had to carry into the field. They also have twice the firepower.

It's true that not many women - even with extreme training - could do a 40 mile mountain march under 20 hours with 55 lbs on their backs plus food, water and weapons. No army has women in elite long range reconnaissance combat units. Hanging an argument on that fact brings a straw man into the discussion. Women can and have found many places to insert themselves where they would not have to carry a wounded battle buddy through twenty miles of jungle to a hot LZ deep in enemy territory.

Lack of upper body strength might rule them out of some specific MOS's like firemen who have to hump hose up or dead weight bodies down a ladder etc. but technology is rapidly rendering moot the upper body strength argument for all but the most ferocious dagger-in-teeth missions. These days, even special forces need only last a day or two behind the lines before their next shipment of bottled water is flown in.

Every local police department in the country has women who can give a good account of themselves in hand to hand combat. They are usually actually sharper than the men because they know they can't make up for mistakes by brute strength or endurance.

Sooner or later the controversy will have to resolve itself on the 'cultural' plane you mention. As I said in my previous post, the cultural ground is shifting under our feet - even as we speak.

The possibility of sex without consequences has been a part of our culture for only around 40 years and it has conspired with economic developments to cause many disjunctions in the interpenetrating roles of men and women.

Segregated units is the way the century long movement toward integration of blacks in the military began. All-but-full integration of women will certainly not take as long but it seems for the moment to be premature.

I agree: we should probably fall back to segregated units and regroup until the culture itself comes to some new conclusions about how we will do sex and human relationships in the 21st century. We are already well into the first decade and there seems to be no consensus in sight.

The armed forces reflect the confusions of the society they protect (cf. military expressions of hot issues like empire building, the state of education, immigration, privatization, civil rights in courts martial etc.). In the meantime, we must do everything we can to keep military women safe from gratuitous violence from friendlies in an environment where testosterone crackles in the air like ozone in a thunderstorm.

2:49 PM  
Blogger publion said...

The Glock point doesn’t address all the key elements in this thing. Indeed, the Glock/Smith&Wesson point that the gun has made everybody – male and female – ‘equal’ in their ability to exercise violence is really only a variant of the Picard/Enterprise argument: that technology has made the genders equal in the business of soldiering by making killing if not kinder-and-gentler at least less physically demanding. But shooting weapons is merely one aspect of it.

It’s physiological: not only the shooting but the schlepping of weapons (and packs). And ‘shooting’ is not the only form of combat (especially in 4GW): you might have to do the modern equivalent of the bayonet-kill or the knife-kill or some serious mano-a-mano with the other side. And if you can’t schlep the equipment, then either the stuff doesn’t come along or some guy has to carry it or a vehicle has to be brought along (or we start using mercenaries and ‘native bearers’ like some Imperial-age column in the jungle).

But it’s also psychological (as I indicated in my Post and comment-responses): it’s not just the ‘gun’, it’s the attitude/mindset/heart-set/’sensus’ that carries, aims, and fires the weapon. Will the female mentality stand up to that? I don’t know. It should be realistically tested.

And it’s not just the discrete moment of firing, but the entire at-the-front ‘world’, with all the sustained yet unpredictable awfulness of combat conditions at the front (especially in the 4GW mess as it manifests in Iraq). Is the female psyche – in the main – up to that? I don’t know. It should be realistically tested.

And on top of all this there is Sex. Who can argue that it fundamentally cannot be quashed? Perhaps – ideally – all individuals can learn to master their own sexualness so that they aren’t enmeshing others around them in its force-fields. Notice also that my characterization has moved us below and beyond the advocacy’s preferred restriction of ‘sex’ to (inevitably male-perpetrated) ‘rape’, ‘assault’, ‘harassment’, and ‘manipulation’ (this last from the Swift case itself, ascribing to the usually lumbering male the mysterious suavity of a vampire). But I’m not sure it can happen in this life, in this world, even with generals (even woman-generals) so ordering. And surely the battlefield is no place to be tinkering for the sake of satisfying a Theory or an Agenda.

Single-gender units remove the ‘Sex’ variable at least as that applies to the erotic-romantic or purely lumpish and animal interactions that are prompted by the proximity of preferred sex-objects. T-h-a-t will constitute both a relief (mostly) for all the troops living under that constant tension of ‘potentia sexualis’ a-n-d put an end (mostly) to the panoply of sex-offense stuff.

I notice in the media this past couple of days a spate of ‘military sex’ stuff: it may be an ‘echo’ effect or it may be part of a concerted effort on the part of the advocacy, using the military as a ‘mule’ for its agenda (as the older feminist advocacy had done). There’s a whiff of calculation here that leads me to think on how skewed matters can get when a determined advocacy gets ‘the government’ on its side and the two start working in tandem; and given the almost complete disappearance of the species of independent, objective, ‘reporters’ now, then the media amplify this synergy with lazy and/or selective reporting (favorable to the agenda, unfavorable to the agenda’s designated ‘enemies’).

This whole type of game can be played especially in peacetime or in non-boundary situations (e.g. in American domestic affairs). In the peacetime/non-boundary situation your ‘spin’ can indeed seem to ‘change’ or at least prevail over ‘reality’: thus in a nation of fireproofing we see far fewer of the monster urban structure fires that were the stuff of legend as late as the early-1970s, and consequently ‘women firefighters’ seem a doable-do. But even if they are/were, their ‘success’ is not comparable to the military-combat situation where it is not only a matter of the performance of discrete actions or tasks; it is the sustained performance and maintenance of one’s capability to perform under unrelenting pressure extending not over the space of the 4-10 hours of a multiple-alarm blaze (after which one can get off shift and ‘go home’) but rather over the space of weeks and months, with the prospect of years not ruled out.

Whether the physiological and emotional make-up of the average ‘woman’ is up to this is a question certainly worth getting an answer to. The feminist advocacy eschewed research, testing, and coming to an accurate conclusion before implementation; instead it adopted the old Zionist ‘create facts on the ground first’ approach.

That choice does not impress, and leaves open the queasy possibility that the advocacy knew exactly what they were doing and what they wanted to do in this three-fer ‘women in the military’ thing: full active membership, in combat, in mixed-gender units.

I think that the least that can be done is to create single-gender units – for which there is a human history-full of indications that such a move would resolve a host of unnecessary problems – and thus leave more and less-clouded space to concentrate on the other two elements of this certainly open question.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Davidco said...

An advocacy with the full backing of governmental power is surely an awesome juggernaut. Witness the power of multinational corporations which use the US Fed like a tire iron which can be tossed back in the trunk when the crisis is over.

Sooner or later reality will bite back as Big Oil is finding out in iRak. I'm reminded of the decade or so when the born agains seized power and gave us Prohibition. King Canute redivivus.

10:56 AM  

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